My favorite Instagram account to follow is that of the family-owned Mexican restaurant just down the road from my house. And it’s not because of carefully-curated, professional quality photos or excellent marketing material. There is none of that. In fact, this account is the opposite of everything “They” tell you to do to promote a business on social media.
It’s primarily pictures of handwritten notes as to when the restaurant will be closed or photos of their family gatherings. I don’t remember the last time there was a picture of food!
A recent post was of a handwritten note: “We’ll be closed for Mother’s Day.” Mother’s Day! When restaurants can make a killing on brunch! Even restaurants that are usually closed on Sundays open their doors on Mother’s Day.
But this restaurant is named after the materfamilias who runs the kitchen. Shouldn’t she get a day off to be celebrated? Of course! Is closing on Mother’s Day the best plan to increase their business revenue? No.
Thankfully, the mighty dollar doesn’t seem to be this establishment’s all-consuming concern. In fact, the whole enterprise is gloriously pro-family. It goes against all the worst trends of capitalism’s tunnel vision on profit.
When you walk into the restaurant, you’ll be greeted by the matriarch’s son, Eric, who runs the dining area but excels at cooking as well. You should expect to be there for awhile. Your meal will be cooked individually. It’s not going to be an exhibition of streamlined efficiency. It takes as long as it would if you were in a Mexican grandmother’s kitchen because that’s basically where you are.
Wacoans know it’s the best Mexican food in town. It’s worth the wait. If Eric asks you whether you prefer the chilaquiles when he cooks them or when his mom cooks them, refuse to answer! The food is too good to make any enemies in the kitchen. (But be sure to order the chilaquiles. With the green sauce. You can thank me later.)
While you’re waiting for your food, you might be asked if you want to try some of Eric’s latest salsa successes. You should say yes. Your mouth will be so happy. He enjoys making many varieties and come to think of it, we’ve never been charged for them. Maybe that’s because we’re regulars but my guess is that he shares his salsa because it is a joy.
If there’s a family event–graduation, out of town visitors, a holiday, etc–you can expect the restaurant to be closed. The Instagram feed will inform you. Then you might see Instagram videos of the whole family at a party or graduation. They are having way more fun than you are. (No, really, I don’t care how much fun you’re having. Their party is more fun. I’ve SEEN the Instagram posts.)
In this economic system it’s shocking to see a business in service to a family rather than a family at the mercy of the companies employing its members, without even the freedom to celebrate Mother’s Day. This business providing incredible Mexican food to our town is an art form to delight in, a boon to our neighborhood, and financially sustaining for their family. This should not be a luxury, but for the many employed by companies that can demand employees to work in a way that damages their family life, it certainly seems like a luxury.
When we walk down to our neighborhood Mexican place, it’s a refreshing experience to feel like a human being interacting with another human being rather than merely a consumer in an environment that dehumanizes and commodifies human beings. The way capitalism makes a god of profit shapes our treatment of other people made in God’s image. (Capitalism is, of course, not the same thing as commerce. People had businesses and supported families before the rise of capitalism.) And yes, it’s problems are acknowledged by the Church. Pope Benedict XVI in an address in 2013 said,
In recent centuries, ideologies that praised the cult of nation, race and social class have proved to be real idolatries; and the same could be said of reckless capitalism with its worship of profit that results in crisis, inequality and poverty. People today share more and more a common feeling about the inalienable dignity of every human being and about our reciprocal and interdependent responsibility for it; and this is to the advantage of true civilization, the civilization of love. However, unfortunately, our time also knows the shadows that hide God’s plan.
In what Pope Francis calls our “throwaway culture” in which even human beings are treated like commodities, our neighborhood Mexican restaurant is, in the words of You’ve Got Mail’s Frank Navasky, a “lone reed, standing tall, waving boldly, in the corrupt sands of commerce.”
So get your tacos somewhere else on Mother’s Day. In fact, just cook for mum at home! (That way you don’t have to support companies that require their employees to miss out on celebrating their moms.) And on the other days, support businesses that treat employees and customers like real human beings rather than cogs in a machine. But be sure to always check the neighborhood Mexican restaurant’s Instagram. They might be closing early to attend a family party. And my guess is that it will be totally awesome.