We pulled into Marfa as the sun was setting. We walked to a dive bar and picked prickly pears off some cactuses and ate them; they were a bright, almost neon purple and addictively fruity. We were the only people at the bar. We drank $3 bottles of Lonestar and picked the cactus needles out of our fingertips. Our bartender was named Matilda and had three lines tattooed on her ear. She didn't talk much. I tried to ask her how she got to Marfa and how long she'd been there. "I mean we're all just here for a time, aren't we?"
Her words became our mantra as we navigated a three-day drive from Austin to Phoenix. We had our first "house guest," Darlene, with us, and were caravanning through the desert with our friend Sam. At times it felt like we were the only ones awake. The four of us roamed the streets after dark. We drove out of town to watch the "Marfa Lights," these mysterious red and blue lights (orbs?) that dart around the sky near the horizon. We ate old corn tamales on the asphalt in the middle of the main drag, climbed the scaffolding outside an old hotel, and settled into sleep on a road behind the capitol.
We woke up to a yolky yellow sun rising over an abandoned lot. In the daylight, Marfa is a hipster remake of a Western movie. It’s got that dry, dusty feel to it. It's scattered with strange, seemingly abandoned art installations. But it's also full of boutique shops and juice bars and overpriced restaurants, as if Brooklyn had a baby with the Wild West. We did laundry and wrote post cards and Sam got a job as a janitor and lost it later that day. We fantasized about staying there and opening a restaurant called Marfalafel.
When we left, we were shot back into the West Texas desert, on a road lined with towns of 15 people and no services. We crawled along the Mexico border, almost falling into it. The roads, lined with desert ferns and yellow grass, were so straight, flat, and desolate, that we barely held onto the wheel. Mountains in the distance with no peaks. Forests of tall cacti. Black birds picking at roadkill. I felt like I was losing my identity. We drove hundreds of miles out of town and still it felt extraterrestrial, like being on the moon. Maybe that’s what made Marfa so romantic to us: it's a place to get lost, a place to hide, a place to start over.
We found out today that Marfalafel has already been done… but we’re still dreaming of a weird and simple life in Marfa. Until then, here’s the hummus we’d be serving at our what-could-have-been falafel shop. We make this all the time in the camper and eat it with pretty much everything.
This is Middle Eastern-style hummus, made more convenient by using canned chickpeas. It’s much creamier and nuttier than what you can usually buy at the store. You can top it with almost anything. Some suggestions: toasted pine nuts, sesame seeds, harissa, pomegranate seeds, paprika, za’atar, parsley, mint, feta, chickpeas, or black pepper.
Makes about 2 cups
Add chickpeas with all of their liquid to a food processor or blender. Add the olive oil, garlic, and tahini, and blend until smooth. Squeeze the lemon juice into the hummus and season with salt to taste. To serve, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with desired toppings.
1 can chickpeas, with liquid - separated into two parts
5 tbl tahini
2 tbl olive oil
1-2 small garlic cloves, mashed into a paste
1/4 lemon, juiced
salt to taste
Notes: This hummus is even better with fresh-cooked chickpeas. Substitute about 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas and reserve all of the cooking liquid. Start with 1/2 cup liquid, adding more if needed to achieve a smooth and fluffy texture. Here’s a great method to cook them.