Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ganas de Pasar Trabajo (Doing Things the Hard Way)

Earlier this week, I received a call from our food editor at The Miami Herald (ours because I work as the Marketing Director at the Miami Herald Media Company), to tell me that she had read my blog and wanted to feature it on the front of Tropical Life/Food this coming Thursday as a parallel to the movie release of Julie & Julia. So, after a few “my blog?”, “me?”, “are you sure?”, etc., I thought to myself – this is absolutely crazy, but how cool! This gives my crazy concept of wanting the Cuban cookery skills to continue to be passed down a chance to get out there. So, this morning, I began to prep for the recipes ahead – three to be exact!

Recipe #4: Caldo de Huesos de Pollo Asado

No need to go over the drill on this, everyone can sing with me at this point – onions, garlic, tomatoes, green peppers, salt and parsley. Add the chicken bones that were taken out of last Sunday’s roasted pre-cooked chicken and we’re olla de presión-ing. 20 minutes later – passed through the colander – we’ve got Caldo de Huesos de Pollo Asado. This is getting to be so simple it’s embarrassing. And, I can sing a little dance – I’m done with the caldos – ya!

Recipe #5: Sopa de Plátano

You know how everyone’s always got an opinion, right? Well, apparently, everyone has an opinion on sopa de plátano. This week, when people would inquire as to my next recipe and they’d find out it was sopa de plátano, they’d stare at me and ask me just how I was planning on making that.

How? What do you mean how? The book says I need to get galleticas de plátano verde frito.

Yes, and where will you get that?

Since the recipe didn’t make any disclaimers about any extra steps around obtaining thesegalleticas (crackers), I thought I’d stroll into Publix to get my cracker meal or ground plantains or whatever and just mix it into some broth.

Then, last night at around 11pm, it hit me. Oh, no. Nitza’s doing this to me again with her half spelled out, half ESP recipes. I flipped to the Index at the back of the book to find –

Recipe #256: Galleticas de Plátano Verde

She’s got to be kidding me – I have to make these crackers, oh wait!, she’s talking about mariquitas. She’s asking me to MAKE mariquitas? There are 4 million brands (more or less) of mariquitas here in Miami and I have to make them from scratch?

After a few back and forths with my Facebook friends, I found the one person on my side. My friend’s mom, Mimi. Mimi makes mariquitas and her sopa de plátano rocks, I was told by her daughter. So, on my trip to Publix today, I called my friend to ask her to download Mimi’s tricks.

“Pobrecita Christy”, said my friend. “Mimi says that you don’t have to do it this way but that if you want to, you should get a mandolin and it makes the slicing easier”.

A mandolin? No. Not ever. No way. Not a chance. That thing is the tool of the devil. It almost sliced my thumb away during an attempt at apple and sage stuffing for Thanksgiving. Not gonna do it.

Christy, el plátano es muy duro y se usa el guayo para cortar las rueditas finas. Mimi had said that the plantain is very tough and that without a mandolin, I was going to be upstream without a paddle. Fine. I’ll do it right.

Then came the opinions – from everywhere – including my mom and mother in law and my friends’ moms – they thought I had totally lost my mind to want to peel the plantains, slice them and fry them, just to grind them up in a food processor in the end.

After my husband and I sat down after about 2 hours of peeling, slicing and frying mariquitas, we thought it was good we did it this way. And that now that it was done, we could just do the powdered mariquitas they sell right under the whole mariquitas at Publix, specifically for preparing sopa de plátano.

The photographer for the photo shoot showed up, my daughter helped me with the food processing and out came great ground mariquitas. I heated up the chicken stock I had just prepared in the morning, added ½ cup of the ground up mariquitas for every 1 cup of stock and stirred away. Tasted it, added lime juice from some limes and let it sit.


My sopa de plátano was really good. I know we spent lots of time on it and I know there’s an easier way to do it. But, man, you could taste the difference between my soup and the one made with powdered stuff. This was the way people made sopa de plátano when getting a home cooked meal on their table was a priority. This is the way our grandmothers made it – before the powdered stuff. This is when there was time to do these things en familia (with the family).

My project could be summed up right here. Why the heck do this project? And no, the answer is not because quiero pasar trabajo (I want to do things the hard way). It’s because it’s important to know the things that generations before us knew in order to pass them down to future generations.

Cuban home cooking is one cornerstone of our culture. It sets Miami apart and gives us our own flavor. People look to Miami for it’s arroz con pollo, ropa vieja, vaca frita, frijoles negros y arroz blanco. Learning how to make these recipes is part of my Cuban heritage. Passing this on to my daughter and son is my goal with this project.

Cooking this way won’t end here – ¡en mi casa, eso no pasará!

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