Archive for the ‘Sandwiches’ Category

mexican tortas: a spanish lesson

One of the main reasons my family moved to Mexico at the end of this summer was so that my children, ages 12 and 9, would learn Spanish.  They were born and raised in South Florida, guided by a pair of expat parents raised in Venezuela and coddled in a culture swimming with Latin American influence, so, it is not a language they are completely foreign to, but still, they are gringos, and we felt the best way to fully turn that language skill around was by living in a Spanish-speaking country.
We’ve already seen results in the short month we’ve been living in Mexico.  My son watches the early morning kiddie shows as he gets ready to school.  It is stuff he’d never dream about back home- Dora the Explorer, Handy Mandy, and Wonder Pets.  These are all phases he long outgrew.  The difference, of course, is that these are all in Spanish, and now our mornings are filled with the same sickly sweet lyrics we were subjected to five years ago, only this time…in Spanish!  (‘El telefono, el telefono suena…es hora de despertar.’)
Both kids seem to be assimilating to their new culture at light speed and the language seems to be no exception.  Aside from sharing new candies and lollipops (‘covered in chili powder, mom!’) they are answering back with the slick smoothness of a native, “No manches, guey” (translates roughly to ‘no kidding, dude’.)
I am a fluent Spanish speaker, born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela.  And yet, I am learning fast, I don’t quite speak Mexican.  Certain Spanish words I have used all my life for one thing mean something totally different here. Or worse, are completely useless here because they represent something totally different and/or indecent.Foods are an equal literary maze.  Give me a menu at an authentic Mexican restaurant and I am stumped.  Quite simply, stumped.  It is my goal to work on that while I am here and become a fluent speaker.  I’ve already started!  When I first arrived, there was a big buzz about the best spot for tortas for a quick comida. My Spanish tells me that comida means ‘food’ but it turns out, comida is the Mexican version of my almuerzo, or lunch.  People in Mexico go to la comida when they go to lunch.  If they are short on time, they have a quick torta, which had me stumped once again because for me, torta means cake, and, as much as I love a good cake, I know better than to devour one for lunch.
The Mexicans are kind and gracious and immediately forgiving so there was little shame on my part when I made the first inquiry about their habit of cake eating for lunch.  “We’ll take you to have the best torta” my Mexican guide offered as a memorable lesson in language.  And that’s when I learned (and will never forget), the art of the Mexican torta:  a delicious sandwich crammed with meat, smashed avocado, pickled jalapeño, lettuce, tomato and onions. Sometimes refried beans are slathered on there too.  Of course there are many different fillings, but the classic, and my favorite, is with Torta de Carne Arrachera, flank steak sandwich.  Translastion:  yum!

best hamburger: grind therapy

ground-meat

I’d imagine most mothers celebrate the moment their preteen daughters set off for camp. It can be viewed as a time for growth, self-awareness, peace, and calm.

I bought myself a meat grinder instead.

You see, I know I am supposed to feel happy. I know it is good for her. Good for me. Good for everyone. But still, that mother identity has steadily coated its glaze on me over the years of driving the child to karate class, driving the child to piano lessons, driving the child to physical therapy, driving the child to play dates and on and on and on is suddenly hitting me dead on. She’s gone, now what the hell do I do? Who the hell am I? And that’s when I am not done. I still have a seven-year old son left to contend with. But he seems too easy: throw a Wii game his way and an occasional bowl of blackberries and he’s pretty much good. No catfight there.

But with my daughter, my beautiful, daring, and wise-beyond-her-years daughter, things are very, very different. We are very different. And the friction is always there. It’s a codependency of sorts, I know. My first response to the temporary evaporation of this role was to reinstate it through housekeeping duties, so I immediately pulled out the vacuum and began tackling the disgustingly dirty floor. No sooner had I done that did I miss my daughter’s scolding voice warning me not to vacuum, “Never vacuum, mom, you know that it messes your back up!” I could hear her saying. And she’s right, of course, it always messes my back up.

My eyes welled up more just thinking of that reprimand, knowing it would never come from my son, whom even as I voraciously (and, I admit, quite dramatically) thrust my aching spine back and forth with the heavy vacuum, strategically placing myself between him and his viewing of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (which, he’s seen way too many times to count), no comment came forth. Not even a grunt.

