Meson de Madrid
Excerpt from: The Travels of Winnetou and Shatterhand
While travelling in Mexico, Old Shatterhand takes lodging in the Meson de Madrid, a guesthouse recommended to him by the local ‘escribano’, the village clerk.
… Senorita Felisa brought me a cup, which contained a thick, brown substance, and bade me to enjoy my food. When the host did likewise, I quite logically deduced that I was supposed to consume the drink. I therefore put the cup to my lips and tasted its contents, tasted again, and repeated the tasting until my tongue told me that I was dealing with a mixture of water, molasses and burned flour.
“What is this?” I asked.
Senorita Felisa clapped her hands together above her head and said:
“Is that possible, senor? Have you ever drunk chocolate?”
“Chocolate?” I asked, whereby my face might have attained a not very intelligent expression.
“Yes, I’ve often drunk chocolate.”
“Well, then, that’s what this is!”
“Chocolate? Really? I wouldn’t have thought that!”
“Is that so?” the very pleased host nodded to me. “Indeed, my chocolate is famous far and wide. Who knows what you were drinking in other places. Mine, however, is so genuine, so unique that every first-time visitor in my establishment is astonished and refuses to believe that it is chocolate. And from this you ought to realize that everything in my house is excellent.”
Secretly, I was of a different opinion, but didn’t deem it necessary to tell him; instead, I enquired:
“What will you serve me for dinner, Don Geronimo?”
“Dinner?” He sat up straight and looked surprised. While pointing at the cup he explained: “There it is; that’s it!”
“Ah, so! What will you serve for breakfast?”
“A cup of my unsurpassable chocolate.”
“And for lunch?”
“Another cup of the same. That’s the best there is.”
“What if someone wishes to have bread, meat, or other such things?”
“They’ll have to go to the baker and the butcher.”
“Then tell me whether you have wine. Chocolate doesn’t help with thirst.”
“Oh, I have excellent wine! Would you like a glass?”
“Yes. How much does it cost?”
That would have been about half a taler in German currency. Don Geronimo honoured me by fetching the wine personally; however, he handed it to his daughter, instead of me. Senorita Felisa drank half the contents without batting an eyelid, and then gave it to me with a sweet smile. I took a small sip, which resulted in an immediate coughing fit. The ‘wine’ was purest poison, no less than sulphuric acid.
“You must drink it slowly, slowly!” my host warned me. “My wine is far too strong for you; it is brewed from the most delicate grapes.”
“Yes, Don Geronimo, it is indeed too strong for me,” I coughed. “Allow me to visit the baker and the butcher!”
“Won’t you finish your glass?” the senorita asked.
“No. Unfortunately, I must consider my health.”
Hence she lifted the glass to her rose lips, emptied it without as much as a flinch, and then bade me in a familiar tone:
“When you get to the baker and the butcher, please bring something back, senor. Noble and attentive guests always do this.”
Not bad! I was paying the equivalent of four and a half mark, in return for three cups of water flavoured with flour and molasses, some space in a hammock, which was most likely very populated, and, to top it all off, supplying host and family with provisions! Meson de Madrid! The best hotel in town! Oh, escribano, escribano, no offence to your good advice, and your recommendation of the establishment, but I shall look around some more!
I left without divulging my disloyal intentions, and then spent two full hours looking for better accommodation. In the end, I was convinced that the town clerk had been right all along, because compared to the caves that I saw, the Meson de Madrid was a veritable palace. I therefore spent one peso for some meat, which, between you and me, had a considerable haut gout about it, purchased a number of tortillas, which are eaten in those regions in place of European breads, and was consequently greeted with great respect when I returned to the hotel. Dear Felisa immediately relieved me of everything, without much fuss, and then lit the fire in the hearth to roast the meat. The three boys took possession of the tortillas, which they crunched between their teeth like bones, and Donna Elvira sat up in her hammock because the aroma of the roasting meat, which had begun to permeate the room, had woken her. Unfortunately, I was unable to recognize her face, because the only lamp in the house was placed at the distant table where I had taken a seat. The host joined me in a friendly manner, pushed the domino tiles across the table to me and said:
“Let’s have another few games until we eat, senor. There is nothing else to do anyway.”