The Herbalist

I had a café for twenty years and then I didn´t. And even though I enjoyed not dealing with the long list of problems, I missed the free (well, not really) meals and almost constant companionship.

I cook for a living, preparing banquets for 200, botanas for 50, but the idea of  making something for myself in a non-restaurant owner world required too much effort. I wish I could say I finally lost some weight, but what I really did was order a lot of pizza.

So now I’m back in business, feasting on French toast and omelets that someone else prepares. I’m seeing my friends and faithful customers, hearing about their days and listening to their stories.


El Buen Cafe’s new home—Sabino 26

“I saw this new herbalist, Don Tomas,” Janie says one day, asking for a glass of water. “He grows his own herbs and makes his own medicine. His place is truly amazing.”

Janie describes his office–a room with weathered acupuncture charts on the walls and plants in every corner. Four examination tables stand in the center of the room, a patient lying down on each one of them, their families by their side. And then there’s Janie, the sole foreigner, all alone.

“So when it was my turn Don Tomas came over and started pressing on the sole of my right foot, calling out to his assistant across the room—gastritis, colitis, sinuses and,” Janie hesitates, looks over both shoulders and then whispers…”genitals. I closed my eyes in horror and then he pressed on my other foot and screamed it out again. I knew everyone was listening, so I sat up and told them that nothing was wrong with my genitals.”

Janie grabs a small bottle from her purse, unscrews the top, and adds a few drops of dark green liquid to her glass of water. The label reads “Genitals” in bold, black letters.

“But it didn’t end there,” she continues after downing her herbal medicine in one gulp.


El Buen Cafe, San Jorge 26

El Buen Cafe, San Jorge 26


“An older woman came out, walking slowly with a cane. Don Tomas introduced her as Doña Josefina, She was heavy set and wore a traditional embroider shirt with a long skirt. She told us to turn over and get on our hands and knees, then bend our elbows and place them firmly on the table. The other patients did what she said, so I did too. Then Doña Josefina came over and swatted me on the butt, not just once, but a few times. When I protested, she said she was aligning my bones. Luckily she did the same to everyone else—it wasn’t just me.”

I did miss not having a café and yes, it had a lot to do with someone else making my pancakes in the morning, but mostly I missed the people…and their stories.


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