We saw these tomatoes piled high in the back of a big rig on Interstate 5, near Stockton, California.
We didn't mean to end up on Interstate 5 near Stockton. My sister and I started out today for I-80 and Roseville, California, where our family owns some rental property that nobody has inspected in decades.
But the traffic was so heavy as we turned onto Highway 80, we were forced to plod along at about 15 miles per hour. After a couple of hours of this, we turned off at Suisun City for a break.
There wasn't a McDonald's in sight. We pulled into a dusty strip mall that appeared to be one payment away from mortgage default. There, we spotted a little place called Bertha's Restaurant.
"Let's go in and get a tuna sandwich and regroup," I said. We parked the car and walked in the wind of the Sacramento Delta, through the dust to Bertha's.
Inside a ceiling fan spun above us and it was cool and nice. A cheerful young man greeted us.
"Have you ever tried a pupusa? They're great. You ought to have one," he said.
The truth is we had never even heard of a pupusa, which we learned was a traditional Salvadorian dish. So we washed our hands, sat down, and ordered a couple of pupusas. We noticed that Bertha's Restaurant also called itself a pupuseria. Eavesdropping on the Spanish spoken by the young man and the woman doing the cooking, we deduced that she was Bertha, the name of a Catholic saint whose feast day is May 15. St. Bertha lived in France in the middle ages and thus, missed the opportunity to feast on Bertha of El Salvador's pupusas.
They were wonderful. They looked like two soft tacos smooshed together over a thin layer of corn and a thin layer of beans, and they were topped with shredded cabbage and hot sauce.
He said we ought to try the sweet cinnamon tamale for dessert and we said we thought we ought as well. The tamales were sweet and rich with corn and cheese and sugar, and we felt very full when we were finished.
You can find Bertha's in Suisun City, on your way to Sacramento, at 413 Marina Center (707-399-8507). It is right off Interstate 80.
We never made it to Roseville. We headed back from Suisun City across the Sacramento Delta through farm country and over to Interstate 5 and back to the San Francisco Bay Area. It is Labor Day weekend and the Bay Bridge is closed for repairs so it appears all of the Bay Area residents who wanted a holiday jammed onto Interstate 80 headed to the mountains and Lake Tahoe, beyond Sacramento.
But it turned out well for us in spite of that. The drive home was beautiful. We saw the truck full of tomatoes, learning what tomato sauce looks like before it is transformed into something you put onto a pizza.
We saw several enormous windmill farms and lots of rolling California hillsides, golden from the summer sun.
And we were full of pupusas, an intriguing dish from our friends south of the border, by way of Bertha's Pupuseria, in Suisun. Que bueno.