By Sal Guarino
One afternoon a few months ago, as my wife and I were in the middle of the arduous process of unloading our truck into of our recently purchased home in Centro, we noticed something special going on just a few doors down the street. First drawn in by our sense of smell to the nearby open garage serving as a kitchen that signaled a potentially tasty respite, we were further captivated by the palpable energy and vivacious conversation emanating from the garage. The welcoming vibe was as attention-grabbling and emotionally enticing as was the promise of savory antojitos to our weary selves. That’s when we first met Ore.
Oralia Olivares Gonzalez, who goes by Ore, greeted us with a chaotic yet instantly comforting flurry of questions about where we came from, which house we were moving into, how we wound up in San Miguel, and of course, what we wanted to eat. As we settled into two of the handful of chairs that surrounded two small tables in the garage, my wife felt instantly at home with Ore’s high-energy, Mexican hospitality and obvious skill in the kitchen. Ore gathered facts, shared her current status in life (and much of her history), and crafted a bunch of quesadillas in what seemed like one continuous motion, as instinctive as a mother heron tending to her nest. I also felt instantly at ease, appreciative of the warm greeting and the break from lugging boxes.
Born in Mexico City, Ore came to San Miguel at age 15, and has been working hard ever since. In fact, when I asked her what a key life lesson has been, she discussed the value of work and how one has to do what’s necessary. She would certainly know, having worked in several settings and capacities over the last few decades, including a factory, tiendas, an office, a hospital as a secretary, and of course, in several kitchens. She credits her 75-year-old mother for instilling a spirit of determination, work ethic, and resourcefulness within her, through managing being a single mother of six at age 32, and always making things work, building upon originally owning just one tiendita in Mexico City.
One of Ore’s regular customers who lives nearby often stops in front of Las Comadres, as Ore has dubbed her garage eatery, and bellows out a playful, “Ore! Ore!” to the tune of Gloria Estefan’s famous beginning, “Oh eh, oh eh!” to Rhythm Is Gonna Get You, to which Ore reciprocates by smiling and raising her hands up in the air. If you don’t know Ore, you might think that she was getting energized by her theatric neighbor. While she does get a kick out his musical salutations, it is Ore who is the master at lifting spirits. From around 9:00 AM to late afternoon, six days a week, Ore serves up perfectly prepared antojitos (quesadillas, gorditas, sopes, burritos, etc.) and just about anything else you’d like. She cooks fast yet never loses focus on the important tasks at the fryer, and more importantly, on the details of the enthusiastic conversation she invariably initiates and maintains with all of her customers, whether you are sitting to eat or just awaiting your order to go.
No desees para nadie lo que no desees para ti (Don’t wish anything upon anyone else that you wouldn’t wish upon yourself) is Ore’s favorite expression. How fitting, as just a few moments in Ore’s company is all it takes to feel her genuineness and sense that she indeed has some very kind wishes and dreams for many. One dream is to open a café for teenagers in SMA, providing them with a constructive environment in which to congregate during the late afternoon and early evening hours, enjoy a milkshake, a torta or a burger. She recalls longingly when there were a couple of such places back in the 1980’s right here in San Miguel.
San Miguel is famous for its density of delectable eateries. People love getting a lift from great food especially when it’s easy to find, quick, and affordable, three criteria that are surely satisfied by Ore at Las Comadres. Something else is also satisfied with a stop at the garage turned kitchen on Calle Quebrada 31 – the basic daily need we all share for a kind word and an engaging smile, for someone to take an interest in our day or how we feel at a given moment. San Miguel’s many treasures have been well documented, especially in recent years. Its less publicized jewels, however, are its residents – so many kind people who offer us a steady diet of humble and gracious enthusiasm, an intrinsically attractive and fundamentally reinforcing act of personal connection that goes far beyond the praises any travel magazine could bestow upon us. When you stop by Las Comadres at Calle Quebrada 31 and meet Ore, you’ll know and feel exactly what I mean.
Sal Guarino Born in Brooklyn, NY, now settled in Centro with his Mexican wife, Sal brings a rich set of life experiences to the table. “SALudos de San Miguel!” shares his joy for living through a lens of gratitude and positivity here in SMA. Sal’s first book “SALutations!” was published in 2018. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org