During this time my father was in a labor camp, for the crime of wanting to leave the country. Alone, and with few provisions, as my mother struggled to care for us, she was struck with inspiration. One day she went out to the back patio to do the wash and saw a cute little frog sitting by the door to the kitchen. My mother has always liked frogs, and this little frog by the kitchen door gave her an idea...
My father and I were very close, but I did not always get along with my mother, so even though she was a marvelous cook, I had never been interested in learning her cooking secrets. However, after my father’s death, I witnessed my mother’s severe deterioration and overwhelming sadness. Looking for a way to engage her, I had the idea to ask her to teach me how to cook like her...
Hello friends and family,
My friend, Whitney Johnson, invited me to do a guest post on her Dare to Dream blog. I wrote about what I learned from my parents about daring and dreaming. You can read it here:
Breathing Life Into Dreams
And thank you, so much, for your interest and support!
TORTILLA DE PAPAS
When the potato pieces were soft, my mother would fish them out of the oil with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. I don't bother to drain them, but rather put them directly into my ceramic non stick pan. That way there's already enough oil in the pan to be ready to add and cook the eggs.
My children and husband like to put catsup or salsa on their tortilla. More heresy, as far as my mother was concerned! However, she had no problem adding garlic, spinach, or other vegetables to her tortillas.
I'm trying to get into this blogging thing, but I'm not very good at it yet, it's been almost 3 months since I posted anything! I have been doing all kinds of other things, and if I had the blogging mindset, I could have written about my adventures.
In December we helped our oldest son and his family move from Arizona to Atlanta area. After driving for 4 days, we celebrated the arrival to their new home at a local, delicious, Cuban restaurant--but I forgot to take pictures of it.
|Walking on Hollywood beach with MaConcha|
|With Tia China & cousins, including beautiful new baby!|
|Formal night on cruise|
Also, my husband and I went on a Caribbean cruise! During our first cruise, 28 years ago, I got very sea sick and was given medication which we then discovered I was allergic to... not much fun. I was not very eager to experience that again, however my husband has always wanted to go on another cruise and has waited patiently for me to decide to give it another try. He has a significant birthday this year, so I decided to be brave and give it another chance. I wore sea bands the whole time and did just great! I also brought along some ginger, but didn't need it. We ate lots of great Caribbean food, but again I was so enjoying the moment that I didn't even think to take food pictures.
My mother's first priority was her family, beginning with her brothers and sisters for whom she learned to cook, then her husband, children and grandchildren. She loved feeding us, sewing for us. However, near the end of her life, she confessed to me that she had a great regret. She had always wanted to perform, act, recite poetry, sing (she had a beautiful voice), but had been too afraid to do so, except in very private settings with family or very close friends.
My goal is to live life with no regrets, so I make time for the things I love: family, friends, good food, books, acting, Zumba, etc. And I try not to let fear keep me from doing what I want to do. Though sometimes it takes me a long time!
MACONCHA’S KEY LIME PIE
Key lime pie is a Floridian dessert, popular with Cubans because we use limes a great deal in our cuisine.
MaConcha is what our family calls my cousin Maria Conchita. She is an amazing and dedicated cook. There is a lime tree in her backyard, and when it's producing limes she picks them all, squeezes the juice out and freezes it in measured quantities, so she can make her wonderful key lime pie year round. Here is her recipe:
2 eggs (wash before cracking them open, since they wont be cooked)
½ cup lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 8 oz container of whipped topping
1 graham cracker crust*
Mix the sweetened condensed milk, eggs, lime juice and vanilla till smooth
Then fold in the whipped topping.
Pour into graham cracker crust. Put in freezer till set, at least 2 hours. Take it out and let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes before serving. Five to ten minutes, depending on how warm it is where you are serving it. You want it soft but not runny. Enjoy!
* The crust in this picture looks funny, because instead of a graham cracker crust, I made a raw gluten free nut crust so I could eat it. I'll post the recipe on my other blog, in case you want it. RAW GLUTEN FREE NUT PIE CRUST
In Cuba BC (before Castro) we celebrated with a "Cena de Nochebuena", a wonderful feast which took place late at night. Then we went to "La Misa del Gallo" or Midnight Mass and continued to celebrate the season until January 6th, El Dia de los Reyes Magos, when the Three Kings would bring presents to the children.
Fidel and his Communist comarades did not allow Christmas, because of that Religion thing totalitarians are so against. However, people stubbornly insisted on celebrating, even under Fidel's oppression and with very little to celebrate with. So the Communists cleverly scheduled other celebrations (harvest, the Revolution) for the same December dates. Just like the ancient Church scheduled Christmas celebration near the pagan winter solstice celebrations.
The neighbors had put together tables and old doors on top of barrels to create one huge table, covered with various table cloths, at which all the family could be seated. It was late at night and along with the one spot light at the corner of the roof, which poorly illuminated the concrete patio, there were kerosene lamps illuminating the faces of the people gathered together to celebrate. I thought they looked beautiful, as they laughed and enjoyed themselves.
1 Pork shoulder or Fresh Ham
Eat it with all the trimmings (yuca, tostones, frijoles negros, arroz, flan, etc), but most of all with family and friends!
When my parents got close to retirement, my husband suggested we invite them to come live with us. Not having housing expenses they would be able to stretch their retirement income and do a little traveling. We felt it was a way of thanking them for the sacrifices they had made for us, and their courage in leaving Cuba and starting over in the US to provide a chance for us children to live free.
For a long time they hesitated to accept our invitation. They feared that moving in with us would be too great an imposition. My father used his colorful language as an excuse not to take us up on our offer. He was concerned about the grandchildren picking up his Cuban swearing! But finally, they accepted and came to live in an apartment we created for them in our basement.
Of course, another great benefit was being able to enjoy Mamina's cooking! Here is one of the stand-by dishes she cooked quite often, because it's simple to make and we all loved it.
I liked Carne Con Papas best when Mamina made it with carrots and potatoes (sometimes even broccoli) from Papillo's garden.
It might seem similar to a stew, but it is not as soupy.
Olive oil to coat the frying pan
½ to 1 green bell pepper
3-5 garlic cloves
1- 8 oz can of tomato sauce
4 to 6 Potatoes, cubed
3 to 4 Carrots chopped
1 tsp Salt
¼ cup Cooking Wine (optional-it’s still great without it)
2 cups of broccoli florets- if you happen to have some around
Cube potatoes, cut carrots in large round pieces.
Add the tomato sauce, potatoes, carrots, salt, and cooking wine to the meat, (broccoli too, if you are including it). Turn temperature down to medium-low, cover, and cook for 45 minutes.
|Pieces of butternut squash|
|Acorn squash pieces|
Mince or smash the garlic
Add to the sautéing onions and cook 1-2 minutes longer, the smell will be wonderful and permeate your whole house.
This is good for you and yummy. Enjoy!
"Calabaza, calabaza, cada uno pa' su casa"- a saying which basically means it's time to go home. Thanks for the reminder, Rosa!
At these get togethers, my grandfather and his brother Tio Felo would sing on their own or with the radio. I can almost hear them singing along to this:
(I am sure dried herbs would be fine too. I used about 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil. I think dried would take less amount)
Maybe I will try my additions at some point but these were fine and didn't necessarily need to be altered.