Seeing that the housekeeping tactic was spiraling me further into sadness I switched gears and went shopping. With my son and his DS game in tow, I felt all alone as I careened the large polished aisles of Target bursting with an exuberant range of choices: dresses, purses, bathing suits, sunglasses… and I was only five steps into the place. Many a battle had been fought with my ADHD girl and still, a sappy voice within me surged thinking, “Oh…If I were with Dani…” I caught myself and smacked my head with my hand. What was I thinking? Had I succumbed to nostalgia over shopping fights with my daughter? Was I too used to always having the gloves up “No you can’t buy that, did you bring your allowance, maybe next time, no I never said you could “ and on and on and on, that here, in this quiet air-conditioned playground of Capitalism, I had nothing to contend with but my son’s game giving an occasional beep and him shouting an aimless “yeah, I made it to the next level!” that wasn’t even addressed to me? Where was the fun in that?

Some people resort to alcohol to cure their blues. Others smoke. Others jog marathons. I cook.  But if my kitchen isn’t accessible, I do the next best thing and hit the closest Kitchen Appliance aisle. Thus, in my mopey state I found myself seeking comfort in Target’s latest gleaming culinary gadgets. They knew my angst. They felt the pain. They’d been there throughout, whether it was the immersion blender that ground up my nanny Yoli’s celebrated black beans so that my then-baby daughter could slurp them all up and splatter the remnants on the wall just because (oh remember how cute she was slathered in black sludge?) Or the blender that had whipped up the strawberries for her favorite frozen yogurt popsicles (the only way I could get that girl to eat fruit, even today). And of course, the hand mixer that beat her favorite carrot muffins to life, muffins that she gobbles as readily as she breathes air and then tests all her friends to try and guess the secret ingredient (carrots: they never do). Yes, the aisle was basking in memories, and as my son advanced from level 6 to level 7 on his DS, I passed by the meat grinding attachment and smiled.

Dani and I had just had a whole conversation about it. She had spotted it in a culinary catalogue, which she reads voraciously since she first took a serious interest in cooking at the age of 5.

“Mom, this would be peeeerfect for us,” she squealed with glee. I watched her apprehensively: not sure if it was the shopaholic or the cook in her talking. But then she went on:

“You won’t have to buy that nasty ground meat in the supermarket, who knows where it comes from. Even the organic one, mom. Pu – lease. This way you are in complete control. We buy the meat and fresh grind it at home! How cool is that? Think of all the burgers we could make.”

She makes a good argument, I thought to myself, knowing that my daughter knew me well enough to understand it didn’t take much to twist my arm towards culinary purchases. Also, the whole do-it-yourself spin had many levels of appeal. And of course, this was the fundamental tool for a die-hard meat eater like my daughter.

“I’ll think about it”, I offered, not knowing it would be a mere 48 hours before I’d have the memory hitting me in the face at Target.

It must be a sign, Kitchen Aid FGA murmured, instantly reading my mind. I quickly agreed and snatched Lawrence (all my appliances are named) anticipating taking him home to my hot red mixer, Lulu. I knew they’d get along just grand and images of endless tasty burgers shared with my daughter upon her return from camp filled me with warmth and happiness.

LA MEJOR HAMBURGUESA: MOLIENDO TERAPIA

Me imagino que la mayoria de las madres celebran el momento en que sus hijas preadolescentes van a campamento de verano. Puede ser visto como un tiempo para crecimiento, conciencia de sí mismo, paz, y calma.

Yo no encontré paz, mas bien me compré una máquina de moler carne.

Sé que supuestamente debería sentirme feliz. Sé que es una experiencia buena para ella. Buena para mí. Pero de todos modos, esta identidad de madre que me ha cubierto durante los años de conducir la niña a la clase de karate, conducir la niña a lecciones de piano, conducir la niña a la terapia física sin cesar me ha dejado un pelo desorientada ahora. ¿Ella se ha ido, ahora qué demonios hago? ¿Quién demonios soy? Y esta crisis ocurre cuando todavía tengo un hijo de siete años en casa. Pero él es demasiado fácil: dale un juego Wii y un plato ocasional de frambuesas y él está feliz del mundo. Ningún pleito allí.

