Every morning at 7 a.m., we hear a loud, screechy bicycle horn honking right outside our window. It sounds like this:
Originally, I had no idea what this horn meant. Then I checked the Internet and realized it was a neighborhood vendor selling pan dulce. Of course! Every service-provider has his own sound here — the trash man with his bell; the gas guy who yells “Gaaaas!”; the camote guy whose little cart sounds like a teakettle that’s about to explode.
I’ve been wanting to run down and meet the bread guy for months, but I’m never awake and lucid by 7. Today, the stars finally aligned. Crayton had gotten up at 6:30 because he has the early shift this week. I’d been tossing since 5:30, thinking about India, my writing project, this blog, and whether I might be able to squeeze in a haircut today.
At 6:30, I got up with Crayton and made some tea. I put on tennis shoes and a fleece, because it’s freaking cold in my house. Then I walked to my desk and realized: Holy god, it’s 6:45 a.m. and I am completely dressed and ready to meet the pan dulce guy! I excitedly Twittered about it. Then I put my camera, my tape recorder, and some change in my pockets. (The fleece happened to have pockets, another sign from God.)
Then I waited.
At about 7:02, I heard a faint honking sound.
I flew out the door. By the time I reached the bottom of the stairs, though, the sound had disappeared. I stared out the window and thought, a little sadly: “Maybe he’s not coming today.”
So I walked back up to my apartment and puttered around. Checked email. Sipped my tea.
At about 7:08, the sound came again, but stronger this time.
eee-EEEE eeee-EEEE eeee-EEEE
I wasn’t expecting to hear it. I ran out the door holding the waistband of my flannel PJs, which were loose and about to fall down. Immediately outside my door, and a little to the left, was the bread vendor: a young man of about 25, sitting on a bicycle outfitted with a large, gingham-lined basket. My flour-filled pretties sat inside.
The man looked at me kind of funny, because I was the only person outside in pajamas. But he didn’t say anything except “Buenos días.” I tried to act professional and said, “Buenos días” back. But inside, I wanted to shout to everyone walking by, “I FOUND THE PAN DULCE GUY!”
With a dumb grin on my face, I picked out a chocolate concha and a bisquet; a knobby, rounded piece of bread covered in sugar called an “español,” and a muffin. (Normally I wouldn’t have bought so much, but I was on a high.) He placed everything in a blue plastic grocery bag and handed it to me.
“Este….” I said. Este is the Spanish word for “um.”
“Este…. le molesta si tomo un foto del pan?” Do you mind if I take a picture of the bread?
He smiled and said he didn’t mind.
I pulled out my camera from my fleece… and promptly discovered that the battery was dead. Oh, crap. I could not miss this opportunity. This was the actual pan dulce guy, standing right here in front of me. I had to have visual evidence of our encounter.
So I asked if he minded if I went up to my apartment real quick for my other camera.
“Are you going to be long?” he asked.
“Oh no,” I said. “I live right here.” I pointed.
He nodded, and I took off running to my apartment, where I rushed up the stairs, holding my pants, and unlocked the door and grabbed my iPhone. Fifteen seconds later I was back downstairs, standing in front of the basket. I took a few photos and recorded his horn. He told me the bread comes from a bakery near Tacuba, one of the Metro stations in the Centro.
“Anytime you need bread, I’m here,” he said. Then he took off on his bicycle, honking his horn the whole way.
As a postscript: The concha was very good. Not Bondy quality, but up there.
Who is Mija?
Mija is Lesley Téllez, a food writer and culinary guide in New York City. I spent four years in Mexico's Distrito Federal, which launched my deep love for Mexican food and culture. In 2010 I co-founded the tourism company Eat Mexico.
Be kind, ask permission!All photos on this site were taken by me, unless otherwise noted. If you'd like to use a photo, please email me.
Top Posts & Pages
- How to make homemade enchilada sauce in three easy steps
- How to make chiles rellenos, Mexican-grandmother style
- The glory of the Mexican breakfast
- Guacamole de molcajete, and how to make it without fear
- How to make a proper chile en nogada
- Tostilocos: The Mexico street food nacho, Frito-pie hybrid
- Red taquería-style salsa
- Simple Oaxacan chile pasilla salsa
- How to season a molcajete, when you’re absolutely tired of grinding
Get The Mija Chronicles in your inbox
Read my old posts