College campuses have always been something of a meeting point for human beings from all over this flat Earth, a place where young people come together in usually tense living situations and are generally expected to get along despite—or maybe because of—their differences.
There are so many worldly people that I have gratefully met because of their university matriculations, a trend that continues to this day; for example, recently, I had lunch with my girlfriend and a good friend of hers from Colombia, Alejandra. A would-be chemical engineer that will soon return to her homeland with the necessary book-based knowledge, I gave her a cram-session in deli sandwiches at one of my favorite lunch-spots, Midway Grocery and Market, 601 W. Eufaula St. in Norman, last Saturday.
It was a sunny day that, excusing the latent chill in the air, was perfect enough for a patio-lounging lunch; there was plenty of room outside where, despite a small cadre of wasps buzzing about the area, we managed to find a secure table with a bit of shade. We had already ordered our sandwiches inside the market, a hippie relic that was covered with Sharpie-strewn graffiti and seventies-era posters of long-disbanded bands.
As we waited on our premium-priced sandwiches to arrive, I asked Alejandra the routine questions about her country—mostly the things that are typically told to us by our own state-run media—and she answered back honestly in her charming broken English. She also told me that she truly does like America—and especially Oklahoma—and hopes to return again next semester.
I’m sure I was making an off-color joke about Trump when our sandwiches were brought out, all on checker-board paper in black baskets. Alejandra’s sandwich, the Tiger ($9.50), was the first one to be sat on the table, a smoked turkey ciabatta that was ferociously stuffed with provolone, a few strips of bacon and a dollop of sweet chili mayo for a mildly wild taste that she genuinely liked, her taste of America being sadly regulated to a Chinese buffet thus far.
My girlfriend transported in with the thoroughly prosperous Vulcan ($10.25), a four-fingered delight that set her tastebuds on stun—figuratively, of course—with the combination of Santa Fe turkey and pepperoni, a bit of cheddar, avocado, tomatoes and, once again, sweet chili mayo on a pair of sourdough slices that, when paired with a small bowl of Bill’s Chili, had her hunger saying “Engage!”
As for my own sandwich, I represented my maternal country of Mexico—somewhat—with the Ranchero ($9.95), a grilled hoagie that was layered maravillosamente with our old friends, Santa Fe turkey and pepperoni, as well as cheddar, tomatoes, onions, banana peppers, and spicy ranch to create a beautifully satisfying meal of ethnic proportions, even though I’m sure it probably would’ve gotten me laughed off the hacienda.
As we finished our meals, enjoying our freshly-brewed Colombian coffees—sure Midway had an Oklahoma Roasted Pecan blend, but let’s face it: no one harvests better beans that our neighbors to the south do—we laughed about American movies and Latino music, dirty politicians and the everyday minutiae that makes us all closer than we ever want to admit.
I took in a heavy sip, happy in knowing that today I made a new amigo. Cómpralo ya!