After our last Super Thinking + Spanish seminar in St. Charles, MO, I had some time to visit and check out some local Hispanic businesses. I was curious to see if a local Mexican restaurant was still in business after I had visited it as a college student. So I headed for Ramonâ€™s, a traditional Mexican-American family run restaurant that is now a local landmark.Â My initial visit as college student was an occasion after class with my Mexican History Professor, Dr. Richard Millet. He invited the whole class to have lunch and I believe most of us showed up. Dr. Millet said Ramonâ€™s had some great chicken mole and he thought it might broaden our horizons, or maybe he just wanted to have some good food. In any case, one day after class we drove to the establishment a few miles from the university.Upon arrival at Ramonâ€™s, I ordered the chicken mole for the first time and as I recall it was very good. The pre-Columbians certainly had some good ideas, and chicken mole was a one ( [Ëˆmole]; Spanish, from Nahuatl mÅlli, “sauce”). It was a little bit of Tenochtitlan in the Midwest, via the Mexican state of Durango. Of course the conversation was lively since Dr. Millet was a colorful sort and he always had interesting stories to tell. The good professor recounted the late Aztec Empire which made us feel like we were in a Hollywood film with all the colorful and gory details. Wherever you are Dr. Millet, thank you.
I donâ€™t really know why I havenâ€™t returned to Ramonâ€™s until now. Just chalk it up to distractible youth. So fast forward â€œmany moonsâ€ and on an early Saturday afternoon I walked into the establishment for the first time since how many years, I donâ€™t want to count. The physical place had expanded, so I imagined that business had been good. I met Carmen, Ramonâ€™s daughter at the entrance. She was doing her thing with the daily chores of such a restaurant. Something she has done for many years.
According to Carmen, her father Ramon was born in Durango, Mexico. Of course, Durango was named by the Spanish after a Basque town in Durango, Biscay, Spain. Ramon grew up on his motherâ€™s northern Mexican cooking so thatâ€™s the type of food youâ€™ll experience at Ramonâ€™s. Unfortunately, they no longer serve the chicken mole, but they do have some killer tamales- tamale born out of the kitchen of Ramonâ€™s mother. Since great tamales are one of my favorites, I ordered the traditional northern Mexican tamales made with corn meal that Ramonâ€™s mother had made from her recipe for many years. I ordered the â€œplatoâ€ and was not disappointed. There are few things better than great tamale.
A small business is challenging at best to run and hugely risky, especially a restaurant, but Ramon and his family have made it a success story. I asked Carmen what was the biggest change in terms of business over the last several years. She mentioned the high sales tax has been a bit of a challenge since they built a convention center nearby several years ago. Unfortunately, over the years, the sales tax has increased, which makes it challenging to serve the public with good reasonably priced food, but Ramonâ€™s has still managed to do just that. If youâ€™re going to be in the area, donâ€™t miss it.
Ramonâ€™s has been a working establishment for over forty years and is still going strong. Ramon no longer directly runs the place with his wife. His children, Carlos, Ramon, and Carmen run the place now with some of their children working there also. However, you may get lucky and catch Ramon visiting with his wife from time to time. The place seems as popular now as it has been in the past. Itâ€™s a regular institution and tradition in the community, since several generations now have enjoyed Ramonâ€™s food.
â€œLa familiaâ€ is a Hispanic tradition â€“ a way of living everyday life. Itâ€™s an excellent thing. Ramonâ€™s is a superb example of that. You wonâ€™t see any Aztecs, but if â€œLa familiaâ€ seems appealing to you â€“ itâ€™s a tradition youâ€™ll want to join. You are welcomed there.
Learning a language is as essential to understanding a culture as eating its food.
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