Pero con mi hija, mi hermosa e audaz hija, las cosas son muy, muy diferentes. Nosotras somos muy diferentes. Y la fricción está siempre allí. Es una dependencia mutual, lo sé. Mi primera reacción a no tenerla en casa es adoptar alguna acción casera, así que inmediatamente saqué la aspiradora y comencé atacar el suelo sucio. Apenas empezé y ya escuchaba la voz de mi hija regañandome: “No pases la aspiradora, mamá, sabes que esto estropea tu espalda!” Y ella tiene razón, por supuesto, esto siempre estropea mi espalda.

Mis ojos se llenaron de lágrimas tan solo en pensar en aquella reprimenda, sabiéndo que nunca vendría de mi hijo, que justo cuando vorazmente (y, confieso, completamente dramáticamente) empujé la aspiradora pesada estratégicamente colocándome entre él y su película de Guerras de las Galaxias (que, a todas estas, ha visto demasiadas veces para contar), ningún comentario salió de su boca. Ni un gruñido.

Viendo que la táctica de limpieza no me ayudaba en nada, cambie de plan y fui de compras. Con mi hijo y su juego DS en mano, me sentí absolutamente sola paseando los pasillos pulidos grandes de la tienda “Target” que explotaba con una variedad eufórica de opciones: vestidos, monederos, bañadores, lentes de sol … y apenas habiamos entrado al lugar. Había luchado muchas batallas con mi muchacha en esta tienda y de todos modos, una voz dentro de mí no se pudo controlar y penso, “Ay…Si Dani estuviera aqui…” ¿Qué me estaba pasando? ¿Había sucumbido yo a la nostalgia sobre las luchas de compra con mi hija? Era demasiado facil estar con mi hijo, perdido dentro de su juego electronico y completamente desconectado conmigo. ¿Dónde estaba la diversión en esto?

Algunas personas recurren al alcohol para curar su tristeza. Otros fuman. Y aun otros locos corren maratones. Yo cocino. Pero si mi cocina no es accesible, hago la siguiente mejor cosa y voy a comprar alguna cosa de cocina. Así fue, que en mi mal estado, me encontré cara a cara con las liquadoras de Target. Ellas sabían mi angustia. Ellas sintieron el dolor. Ellas habían estado allí en todas las etapas de mi hija: el mezclador de inmersión que usaba para liquar las caraotas negras famosas de Yoli, las que le encantaba tanto a Daniela cuando era bebe. O la liquadora que había hecho su helado de yogur de fresas (la única manera que aquella muchacha comería fruta, hasta hoy en día). Y por supuesto, el mezclador de mano que creaba los muffin de zanahoria que ella siempre devoraba. Sí, este pasillo de Target cargaba muchas memorias, y mientras mi hijo avanzó del nivel 6 para el nivel 7 en su DS, pasé por la molidora de carne Kitchen Aid y sonreí.

Dani y yo acabábamos de tener una conversación sobre ello. Ella lo había visto en un catálogo culinario, los cual ella lee vorazmente desde que tomó un interés en la cocina a los 5 años.

“Mamá, este sería perfecto para nosotros,” chilló con entusiasmo. La miré aprensivamente: no estaba segura si el comentario fue por obsessión de comprar o por interes culinario. Pero entonces ella continuó:

“No tendrás que comprar aquella carne molida repugnante en el supermercado, que ni se sabe de donde viene. Con esto tienes el control completo. ¡Compramos la carne y la molimos fresca en casa! Piensa en todas las hamburguesas que podríamos hacer.”

Hace un argumento bueno, pensé, entendiendo que mi hija sabía que no toma mucho esfuerzo para que compre cuestiones culinarias. Y por supuesto, este era el instrumento fundamental para un carnivoro extremo como es mi hija.

“Lo pensaré”, ofrecí, sin saber que la memoria de esa conversación vendría tan pronto en Target.

Esto debe ser un signo, Molidora Kitchen Aid FGA murmuró, leyendo mi mente. Rápidamente estuve de acuerdo, y agarré el Kitchen Aid (quien nombré Lorenzo) para llevarlo a casa a conocer mi mezclador rojo caliente, Lulu. Yo sabía que ellos serían gran amigos y las imágenes de hamburguesas sabrosas interminables compartidas con mi hija al regresar del campamento de verano me llenaron de calor y felicidad.

fried squid sandwich: laughing our youth away

yesh-squidOnce upon a time there was a very young lady and a not-quite-as-young man (a scandal left for another story) that were carefree, adventurous and childless. On a whim, they decided to tour the country of Spain, and as was their manner, to tour it in full culinary detail. Of course, this dashing duo tackled with the small inconvenience of being broke and feared little finance would serve as a burden in their experience of food.


