Her back was as long and graceful as the bouquet of snow white lilies she held in her slender fingers and as I watched this lovely bride walk to the altar to be wed it dawned on me that this was Gaby, my husband’s niece whom I’d met when she was a wee bitty baby of 15 months and my heart skipped a beat in shock that the time had dared trick me into passing this quickly so that we were here, in this ever lasting moment, witnessing her marriage on a cool November night.
I’d met Gaby only yesterday it seemed. Cradled in the arms of her father we’d been introduced in the dusty hot plains of Venezuela.I remember a lanky baby straddled around her dad’s comforting hold, a mess of bouncy curls and an infectious smile.Gaby. This is Gaby.And that baby I’d first met stretched on and and on to become a teenager full of awareness and purpose.
She’d been staying at my house in South Florida when 9/11 struck as I held my own two-year old daughter and carried another baby on the way.Gaby had been all of fifteen then, recently emigrated from Venezuela, her English barely a mumble but she knew the loss and shock and angst those airplanes plummeting into the twin towers and a vacant field in Pennsylvania caused our nation.And when I could not find an American flag to put up in our front yard, because ours was swallowed in the Bermuda Triangle that is our attic and stores had sold out of any new ones, Gaby, five days fresh an American, sat at my dinning room table and made one, stripe by stripe, star by star she sketched and colored and brought to life the symbol of our country with equal pride and dedication so that when we taped her efforts on the front window it gleamed and shimmered with the hope and optimism that flag represents to so many.This is who she was then and is now:a girl turned woman full of hope and optimism and of course, still, that infectious smile. I will never forget that day, as all of us who witnessed it.But I will never forget how Gaby made it a bit more bearable for me.
And now, she holds a beautiful bouquet of pure white and she is tall, so tall and lovely as she steps into her newfound life as a wife and my pride grows full and gladly overflows.She is kind and strong and pure like the lilies and there is no doubt she makes the days of her husband, Eduardo a little bit easier, a little bit better.I’ve given her a cooking tool set as a wedding gift and she gives me back that smile with a giggle.She is uneasy no doubt.This role as married one still feels awkward, unsteady.Those around her laugh as well and joke she burns water.But I know she’ll do fine, even better, she’ll shine, just as that teenager she was years ago who made a glorious flag out of paper, dedication and passion, she’ll always shine.In the meantime, I’ll offer her one of many cheater’s recipe:a meal that will dazzle even the most skeptical and requires little if any skill.Of course any meal will be perfect served with that dazzling smile.
There were many hints of his impending betrayal, but, like any woman in love, I chose to look away. I had been swept off my feet, what can I say, a phrase that would definitely make all my self-sufficient Barnard colleagues shake their heads in disappointment and mutter only this to me: tsk tsk, tsk tsk. I was in love, maybe not with him, but most definitely with the idea of him: glamour, sophistication, and expensive lust. And we’d been together so many years, so when the smallest of signals blinked quietly but straightforwardly at me, I chose to look the other way.
First the brownies didn’t bake evenly. No one else could tell. In fact, all where mesmerized, entranced, absolutely orgasmic over my brownies. But I knew something was up with Dacor then. The baked batter leaned in a bit to the left on one side and out a bit to the right on the other, as if he hadn’t embraced the batter to cook it, but shaken it in turmoil instead. I always said I would tolerate no abuse from anyone, particularly to my babies and it was clear to me that my brownies weren’t happy. But everyone around me seemed so joyful, I didn’t want to spoil anything. So I did what any abused woman would do: I made excuses for him: it was a bad afternoon, a draft somehow upset him, I’d not cleaned him well enough the last time. I blamed everything else but him, after all, he was a Dacor oven.
