Dear Pati of Pati’s Mexican Table / Charlotte Hamilton

Dear Pati of Pati’s Mexican Table,

     Let’s get this out of the way—none of this is your fault. How could you have known while filming your show—part cooking show, part travel to Mexico to learn about Mexican cuisine show—that each episode would be like a dagger in my heart in these COVID times? Seems hyperbolic, but no, I have cried several times while watching you talk to street vendors in Oaxaca, standing a mere two feet away from them. Then you use your bare hands to pick up a taco somebody else prepared without a mask on and despair settles in my soul.

     There’s usually meat on the taco, and I don’t blame you for not knowing I’m a (mostly) vegetarian who loves meat. You can’t be expected to know that during times of stress I don’t want to drink or smoke so much as I want to eat the cooked flesh of a delicious barn animal. The weeks after Trump was elected I went on a meat bender. I barely remember it, that haze of beef and pork (I would never waste my bender on poultry). It was just enough to give me the strength to go on. I would love to go on a meat spree now, but this COVID thing is a slow motion train wreck, an ultramarathon. It wouldn’t be sustainable. I would only feel guiltier as time went on and besides, preparing meat is gross and a little scary (with the knives and the E. coli). And so I must live vicariously through you.

     The other thing that is definitely not your fault and that I only partially blame you for is your three lovely sons. They’re different ages in every episode and so I see that they’re growing up so well—good job! To say I’m jealous is only part of it. Sometimes I wish I was the woman quarantining with the three sons who adore her. But sometimes I wish I was the son eating the meat torta with the mom who loves me, her beautiful boy. And then sometimes I wish I was the meat torta, being savored and consumed, and I don’t mean that in a weird way, though yes, it’s hard to see how that couldn’t be weird. Pati, I’ve been alone for months.

     Listen, you were only sharing your culture and cuisine with the world, and for that, I respect you. It’s only that it used to be a comfort to watch cooking and travel shows and now my counters are piled with dishes because I eat every meal at home. I guess I could use this alone time to learn what to do with a sourdough starter or how to cook a culturally appropriated stew, but then when would I handle my other responsibilities, like figuring out what day it is and watching marathons of your show while eating Triscuits and sobbing?

     And so it is that I both love you and hate you, Pati. I envy you and yet I would never want to spend so much time in the kitchen cooking—mostly because of the dishwashing and my aforementioned fear of knives. I would like to drink horchata and travel to the Yucatan Peninsula but probably I would not like to eat a grasshopper. Someday when we get out of this mess I will travel to Mexico and eat all the meat I see but for now I will just watch you on tv and remember how things were.


Charlotte Hamilton