Work-in-progress, final version may or may not appear here:

“The action is regrettable. 15 good years. Please take your time, say goodbyes.” Your manager hands you your final check and wipes his eyes. Times are hard. In cleaning out your desk, you find a brochure: Go! Ataguitania, from Go! Travel series, #P59-A. It must have arrived in junk mail that normally would have been sorted by your assistant. Along with its description of Ataguitania’s pampas, gauchos, ancient cities of winding stone streets, and unsurpassed traditional cuisine, it includes this recipe for

Nachos Amore
by Nacho Zamora y Higueras

  • Ripe avocados
  • Ripe plum tomatoes, red and golden varieties
  • Ripe mangos
  • Chile peppers, for heat
  • 1 clove garlic, for courage
  • 1 bunch cilantro, for red blood
  • Tortillas to suit
  • Dark red wine, full bodied
  • 1 silk scarf

There is no cheese in Nachos Amore. (Only a little onion, if you insist. It’s your breath.)

Translator’s Note: A French cookbook (Recettes au-dessous de la Ceinture. Paris: Société l’Estomac. 19–) in which Nachos Amore also appears claims that connoisseurs will forego all but the avocado, chiles, mango, wine, and scarf. Old women in Oquedal say true eaters of Nachos Amore use only mango, wine, and the scarf. In the next valley, in San Ireneo, experts say chiles, mango, scarf, and little or no wine—that wine makes lovers sleepy. Women of Oquedal scoff and call their neighbors lazy lovers, and laugh about their very small vineyards. They say that brave men of Oquedal bind their eyes with scarves, too, circling to their little deaths without fear, with the art and patience of Higueras. They say they should know, for Nachos Amore comes from Oquedal. The French, typically, say nothing about the origin of Nachos Amore.

* * *

Chop the golden tomatoes, garlic, chiles, and all but a few sprigs cilantro. (We will not discuss onion.) Stir and place in a small bowl in the middle of the plate. Slice the red tomatoes lengthwise and lay in a circle around the bowl. Peel and slice the avocadoes, forming a circle around the tomatoes. Peel and slice the mangoes or leave them whole. In either case, lay them close by in another small bowl, garnishing their center with the remaining cilantro.

The Go! series are always quite thorough (the best of “travel pornography,” as you jokingly call these publications)–you’ve used the thick pamphlets before to privately experience exotica such as Paris, Tahiti, Barcelona, and Marakesh. You have received a large parting consideration. What the hell. You spend two weeks learning the basics of Ataguitanian–it’s very close to the language your nurse spoke in private when you were a child–then call a reputable travel agent and arrange for a friend to care for your cats.You fly to Ataguitania, then journey to Oquedal by mail train and picturesque burro line, taking many photos of the pampas and the vineyards around San Ireneo and Oquedal (thinking of privately comparing the vineyard sizes after you return home). You arrive at the start of a great feast, where there’s a place for you at the main table, just as your travel agent said.

Choose your chips according to preference: wheat or corn, round or triangular, baked or fried. Your choice will affect the feelings of danger and desire you wish to provoke.

As you are passed the silver platter toppling with triangular corn tortillas, chiles, tomatoes, avacados, and mango, an old woman directly across the table stands and presses her palms to her breasts. Her arms are wrapped tight with copper and silver bracelets (for her children and grandchildren, whispers the young lady next to you, grasping your forearm). The old woman proclaims she has happily died more little deaths from Nachos Amore than there are belt buckles in all of Ataguitania. The other diners, even the children, stamp their feet and cheer. You blush as the old woman bows her head slightly, although you cannot be sure it was for you.

Tie your right wrist to your opponent’s left with the scarf (giving you each a different advantage). Standing over a rug or blanket, take a chip or avocado slice in your free hand, dip it into the sauce, and circle each other warily, each attempting to feed the other. If intrigue and romance (or onion) fill the air, you will tango. If your minds become clouded by desire, you will mambo.

The young lady pours you a glass of deep red wine–later you remember that was the first time you noticed the scarf around her wrist. There is a toast: “Zamora!” and the silvery creased and lean old man at the head of the table stands, raising his hand for silence. (Zamora y Higueras! the young lady gasps close to your ear.) In a sharp old voice he unravels the story of his father, Nacho Zamora y Alvarado, and his father’s opponent, Faustino Higueras, the man cursed to revenge their village for an ancient crime of passion; of their wrist-bound duel over the empty grave; how young Amaranta Higueras and Jacinta Alvarado cried out together and fell between them into the grave, not breathing; how the men fell into the grave, picking up the young women and carrying them to the hacienda, all the way weeping and calling out that the score was even and that they had all lost. How first Jacinta then Amaranta drew breath, Jacinta gripping Higueras’ arm, and Amaranta his father’s belt.

The wine must have gone to your head at little–you join in the stamping and cheering at the end of the story. You laugh as the scarf is bound across your eyes and then a little less as the chip is placed in your hand like a knife.

* * *

Translator’s Note: In Ataguitanian, the meaning of the word “opponent” is closer to that of “lover” than “antagonist” and is often used to replace ” lover” where games of the heart are involved. Both have the root contra: opponent is contrario, lover is contramante. In Zamora’s original, contrario is used, but the scarf is referred to as echarpe amante: tying the opponents into one body that, in the beginning, works together against itself. In the translation, I used “opponents” and hinted at lover but did not use the latter word, as that would release the tension too quickly, and that clearly is not the purpose of Nachos Amore.