Sopes are chewy, crunchy, oily, salty. They are cheap street food. They are snacks. They are delicious.
The ideal sopes live in my memory. The first sope that I ate was standing outside of a miraculous little dive a few blocks away from my college dorm. My friend C and I had trekked there, because wandering for food seemed perfectly acceptable, even admirable.
I can’t see sopes on a menu without thinking of C. She has a laugh that rivals her thick mane in beauty. All these years later, I can still imagine feeling the Chicago crisp air mingling in my hair, the smell of horchata surrounding me, while I bit through the buttery avocado into the crisp shell of a sope.
Basically, the sope might be said to be likened to those 90’s polenta passed hors d’oeuvres—crunchy covering creamy corny centers. The thick corn product is like the beloved child of a tortilla and a tamale. But as compared to the boringness that I remember of grilled polenta, there is something wholly satisfying about sopes in all their street food real stuff.
In the midst of #meatfreeweek from the Cookbook Chronicles, we were feeling like we needed a little decadence. Instead of veggie tacos, we had veggie sopes. For the bases, we went with the plan from Michael Natkin (Herbivoracious) for Serious Eats. We made a slow cooker red beans with onions, cumin, green pepper, and tomato; topped that with grilled vegetables, and then with a vinegary cabbage slaw. Serve with rice.
And, these sopes were good. But, they failed me ever so slightly. The power of memory, the ability for joy to transmute your feeling for a certain foodstuff, means that my sopes, while filling and satisfying, could never match up those college ones. Those were the stuff of a life and time gone by, a fixed point, a past that now seems more literary fiction that actuality. It was a time when I saw C everyday. It was a time when we met over sopes to talk about nothing and everything.