Although I have two kids of my own, all the cakes I make are like my children: I whip their butter and sugar to fluffy perfection, I sing, and rock and caress their batters as I make them. Lulu, my red hot mixer can attest to this. There is enough love placed in those bundts, bars, and layers to make Mother Teresa proud. So when they kept coming out slightly off, I started building quiet resentment towards him, because as much as I wanted to please him, I knew it wasn’t me or the cake kids. He’d tell me the same, of course. He was the provider. Heat was always there. Convection too. Whenever I asked, he delivered. Everything else, according to him, was a figment of my neurotic imagination. The tension grew between us as I became colder and less responsive to his heat. He was always so unpredictable, why bother, I’d tell myself. He acted out during our time together. First he short-circuited his entire electronic panel and that had to be replaced. Then he blew a fuse as I broiled some salmon for dinner and the entire oven shut down. They were all strong messages of rebellion, much more applicable to a teenager than a full grown adult and I was patient. Very patient. Had parts repaired, wires changed, insides cleaned. Gave him what he needed, for the sake of the relationship. But lets not kid ourselves, we had grown apart.
I know what you advocates for Dacor are saying. That I was using him, that I only wanted him for his temperature. That I poured so much love into those batters just steps away from him and gave him none of that in return. That I had it coming. But to you I say this: the chemistry was never right. The whole relationship had been an illusion. From the pompous store in which I purchased him seven years ago, to the sophisticated buttons that always gave me a hard time (damnit what ever happened to knobs?), Dacor and I came from two very different places.
So, it was no surprise to me that, in between my two first big catering gigs, which happened to be back to back, one for Michael Scott Salon and the other for Shrink Rap, Inc., Dacor up and left me. No warning. No note. Nothing. He allowed me the broiler one last time for my Crostini with Fresh Ricotta, Lime and Mint and then he selfishly checked himself out of the relationship, leaving me to contend with the kids, the house, the parties, everything. The Dacor tech I called for help gruntled and grumbled that these parts where no longer available. Dacor just stopped making them. His voice was bristly and heavy with his own issues, I could tell he’d dealt with many a tempremental Dacors, and I had no desire to carry his anger as well, so I let it go at that.
It is a tough thing being left alone. You’ve got alot to deal with and shoulders are only so strong. And then there is the whole emotional part of being abandoned. It can be rough, very very rough. But in this instant, as pissed as hell as I was Dacor had pulled this stunt on me (what timing man!), there was a part of me that was elated. Liberated. Free. A burden had been lifted as I realized this relationship which I was supposed to adore and be in forever had been severed and I was free to move on.
All my feminists friends out there are still saying tsk tsk, you should have done it first, not waited for him to leave you. And you are right. But I say what happens next is what mosts matters. And so far, I’ve been dealing with the abandonment pretty well. For starters, I pulled off both parties and both were a huge success. I’ve been gracious to Dacor. Allowed him to quietly remain as I wait for Donovan, my new Sears buddy to come install the replacement oven. Donovan should be here any minute and I just know my new oven, maybe not a high pedigree name like Dacor but certainly a reliable hard working one, won’t fight with my batter but will embrace every bit of it. This kitchen is a kitchen of love. Otherwise, you’re out of here.
Oh I thought of all of you last night, my friends, as I used Larry for the first time (no, Larry isn’t my vibrator, if you recall from a former post, he’s my meat grinder…) My husband was helping me shove in chunks of top round as it was all spewing out of the tiny little drain-looking contraption and meat and blood was flying EVERYWHERE splattering my seven-year old son and I in the face like an edited-out scene of Carrie.
I assume most normal folk would run in horror, scream, or, quite logically, TURN THE KITCHENAID MIXER OFF, but I fell straight into the role of the demented killer as a smile the size of a quarter watermelon slid on my face and a curling, and pardon the pun, bloodthirsty laughter escaped from the deepest and most carnivorous corner of my being.
