I tend to judge a Mexican restaurant by the height, fluffiness and flavor of their chile rellenos. The taste and lightness speaks to the freshness and types of oils used to pull an otherwise moribund egg omelet or souffl&

233; into a redoubt of poblano chile peppers and queso fresco. Properly pursued, a chile relleno is both buoyant and sound to the bite, with the full texture of mild, yet flavorful cheese, which takes residency inside the aforementioned chile

Yep, it is yummy, especially when topped by fresh, homemade salsa. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel and, without exception, the Relleno Rule holds true, except, of course, when you are hungry. At that point, one looks at the painted fake brick, menu items designed to indulge unadventurous gringos with the hope that they do not serve "hamburgesas con queso," a sure sign that they have caved in to the insipid.

In the early 1970s while attempting to expand our hours at Lithia Grocery (now Grilla Bites on the Plaza), we entertained having a Mexican menu as a new dinner business. Leslie Pollack and Jim Gault made the pitch in the form of a sample meal that consisted of a chile relleno, beans, rice, chips, guacamole and salsa. As vast tectonic plates push the Himalayas skyward, so did Leslie's relleno reign fluffily and lofty over the proffered platter. When my teeth sank into the light and flavorful folds my mind yodeled "gritas" into my ear: The dinner was delicious and we promptly set about finalizing our agreement. Word quickly spread around town that "La Tortilla" was serving hand-whipped fluffy rellenos which seemed to hover over the plate, such was their fragile etherealness. A hungry line flowed out the door and down the sidewalk, the common theme being everyone's mind was relleno with thoughts of rellenos. Jim oversaw the kitchen while Leslie, known for her contagious smile, bright mood, quick laugh and duck walk, worked the room to everyone's delight. Rumor had it that you could tie a string to one of Leslie's rellenos and parade it about as a balloon on the Fourth of July.

Of course, all of this leads into the 700 mile-long federal fence being constructed along our southern boarder, purportedly to keep out "illegals" and, if you are either gullible or racist, in the same breath you would mention protecting the Homeland from "terrorists," who we are told dress up with full length chadors for females or caftans and headscarves for men under their sombreros, while asking directions in Arabic and tipping in wads of dinars. It's all the rage for the under-appreciated KKK, under the guise of being patriotic, to hiss and spit venom while referring to their former gardeners, house cleaners, fieldworkers or general laborers, in other words, those who do our hard work while we shop online for a solar powered tiki-torch for our next small gathering to view edited digital clips of our latest vacation to"&


It would be quite easy to test the resolve of these xenophobes. Simply boycott Mexican food and drink and within a week the hateful will be on their knees begging for a smoking plate of fajitas and a call margarita on the rocks, no salt.

If we are really building a 700-mile fence to keep out Al-Qaeda, simply offer free and instant U.S. citizenship to anyone (and their extended families) who turns in a real terrorist intent on doing us harm. Instantly we would have tens of millions of Hispanics patrolling our boarder for us. It would be a smart move within the dull doldrums of our fatally flawed foreign policy, so we will probably continue to launch unmanned surveillance planes, preferring to jackboot rather than being a compassionate good neighbor.

I believe that the lesson here is for everyone to have enough to eat and drink, then sit down to talk and laugh.

It sure beats going to bed at night shaking with fear, alone in the world and without a stomach full of the delectable offerings from our hard-working neighbors to the south.

(Lance was last seen scanning the horizon for terrorists while wrestling with a musket. You may fire him a missive to lance@journalist.com.)