Shortly after Jenn and I met, my friend Chris Whitley died. I had loved his music since the release of his first album, Living with the Law. Years later, in the late-1990s, when we were hanging out after the release of his Terra Incognita, I gave him a ten peso note I had brought back from Mexico. It had a great portrait of Emiliano Zapata on it, and Zapata was mentioned in the song “Power Down.”
“Look at his eyes,” I remember Chris saying in a bar on 43rd Street, down the block from where I worked at The New York Times, as he examined the bill. A few years later, I’d be hanging in that neighborhood a lot because Jenn’s sister and brother-in-law lived there. Chris and that neighborhood were somehow a transition from my old life to the life I was building with the woman I’d marry.
Chris has been gone for what seems like forever. He never met Jenn, but we play his music in the loft while we cook. I still have dreams of he and I sitting in his tiny place on Morton Street, messing around with one or two of his National Guitars. I’ll miss him for the rest of my life.
With Cinco de Mayo fast approaching this year, Jenn suggested we do something appropriate. She came up with the following original Mexico-inspired one-bite, and we discussed how to name it. She knows I miss my old pal, but she has done more than fill the void he’s left.
This easy-to-make treat honors Chris, Emiliano Zapata, and the hope of redemption and all good things. Here’s Jenn’s Emilianos, just in time for Cinco de Mayo.
Emilianos with jalapeño-lime sauce. ©Reel Chow