They were joined by other friends on this journey that took place in the heart of a scorching summer twenty years ago and together they all crammed into a tiny and dusty red Ford Fiesta and, listening to endless rounds of Chrissie Hynde’s “Brass in Pocket” and Mecano’s melancholic “Aire” explored their souls and the Iberian peninsula for a sultry five weeks filled with laughter, sights and, many “fixed menu” meals that where exquisite and reliably affordable, casting aside financial doubts. The experience left me, that very young lady, enamored with Spain, whose images and flavors have steadily nourished me over the years.

The trip began and culminated in La Plaza Mayor, the legendary square-turned-tourist attraction in Madrid famed for being the center for public beheadings back in its heyday. By 1989 this pastime was long gone, of course, and in its place stood clowns folding balloons for giddy children, men posing as Charlie Chaplin and heavyset women draped in clay personifying statues under the unforgiving heat. Nestled amongst stores selling Chinese-made plastic albañiques and sword replicas sat an inconspicuous space whose only connection to the outside world was a tiny window with a miniature blackboard scribbling the day’s dish, which was always the same thing: bocadillo de calamares (fried squid sandwich). Our noses had led us to this spot, our eyes saw the crowds lined up and reconfirmed the choice, and the price sang pretty in our light wallets, making it a done deal. Time and time again we sought excuses to return to this alcove and gobbled mounds of freshly fried squid rings crammed into warm crusty mini-baguettes doused with fresh ocean, crunchy sea salt and nothing else. It was a memory I carried and protected vehemently through the years.

So it seemed fitting that now, this young duo that had grown up a bit, married, and created a family head straight for La Plaza Mayor on their return trip to Spain. It was early June and the heat still jostled us, even after being Miami residents for almost fifteen years. Clowns and Chaplins still abounded as well as the outdoor cafes serving overpriced cold beer. We had come here with one purpose really and that was to recapture our carefree youth through the unforgettable bocadillo. Our long-time Madrid-based friend thought we were insane twenty years ago and still insane today: insane to head to this touristy spot and pay what we were paying for a beer that would be colder and cheaper two blocks away and certainly insane to brave the bocadillos of Plaza Mayor.

“Everyone knows you get Hepatitis  from those. The grease here is from last century. Let’s go three blocks away, the best bocadillos, fresh calamares, pure olive oil, no worries”, he begged. Now, this is a guy that thrives on cheap eats, so I would be lying if I say I didn’t hesitate a bit. But the memory of youth and flavor drove us forth as our eyes scanned the perimeter of the square in search of that memorable little window.

And then we saw it off to the side. It was dark and dank and still had the scribbled little blackboard but the crowds where gone. My mate and I eyed each other suspiciously and in the silent ebb of mind language shared by soul mates conferred:

“No line, huh? Do we really want to venture there? We’ve come a long way, filled our wallets a bit since then, might it not possibly be a wiser move to hit the tapas bar around the bend?”

It all happened within the span of three blinks. And even those three blinks where futile, as we both knew the answer: Yes. Undeniably, undoubtedly yes. We will forge onward and ahead. To the abandoned window that housed a time filled with adventure and promise and fun, and we think, good food.

Our friend shook his head and moved to the side. Our children smelled distrust and graciously declined. But my mate and I pressed forward, approached the tiny hole and rattled off our order: “Dos bocadillos, por favor.”

They arrived too quickly.   We quietly acknowledged this as the first bad sign. No time to heat up the oil, gently batter the squid and fry. But there we were, holding our youth in our calloused hands, hands that had locked together over twenty years ago and traveled the world, filling our hearts and bellies with love, food and adventure. So we did what we do best and flung ourselves forward, creating a new memory, we took a bite of our bocadillo in unison, with our children apprehensively looking on and our friend looking away, and as we both took that first anticipated bite we realized it was disgusting; truly and utterly disgusting.

When something is that disgusting it is hard to describe why. Way too salty. Way too greasy. Way too old. Way wrong. And where someone would normally spit it out and spew in despair we did what only lunatics as us do and took another bite (again in unison) just to make sure it truly was that disgusting, in ghoulish curiosity and desperate need to verify our past, for now the questions loomed in our mind:

Was it always that gross? Did we have no taste back then? Where we that desperate?

