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...
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.
|Mamina's pressure cooker|
On the flip side, she would get very excited when she had a new recipe or the grandkids wanted her to cook something special.
I'm finding that blogging contains a similar challenge. I wonder which recipe to post when and just like with cooking dinner I love requests!
So I am excited to respond to this email I received a few days ago from Tamara:
I was reading your recipe for puding de pan and I would love the directions for the pressure cooker method. My grandma used to do it like this but no one in my family ever learned before she passed away. I would appreciate it tremendously. Thank you!
“Top 5 Pressure Cookers for Quick and Easy Meals”
Put the round metal rack (Isis says it's called a trivet) on the
bottom of the pressure cooker.
Pour the blended ingredients for Pudin de Pan, Cake, Flan (recipe still to come), etc. into any kind of oven proof metal mold that will fit into the pressure cooker.
Here is a store bought one with a nice lid and clamps that keep the lid in place
The pressure cooker instruction booklet will tell you to cover the mold securely with aluminum foil, like this
Mamina would cover hers with wax paper and tie it with a string. I was called many times to put a finger on the string so she could knot it securely. I didn't have string this time, so I used a shoe lace.
Then she would trim the wax paper. Yup, she really did. I asked her why a couple of times, but she changed the subject and did not answer. I think she just liked things to be neat.
Put the lid on your pressure cooker securely and heat on high until steam scapes from the little chimney (or vent pipe), then put the little pressure regulator on it. Or put the pressure regulator on from the beginning.
|I was hoping you could see the steam in the picture...|
If you are using a canning pressure cooker, one of those that has a pressure gage, bring to 15 lbs of pressure. Otherwise wait till the pressure regulator is rocking to start counting the time. Turn heat down to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Let the pressure cooker cool and all the pressure dissipate before you take the lid or even the pressure regulator off.
Or you can cook it for 20 minutes, and cool it under running water immediately and completely (you will hear the pressure escape).
Then you can take the lid off. It's going to be very hot, so be careful taking the mold out of the pressure cooker. Chill before you take the Pudin or Flan out of the mold. Let it cool it if it's a cake.
Thank you for this request, Tamara!
Here are some yummy desserts that were made in the pressure cooker
|Pudin de Pan|
|Pudin de Pan|
|Cake de Naranja|
I guess that is why I cringe as I notice the erosion of liberty going on in our society. Many well meaning entities wanting to tell us even something so basic as what we should eat and drink. Let us learn, even educate one another and then make our own choices!
But getting the information we need is not always easy, for example some of us might not want to eat genetically modified food. Fifty other countries label it as such, but not yet the US. California is trying to remedy that with Proposition 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act
which will require that genetically engineered food be labeled, so that we have the freedom to choose wether we want to buy it or not. I think the companies fighting this are afraid of what the consumers will choose. If it passes in California, it will benefit the rest of the country. You can learn more about it HERE
This recipe will have you making some choices, since it is not very exact...but it is delicious! I will give you the recipe for a normal size cucumber (I used a giant one this last time), but it's all very much to taste. This is the way my mother always cooked, and I do take after her in that respect.
Pour the apple cider vinegar over the cucumbers and tomatoes, these measurements are estimates because and I never measure it, I just pour some good quality vinegar over it till it looks like enough, and then I taste it.
Then I pour a little less olive oil then the amount of vinegar over the vegetables. Again, the quality of oil will make a difference, use the best you can afford.
Sprinkle with sea salt or Real Salt and grind some fresh pepper over it. Stir and taste. Add more of what ever as needed. You want it to be kind of vinegary and salty.
|Two types of tomatoes and a very large cucumber my niece Michelle gave me|
When my parents came to live with us in Utah, summer became my father's favorite time of the year and not just because he hated cold weather. He loved to grow food and I loved gardening with him. Papillo did the hard work and I helped. It has not been the same gardening on my own, and I'm not as dedicated to daily watering, etc, so I don't get quite the same results, but I feel him close anytime I'm out in the garden.
|Mamina among her beloved roses|
Her rose garden turned out to be the best spot in the yard, and after a while Papillo and I began to covet her prime garden spot, and tried to convince her to let us have it for growing vegetables. She was immune to our persuasive efforts, so I made do in a shady spot and he planted other gardens in our neighbors' yards. One year Papillo planted garlic among Mamina's roses. She was not happy but the roses loved it, and the garlic continued to come up for several years.
I have now planted raspberries that I got from Nina right among the roses and installed a small grow box right in the middle of the roses. It's crowded, random and a bit crazy, but quite effective.
|My garden now|
Here is a recipe I still look forward to making and eating each year. The only thing Cuban about it is that my father made it often, with herbs from our garden. He learned to make it from a Chilean friend of Italian ancestry. He usually left out the nuts, since he “didn’t think they agreed with him” and it was still delicious.
1 lb fresh parsley leaves (not stalks)
5-6 cloves garlic
2 cups nuts (pine nuts, walnuts or almonds)-OPTIONAL
2-3 teaspoons sea salt (to taste)
3 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 cup olive oil
This is great on pasta or even crackers. Pine nuts are traditionally used, but I actually like it better with walnuts or even almonds.
Store in a glass jar, and pour a thin layer of olive oil on the top, to keep from drying or oxidizing. It will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks or frozen for several months.
|Ready for School|
Here is a simple recipe that reminds me of the sweetness of life.
HELADO DE CARAMELO- Caramel ice cream