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Archive for Saturday, October 5, 1991

MEXICAN RESTAURANT COOKS A SPECIAL FOR FAMOUS GUEST

October 5, 1991

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Jenny Reyes is accustomed to notable people sampling the home-style Mexican cooking at her La Familia Cafe.

However, it wasn't until Friday, when Cesar Chavez came to eat at her restaurant, that she finally decided to start posting pictures of the famous people that visit her place.

"We're hoping to get a good picture of him that we can blow up and put on the wall," Reyes said of the labor leader, known for efforts to improve the lot of Hispanic farm workers. "It is a nice honor to have him come."

While people such as Gov. Joan Finney have eaten at La Familia, Reyes said that no Hispanic leader with as much status as Chavez has ever eaten at her restaurant.

Chavez arrived at the restaurant around 3:45 p.m., not long before he was scheduled to speak at Kansas University. It was KU's Hispanic American Leadership Organization that decided to take Chavez to La Familia, 733 N.H. Some members of HALSA, the Hispanic American Law Students Assn., also met with Chavez, bringing the size of the luncheon group to about 20.

ANGELA Cervantes, chair of the HALO Heritage Committee that arranged Chavez's visit to KU, said HALO chose the restaurant partly because "it's owned by a Mexican family, and we'd like to work more with the Mexican community here in Lawrence."

Of course, she said, the main reason the group chose La Familia is because "the food is wonderful here."

Reyes' parents operated a string of Mexican restaurants in Lawrence starting in the early 1950s. Reyes carried on the tradition by opening La Familia Cafe in North Lawrence in 1987, and this May the restaurant opened at its new location downtown.

Despite her years of cooking experience, Reyes requested some assistance from her son, Mike Rodriguez, in preparing a meal for Chavez, who is a "macrobiotic eater."

Chavez said his diet consists of "just really natural food, mostly grain and beans, and no meat."

"IT'S A VERY standard diet that our grandparents had," he said. "It's about 60 percent grains, about 10 percent beans, about 20 percent vegetables, and seaweed."

Chavez, who has protested the use of pesticides on grapes because of the dangers they pose to workers and consumers, said he likes for his food to be organically grown.

To meet Chavez's dietary standards, Rodriguez developed a new recipe with the help of the Community Mercantile Co-op, 700 Maine, which sells organically grown foods.

Rodriguez's creation, called a "black bean enchilada casserole," included blue corn tortillas, black beans, carrots, onions, moche (a pressed cake of brown rice, crumbled), tahini (raw sesame), tofu and miso (a paste of polished brown rice, organic soybeans, sun-dried sea salt and well water).

RODRIGUEZ also cooked Chavez some brown rice, a favorite side dish of the labor leader, and a special salsa verde (green sauce).

Chavez said he enjoyed the meal, and he thanked Rodriguez for going through the pains of making sure everything was organically grown. Chavez also said he'd stop back at the restaurant again the next time he was passing through Lawrence.

Just as Reyes and her family were honored to serve Chavez, the KU students said they cherished the opportunity to meet with Chavez during the luncheon. Especially appreciative was Enrique Torres, a second-year law student at KU and a member of HALSA.

"My parents met Chavez when they were migrant workers in the '50s and '60s," Torres said. "The growers would put my parents to work far away from where he used to make his speeches. They'd tell my parents not to listen to him, but somehow they would get around to listening to him.

"He was a common sight, and he created solidarity."

Torres, 25, said he has deep respect for Chavez because he has shown that it is possible to "just devote yourself completely to a cause your whole life."

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