I can tell you that was the end of that. The bocadillos ended up in the trash after our giggling fit subsided. Our children looked confused and our friend was vindicated:

“See, I told you. Hepatitis, amigos, hepatitis.”

And with that we let the memory alone, clasped our greasy hands together and held one hand out for each one of our kids to grab and form a chain as together, we moved forward, laughing our youth away as we headed towards the tapas bar around the bend.

alona-bocadillo

Había una vez una joven señorita y hombre, no tan joven como ella (un escándalo reservado para otra oportunidad) que eran aventureros, despreocupados, y sin hijos. En un capricho, ellos decidieron recorrer el país de España, y como era su manera, recorrerlo en detalle culinario completo.

Fueron acompañados en su aventura por otros amigos y este viaje ocurrió en el corazón de un verano caluroso hace veinte años atras. Montados sobre un pequeño carrito escuchando rondas interminables de Chrissie Hynde de “The Pretenders” y las canciones melancólicas de Mecano, exploraron sus almas y sus paladares durante cinco semanas bochornosas llenas de risa, vistas y, muchos “menú fijos” que ofrecian excelentes y baratas. Yo era esa misma señorita y la experiencia me dejó enamorada de España:  por sus imágenes y sus sabores.

El viaje comenzó y culminó en La Plaza Mayor, la atracción turista en Madrid famosa de ser el centro de la decapitación pública años atrás. Ya en 1989 este pasatiempo no existía, por supuesto, y en su lugar andaban payasos doblando globos en formas de animalitos, hombres que se hacen pasar como Charlie Chaplin y mujeres corpulentas cubiertas en la arcilla que personificaban estatuas bajo el calor implacable. Recostado entre tiendas que venden albañiques plasticos de la China había un espacio discreto con una ventana diminuta y un pizarrón en miniatura anunciando el plato del día, que era siempre la misma cosa: bocadillo de calamares. Nuestras narices nos habían conducido a este punto, nuestros ojos vieron la cola de gente esperando y el precio barato nos dijo que este era el lugar. Encontrabamos cualquiera excusa para volver a este nicho y devorar esos deliciosos anillos de calamar frito recostados dentro de mini-baguettes crujientes empapados con océano fresco, sal de mar crujiente y nada más. Esta era una memoria que cargaba conmigo todo estos años y protegía vehementemente.

Entonces nos parecio obvio que ahora, este dúo joven que había crecido un poco, se habían casado, y andaban con dos hijos, irían directamente a la Plaza Mayor en su viaje de vuelta a España. Era principios de junio y el calor nos picaba la aun siendo residentes de Miami durante casi quince años. Los payasos y Chaplins todavía abundaban así como las cafeterías al aire libre que sirven la cerveza fría demasiado cara. Habíamos venido aquí con el objetivo de recobrar nuestra juventud despreocupada con ese bocadillo inolvidable. Nuestro amigo Madrileño pensó que estabamos locos hace veinte años y todavía locos hoy: locos por dirigirnos a este punto demasiado turístico y pagar lo que pagámos para una cerveza y definitivamente locos para comer un bocadillo de calamares en La Plaza Mayor.

“Todo el mundo sabe que estos bocadillos dan Hepatitis. La grasa es del siglo pasado. Vamos tres cuadras de aqui donde hay mejor bocadillos, calamares fresco, aceite de oliva puro, ningunas preocupaciones”, nos suplico. Pero la memoria de juventud y sabor nos condujo adelante y con nuestros ojos exploraramos el perímetro de la Plaza en busqueda de aquella pequeña ventana memorable.

Y alli estaba, oscura y pequeña pero completamente abandonada. Mi compañero y yo nos miramos y en ese lenguaje silencioso de los ojos nos consultamos:

¿“No hay gente, ¡eh!? ¿Realmente queremos arriesgarnos allí? ¿Hemos crecido mucho, la cartera un poco mas llena que aquel entonces, no seria mas sabio ir a comer unas tapas en el barrio del lado?”

Dentro de tres parpadeos nos consultamos. Y imediatamente ambos sabíamos la respuesta: Sí. Sin duda, indudablemente sí. Forjaremos adelante con nuestro bocadillo famoso. A la ventana abandonada llegamos llenos de aventura, promesa y diversión, y esperabamos, buena comida.