My seven-year old just said “cool” (it’s a start) and followed it up with an “eeewww, I got blood on my face” and ran back to the television to resume watching the trials and tribulations of good over evil on Disney XD. My husband looked at me rather wearily, after all, I have had a bit of an emotionally rough ride these past few weeks and seeing me this giddy did make him feel happy, but still, I could read through that furrowed brow clearly: meat spewing like mad all over our kitchen and this woman is jumping up and down like she got chosen on Bob Barker’s show, The Price Is Right….seriously? And of course, it being Yeshua, if you looked even beyond the brow there was the same excitement because, as partners in crime for the past 22 years, what makes one of us pumped seems to automatically infect the other, and so, there he was, just as quickly and eagerly shoving those slabs of beef into Larry and watching the magic happen with equal elation.
Now I know, I’ve gone a bit overboard with the meat situation here. I mean, I even chose a pancetta dish for last week’s blogger potluck for Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond’s book Almost Meatless. And truly, I am more a fish-eating type of gal. But something about the 103-degree Florida summer weather, the suffocating mugginess, and the shiny appliances in my kitchen has got me craving red meat. Call me an enigma. Or just low on iron. Who the heck knows? All I know is that witnessing the consummation of Larry and Lulu’s love was fantastic. Right up there with the top ten things I enjoy doing. So maybe there’s a butcher in a former life of mine. Or a future one. Or maybe I’m simply a repressed voyeur.
Ah pensé en todos ustedes anoche mis amigos cuando usé a Larry por primera vez (no, Larry no es mi vibrador, si ustedes recuerdan de uno de mis cuentos anteriores, él es mi máquina de picar carne …) Mi marido me ayudaba a introduzir pedazos de carne que, como resultado, mandó carne y sangre volando por TODAS PARTES salpicando a mi hijo de siete años y a mi en la cara como una escena cortada de la pelicula Carrie.
Asumo que la gente más normal correría en horror, gritaría, o, completamente lógicamente, APAGARÍA EL MEZCLADOR, pero yo caí directamente en el papel del asesino demente cuando una sonrisa el tamaño de un cuarto de patílla deslizó en mi cara y una risa, y perdón el juego de palabras, sanguinaria escapó de la esquina más profunda y más carnívora de mi ser.
Mi hijo de siete años sólo dijo “que arrecho” (esto es un principio) y lo siguió con un “eeewww, tengo sangre en mi cara” y regresó a la tele para contemplar los problemas de mal sobre bien en Disney XD. Mi marido me miraba curiosamente, después de todo, he tenido unas semanas emocionalmente difíciles y al verme tan contenta lo hizo realmente sentirse feliz, pero de todos modos, yo podría leer su ceja arrugada claramente: ¿la carne que vuela por todas partes de nuestra cocina y esta mujer da brincos como si se gano la lotería? Y por supuesto, siendo Yeshua, compartía el mismo entusiasmo porque, despues de 22 años encompinchados, lo que hace uno felíz parece infectar automáticamente el otro, y fue así como él siguía rápidamente y con impaciencia empujando aquellas trozas de carne dentro de Larry y mirando la magia de la carne molída con la misma alegría.
Ahora, sé que he ido un pelo loca con el tema de la carne. Quiero decir, hasta elegí un plato con pancetta para la comida blogger de la semana pasada para el libro Almost Meatless de Tara Mataraza Desmond y Joy Manning. Y realmente, soy más una chica que come pescado que carne. Pero algo sobre el tiempo de verano de Florida de 103 grados, la humedad sofocante y las aplicaciones brillantes en mi cocina me tiene deseando carne. Llámeme un enigma. O sólo que me hace falta hierro. ¿Quién demonios sabe? Solo sé que presenciando la consumación de Larry y Lulu era algo hermoso. Lo pongo allá arriba en mi lista de las diez cosas que más disfruto haciendo. Tal vez fuí un carnicero en una antigua vida mía. O en una futura. O tal vez soy simplemente una voyerista reprimida.
