Ten Reasons Why Chicken con Chipotle Will Save Your Soul

I sat at Arceo’s Mexican Restaurant on South Nevada in Colorado Springs, facing my good friend Eric after struggling through a dismal weekend I needed to put behind me. I glanced down at the menu briefly, already knowing what I wanted. I ordered chicken con chipotle, my dish of choice no matter where I go, how I change, or what I do, and here is why.

chicken-con-chipotle1. I will always say it. Chicken con chipotle will save your soul. It’s best ordered with corn tortillas, and if the food is authentic, it can take you to a good place no matter what’s been happening in your life. If the people working and eating at the restaurant speak español, rest assured the restaurant is authentic, mis amigos.

2. Eat a chip first. The crispness of the chips often reminds friends of horse hooves that clopped along riverbanks, summertimes spent chomping chips and throwing the extras to ducks or fish in boredom as the adults tempted trout with worms or neon-colored bait, watching as rainbow trout flailed along lines before they ended up in frying pans staring dead-eyed up at the stars before going into hungry campers’ bellies.

3. Smell the dish before tasting anything. Something about the earthy aroma will remind you of bear tales told before roaring, righteous fires, mushrooms squashed beneath big, burly boots that burrowed through grass furrows that frightened girls who squealed and screamed out of tents as boys roared raucously with laughter at their games amid the wood smoke and ash.

4. Taste the sauce. The spicy tang will bring little girls back to childhood memories of when they fingered the gossamer lace of their mother’s bridal gown and listened to her tell them of wedding days and the fruit punch stains caused by father spilling as he danced merrily about as only fathers do on such days.

5. Eat an onion. The onions will never make you weep as they might in stronger dishes—instead, the onions in chicken con chipotle make us smile like girls fresh in dresses of pressed cashmere or calico on quincinetas, sewn during delicate summer days when sweet tea glasses wept and girls giggled behind long, low curtains and spied on boys as they capered beneath oaks on long grassy lawns and we dream’d of husbands and children and days when we would have familias of our own.

6. Eat one of each vegetable. Each vegetable is a trip down a shady lane, where the tree leaves whisper above the heads of families on their way to mass, and women gossip and men discuss the latest town news. This squash represents the town priest and several of his brothers, this green bell pepper the matriarch and children of a large family, and this yellow bell her rival and her attendant young ones. Each tells a story, and I always let the story sweep me away along with the mariachi music and the crisp corn chips.

7. Try the chicken. When done right, the chicken is always tender like lovers’ kisses stolen beneath midnight boughs—stolen because good girls never give such things freely, at least not admittedly, and they must be taken if their affections are to be won because their men must prove themselves in battle—and then she pulls away because the goodness of the kiss is simply too much, too deep, too like the earth, like the sea, and like the wind for her to give into the experience completely and be swept away by it.

8. Roll a tortilla and put some of everything in it. Top it with sour cream and eat it messily. Such an endeavor will bring you back to times when days dawned to illuminate frost-glazed windows like cathedrals, when icicles formed near to the ground and children spilled from houses, laughing to make saints and angles from the snow-masses, fathers scraped driveways clear, and mothers gathered in kitchens to make frothy cocoa goodness to reward their frolics and good works on times given off from work and school to battle the white gods’ wrath.

blessinghand9. Scrape the last of the sauce with the final tortilla, torn to pieces to make it last. The end of the dish is like the end of a sacred rite with the eater as the presiding officiator, the creator of that rite, the priest or priestess, where something holy has just occurred. Perhaps, upon finishing, one should deliver a benison at the table, for the entire moment has been a poem and a blessing for those gathered, a festival and a joyous celebration of the senses.

10. True chicken con chipotle is like nothing else. It is like water for chocolate, ambrosia for the senses, and it can bring you back from the brink and into the wakeful life. Fret not, lonely souls, for you can find yourselves once more in the depths of this dish. All you need to do is find your local restaurant, the one with true Mexicanas and Mexicanos working behind the counter. Tell them your soul is weary, and you need something to bring you back to life. They will fix you some chicken con chipotle, and all will be well. To the men and women of Arceo’s on South Nevada, many thanks for reviving me yet again!

May peace be with you.