Nuestro amigo sacudió su cabeza y se movió al lado. Nuestros niños nos vieron sospechosamente sin hablar una palabra. Pero mi compañero y yo avanzamos, pidiendo nuestra orden: “Dos bocadillos, por favor.”

Los bocadillos llegaron rápidamente. Reconocimos esto como la primera falla. No había tiempo para calentar el aceite y freír el calamar. Pero allí nos encontramos sosteniendo nuestra juventud en nuestras manos, manos que se habían unido hace más de veinte años y habían viajado el mundo, llenando nuestros corazones con amor, alimento y aventura. Entonces hicimos lo que solo sabemos hacer y, creando una nueva memoria, tomamos un mordisco de nuestro bocadillo a la misma vez con nuestros niños viendonos aprensivamente y nuestro amigo que no se atrevia ver y en en aquel primer mordisco nos dimos cuenta que este bocadillo era asqueroso; realmente y completamente asqueroso.

Cuando algo es así de asqueroso es difícil describir por qué. Demasiado salado. Demasiada grasa. Demasiado viejo. Y riendonos nos preguntamos:

¿Era esto siempre tan asqueroso? ¿No teníamos ningún paladar en aquel entonces? ¿Estabamos tan desesperados?

El bocadillos terminó en la basura mientras que nos reímos como dos tontos. Nuestros niños se veían aturdidos y nuestro amigo sonría:

“Vez, les dije. Hepatitis, amigos, hepatitis.”

Y con esto dejamos la memoria sola, enlazamos nuestras manos grasosas y ofrecimos nuestra otra mana para cada uno de nuestros niños donde formamos una cadena y juntos, avanzamos, riéndonos sobre nuestra juventud mientras que nos dirigimos hacia el otro barrio buscando comer unas tapas.

scorned panini

panini“Ma’am, do you want the cheese to melt or do you want it warm?”

I looked at her inquisitively and she returned the stare with utter impatience.  She was a petite woman with wavy black hair swept up in a hurried ponytail, a white shirt and apron emblazoned with the store’s cheery logo and a big pin that said “Hi, my name is Lucinda.”

 

Lucinda quickly categorized me as an incompetent culinary idiot for not knowing the immediate response to her apparently obvious query, but all I was thinking was how I’ve never before been asked what degree of warmth I wanted my Panini sandwich and leave it to some wanna-be quasi-gourmet food market in South Florida to be the first to pop the question.

 

“Won’t the cheese automatically melt once you heat it up?” I ventured.  I couldn’t help myself.  I had to be smart, even though I’ve been warned  by friends to never ever be smart with food servers before you’ve been served your food: they can do all sorts of things to your food when you aren’t looking: use stale ingredients, toss it on the floor, spit or sneeze on it and then serve it up with a smile all in the name of revenge.  Okay, so I have real paranoid friends.  In any case, I really couldn’t help myself.

 

Lucinda re-filed me under “Complete Moron” and slid off her smirk long enough to reply, this time speaking Oh-So-Slowly: 

“…some…people…just…want…it…warm (pause, two, three, four)  …don’t …like…the…cheese…all…heated up.”

 

What’s the point of a panini, I felt like offering up as a cheap rebuttal, but was distracted by my momentary lapse of self-pity for being stuck in a culinary wasteland that offered few good options and even less gastronomic understanding, let alone customer service.  Lucinda could have worked here or at Borders or at Chevron.  It really didn’t matter.

 

It was her annoyed breathing that snapped me back to life and I arrogantly informed her that My Panini would have the cheese melted, of course.  She sighed and warned me this would take a good fifteen to twenty minutes and I called her bluff and said that would be fine.  It felt more like a round at a boxing ring than a sandwich order at a food market, but, I was determined to win this fight, and so I stood there, leaning up against the display counter, blocking the view of the stuffed cabbage, quiche lorraine, and roasted Tuscany vegetables.  They had nothing to do with this skirmish but lended way to me being as obtrusive as possible for the duration of my wait. 

 

My experience with Lucinda had most definitely deflated any craving I had originally had for a Panini and I began wondering if I would have been better served going to the local sushi bar  for some hot tuna crunch rolls instead.  At least there they always smile at me.

