When I was in jr. High, we moved to an apartment complex that was really close to the main drag of La Habra; La Habra Blvd, to be exact. Where I lived there was a huge catholic church behind us, a Mexican grocery store on the other side and in between was the greatest gift God could ever give a struggling family; a “pasteleria” or a Mexican bread store. For those of you who are not familiar with a Mexican bakery, you are missing out.
My brother and I passed the bakery every day on the way to the bus stop. Of course, we were poor but my brother and I could afford to buy something reminiscent to a soft French loaf for only 15 cents. It was actually two loaves stuck together….a double wide, if you will, (well, it was more like a double-long). Pete and I would split it and eat it on our way to school. I’m pretty sure it was the only breakfast we had most mornings but it was fresh, warm, soft, tasty and economical. I don’t know how, in the world, those places stay in business!! When we would manage to scrounge up a little more change, we would treat ourselves to something sweeter from the pasteleria.
Now, you really have to know what you’re doing when you go in because it can be overwhelming since every pastry is on display through giant glass cases. For example, there is a gigantic chocolate chip cookie but you only have to get it once to know that it’s kind of a waste of money. There is a Neapolitan-type cookie with vanilla, strawberry and chocolate sections and if you ask me, that is a better choice than the chocolate chip cookie. And of course everyone would recognize the puffy domed bread with the colored and cracked sugary coating…what is that stuff called anyway? It’s divine. Those are great but I prefer to eat those with a tall glass of milk because they are a little dry.
My “pan” of choice was always the crescent shaped, pink and white, sugar coated pastry. It was soft, sweet, beautiful and cheap. Most of the ones I mentioned were in our price range (About a quarter each). Every good Mexican bakery also has their high end goods. Flaky, fruit filled pockets dusted with powdered sugar or crispy cone shaped ones filled with crème. Those were a little more gourmet than I would traditionally care for and besides, those were about 40 cents each….I was the poor little rich white Mexican that could never afford those high priced sweets.
About twice a year, I take my kids to the Mexican bread store and let them pick out whatever they want. My son once got the chocolate chip cookie even though I tried to divert him but alas! That is a lesson every kid must learn on their own. I even take them to the very same store my brother and I went to when we were their age. It’s still there and I think they raised their prices from 25 cents a pastry to 40 cents a pastry and then I always drive home by way of the ol’ apartment complex and show them the stairs that led to my childhood home. Good times.