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Churros – Controversy and Glamour

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Churros, those deliciously deep fried sugar-laden breadstick-sized pieces of Heaven-on-earth, come with a controversial history and glamorous present unique in a breakfast food.

The history of churros is complicated. Some historians say that the churro is a descendant of a Chinese pastry.  The story goes that Portuguese explorers brought the pastry back to Iberia where the Spanish added on its signature star-edged shape and sweetness.

Others say that churros were an invention of nomadic Spanish shepherds that lived in mountains far from bakeries.  Shepherds fried dough made of flour, water, and salt over an open fire for the churros we know today as a substitute for fresh bread. The story also goes that the name for the pastry was inspired by the ridged horns of the Churra sheep, an aesthetic which the fried treat shares.

Whether Spanish shepherds, Portuguese sailors or the Chinese get the credit for inventing the churro, it was the conquistadors who introduced them to San Miguel de Allende.   Conversely it was at this moment in history Mexican hot chocolate was introduced to the Spanish court, perfect for churro dunking.  Such a perfect taste combination didn’t occur again until the accidental pairing of chocolate and peanut butter in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup!

Arguably the best churros and chocolate in town are served as San Augustin, named for the owner’s father.  Said owner is tele-nova queen, Margarita Gralia.

Born in 1954 Argentina, Margarita came to Mexico to appear in plays produced by Silvia Pinal.  Next she landed in telenovas where she prospered, portraying older, sexy, blonde leads.

Margarita was featured in the first telenova I ever saw.  While reading a book on her hacienda’s terrace she was so engrossed she didn’t hear all the rebels attack until they stood beside her chaise lounge guns, and such, pointed right at her.  I wasn’t sure if she was hard of hearing or the book was simply that engaging!

The best example of a contemporary in Northern culture is 1970s Texan super-model/actress Jerry Hall.  Both enjoyed playing older sex symbols, often the same roles like Mrs. Robinson of The Graduate fame.   Though while Jerry Hall went on to marry rock star Mick Jagger and media multi-millionaire Rupert Murdoch.  Margarita posed for Playboy at 44 and discovered a flair for churros.

Sidebar:  Once on a tour I had two older couples hailing from the same small hamlet as Jerry Hall.  I asked “What was the most famous thing to come from their hometown?” and they started to reply about a recent spelling bee winner.  I was surprised, stating “You aren’t going to mention Jerry Hall?”  If we hadn’t been in a SUV I think they would have spit!  Turns out they went to school together and, apparently, weren’t chums.

With Margarita’s restaurant across from St. Francis’ postcard-perfect park forming a never ending line, she expanded to another location by the mall’s movie theater.

I prefer the centro location featuring a painting of her father as St. Augustine enjoying angels serving him churros and chocolate plus a wall of her theater and telenova posters.   In addition to tantalization churros and hot chocolate combinations, the menu includes, naturally, Argentinian tapas.

Margarita announced this week both she and her husband survived their virus infections.  Just imagine all the health benefits a 115 calorie churro can do for you!

by Joseph Toone

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