When Tara Mataraza Desmond (http://crumbsonmykeyboard.com) asked me to join in on her blogger potluck to promote her fabulous book, “Almost Meatless”, I jumped at the chance. Not only is Tara kind, eloquent, and naturally glamorous, she is also a great cook, something clearly shown in “Almost Meatless”, co-written with Joy Manning. All the recipes are accessible, fast, and delicious. I was fortunate enough to prepare the Tomato Pancetta Linguine, because, as far as almost meatless lifestyles go, mine would not be whole without a little bit of pasta, a little bit of pancetta, and a story to go along with it.
Growing up as a Jew in a predominantly Catholic South American country had its moments of confusion.Sure, there was a church on every street corner and every sentence with folks seemed to end with the Vatican stamp of “si Dios quiere” (if God wants), but, even amongst my some of my closest friend’s families (and they were an eclectic, international bunch) there seemed to be some misconception, or at least, uneasiness, with my dietary restrictions as a Jew.
I admit, my family did not make things easy.There was no Hebrew School, no Shabbat, no daily Jewish ritual that would perhaps open the conversation to what we do or do not do as Jews.Instead, our home was enwrapped by a proud and boisterous Israeli father, filled with tales of Zionism and youth and enthusiastic stories of his father, Isaac Abbady, who became the official Hebrew/English/Arabic translator for the British Government ruling over Palestine at the time.His youth growing up in this tiny, tumultuous land was historic and retold as a constant action tale that made my daily visits to the local park pale in comparison. Hence the entire significance of Israel was elevated to an ethereal level, one that didn’t necessarily define itself through religion, but rather, through a fierce sense of nationalism.My father’s love of Israel was connected to the adventure of creating this new land, and once that adventure tired, he moved on, away from his whole family to the strange new promising land of New York City, where he quickly met his American bride and headed further south to Venezuela, settling into the comfortable Latin American lifestyle of the 60’s.This is where he chose to raise his three girls.
And so, even though Israel was far from us geographically, it molded into our Venezuelan lifestyle and breathed through our pores day in and day out.Particularly in the food.We lived a Venezuelan culinary Zionism of sorts, where meals merged happily with Israeli salad and hummus alongside the fabulous pork products available in Venezuela: the sweet Pineapple Glazed ham prepared Christmastime, the succulent pernil asado (roasted pork loin) that was slow-roasted for New Year’s Eve slathered with port, mushrooms, rosemary garlic, and prunes (and a few other ingredients I swore to secrecy).And of course, there was my staple addiction: the chicharrones picantes (spicy fried pig skins) that was my favorite lunchtime snack.
So it would be safe to say we grew up nationalistic Jews, but most certainly not religious Jews, if that label is even possible.Maybe it was a repressed rebellion of my father, who time and time again would tell us the story of how, as a rambunctious adolescent, he managed to bring to his parent’s Jerusalem home a slab of bacon, much to the chagrin of his kosher father.My father must have been in his mid-forties when he first told my sisters and I this tale and his eyes still glimmered with mischief recounting that story.
So, when it came to eating at my non-Jewish friend’s houses, things could get kind of weird.Friends were cool with it, it was the parents that would wig out, trying to be sensitive, inclusive, careful, all the while completely clueless. What do these Jewish people eat? My friends and I would always laugh, for, anyone that knew me knew I ate pretty much anything and everything.I recall one time sitting down to dinner at a good friend’s house.Her mother was a fantastic cook and had placed a dish of piping pasta in front of us.
The family held hands to say grace (uncomfortable moment #1 for Mother as she suddenly realized I-don’t-do that) but she bit her upper lip and proceeded along.Once that was done with she opened her mouth in a relieved smile and pronounced “Okay, let’s eat! “ while scooping out steaming spoonfuls of a crimson linguine sparkling with pieces of salty pancetta.
My mouth was salivating. I was starving and this was one of my all time favorite dishes.But, as I was about to stuff a forkful into my mouth, I sensed an eerie silence and looked up to find my friend’s mother looking at me in utter horror.Before I could proceed, her eyes locked on me and she screeched:
“OH MY GOD! I’m so sorry.You people don’t eat that!!!”