 

I received a phone call from a long-time friend while I waited and my aggressive stance melted as quickly as I hoped my panini’s cheese would.  Before I knew it, Lucinda was facing me with my wrapped sandwich.  As I ended my phone call, I paid for my lunch and  headed out to the car.  As I headed home, I unwrapped my Panini to find that the inside was stone cold and the outside was charred beyond recognition.  The cheese, whose loyalty was obviously torn, had spots that were solid and spots that where melted.   Suddenly, my neurotic friends didn’t seem so ludicrous.  God knows what else had happened to this thing while I chatted away oblivious to Lucinda’s revenge streak.  As hungry as I was, I carefully wrapped up my battle-scarred sandwich (and ego) and put it away.  No knockout punch and no lunch for me today.

turkey sandwich: wonderbread eyes

It’s the swoosh of those strenuously long eyelashes that makes me go weak at the knees.
Always.
I know she is cute in so many ways, who better than me, her mother, to name them all, but most definitely the eyelashes are my weakness, maybe out of maternal pride (look at that Voguesque attribute that formed in MY uterus) or jealousy (I glob and glob and glob endless vats of mascara promising to deliver half her natural length.
I am lucky if I’ll get a third).
They get me every time.
“Pleease, mom, please”, she pleads in rhythm with her swoosh.
Each time those lids close I swear I am being fanned.
She clutches the bright white bag with psychedelic red, blue and yellow dots floating amongst its brazen “WONDER BREAD” inscription as if it where her most treasured American Girl doll.
I appeared shell shocked and just looked around aisle 8 anxiously hoping no one would recognize me.
How on earth would I, a self-ordained food snob, explain my offspring cavorting with such low-grade food fare?
“Come on, Dani, it has absolutely no nutritional value”, I attempted in my most maternal tone, all the while picturing mush clogging up an already clogged colon (mothers really can picture this).
But I haven’t described to you the color of her eyes yet, have I?
They are not the light sky blue eyes that I carry; eyes that, growing up amongst Venezuelans whose standard oculus color choices range in brown, dark brown and black, were both cherished and gawked at as if they made me into some unique species.
Nor are her eyes those of my Venezuelan husband, a non-descript muddy tone that falls under the dark brown category.

No, her color is one all of her own, as if her tiny DNA ladder took a dance with sky and sludge to decide which she’d end up with and couldn’t make up its mind so she ended up with a strange mix of the two.

A swirl with the heavens and the earth leads to a most interesting hue:
rich honey, like amber with splotches of gold and even a speck of green (my father’s hazel making a quiet cameo appearance).

And why stick with one tint when you can have them all, her tiny, logical blueprint thought to itself?
And so she hasn’t, for those swirls of colors do change depending on my daughter’s outfit, her mood, or the clarity of the day.
Every sunrise holds a new surprise as to what color eyes she will have – a constant motion of change and beauty, much like her.
So I am telling you when those killer eyelashes brush over those unforgettable eyes (today the color of wild blueberry honey) you buckle at the knees and even allow a loaf of Wonderbread to be boug ht (and not even hidden, you balance it right on the top of the shopping cart, damnit, next to the organic free range eggs and the locally grown arugula, because you don’t give a crap anymore, you are forever swollen with love over that beautiful gaze you somehow participated in creating.)
She knows she has this hold over me because she looks in my direction and throws two more blinks.
“Thanks, mom” she says, with a subtle yet victorious grin sliding on her face.
I know she knows how easy that was.
I know she wonders what else she can get and whom else she will sucker if her mother, The Toughest of the Toughest, caved under seven blinks.
I know she knows all this.
Aside from having stunning eyes she is incredibly smart.
But I can’t help myself.
I can’t say no to her eyes.
At home I place the white spongy bread next to the hearty multi-grain loaf.
It is bright and bleached and happy next to its sullen, heavy healthy counterpart.
Thanksgiving has just ended and I find myself recalling my childhood right after this holiday where turkey was enjoyed best in a sandwich: thick chunks of meat slathered with mayonnaise and thinly sliced red tomatoes.
The bread was always lightly toasted and white, airy and delicious.
I know I have a whole Tupperware filled with leftover turkey.
No need to hide from anyone anymore, I am still under my daughter’s eye spell and the grains can wait; I am suddenly craving that wonderful memory.