My friend and I looked at each other in dismay, my pal blushing from embarrassment.
“Pasta, mom?She eats pasta.” A curt defense came my way.
“Oh but honey, it’s got bacon in it. Baaaacooooon”, she squealed as if she had cursed the air around us.
And with that, we burst out in a fit of laughter that only startled The Mother more.
“It’s not bacon ma’am.It’s pancetta,” I said. “Paaaanceeeeta”, I repeated, letting my 16-year-oldness get the better of me with this moment.My friend and I grinned and in unison eagerly dug in.“Oh yeah pancetta’s good with me, pancetta is good”, was all that came through eager slurps.
el cuento blogger de la pancetta
Creciendo como Judía en un país sudamericano predominantemente Católico tenía sus momentos de confusión. Había una iglesia en cada esquína y cada oración pareció terminarse con el sello Vaticano “sí Dios quiere”, y hasta entre las familias de mis amigos íntimos existía confusion, o al menos inquietud, con mis restricciones alimenticias como Judía.
Confieso que mi familia no facilito el tema. Nunca atendimos una escuela religiosa, apenas visitabamos la sinagoga, no celebrabamos el viernes Shabbat; ningún ritual judío diario que abriría la conversación a lo que hacemos o no hacemos como Judíos.
Más bien, nuestra casa revolvía con la energía de un padre israelíta lleno de orgullo por su país y siempre hechando cuentos de la creación del estado de Israel y la participación fundamental que tuvo su padre, Isaac Abbady, quien trabajo como el traductor oficial para el Gobierno británico en Palestina en aquel entonces. De estas aventuaras de juventud mi padre siguó mas aventuras en Nueva York donde encontró a su novia americana y juntos viajaron a Venezuela, donde se adaptaron al estilo de vida latinoamericano cómodo de los años 60. Y fue allí donde criaron sus tres hijas.
Y aunque Israel fuera lejano de nosotros geográficamente, siempre vivía muy cerca de nosotros, particularmente en la comida. Vivímos un Sionismo culinario venezolano de clases, donde las comidas criollas se combinaron felizmente con la ensalada israelíta y el hummus junto a los productos de cerdo fabulosos disponibles en Venezuela: el jamón ahumado con piña dulce y clavos, la receta famosa (y secreta) del pernil asado que se cocinaba lentamente durante Nochebuena. Y por supuesto, había mi adicción básica: los chicharrones picantes que devoraba durante mis meriendas.
Así que podría decir que crecimos muy nacionalistas pero no necesariamente religiosos. Tal vez esto era una rebelión reprimida de mi padre, que nos contaba siempre la historia de como, siendo un adolescente bullicioso, logró traer a su casa en Jerusalén un trozo de tocino, mucho al disgusto de su padre kosher. Mi padre tenía mas de cuarenta años la primera vez que nos conto esto y sus ojos todavía brillaban tenuemente con la travesura de aquella historia.
Así que, a veces, comer en casas de amigos que no eran judíos podian complicar un poco las cosas. No por mis amigos, sino por sus padres, gente tratando de ser sensibles, globales, cuidadosos, todo el rato completamente despistados. ¿Qué come esta gente judía? Mis amigos y yo siempre nos reiríamos, ya que los que me conocían sabían que comía de todo.
Recuerdo una vez que fuí a comer donde una amiga. Su madre era una cocinera fantástica y había colocado un plato de pasta con pancetta delante de nosotros. Mi boca salivaba. Tenía hambre y este era uno de mis platos favoritos. Pero, cuando estuve a punto de comer, presentí un silencio misterioso y alcé la vista para encontrar la madre de mi amiga que me miraba en horror completo. Antes de que yo pudiera proceder, ella chilló:
¡”AH DIOS MIO! Lo siento tanto. ¡¡Ustedes no comen esto!!!”
Mi amiga y yo nos miramos confundidas.
¿”Pasta, mamá? Ella come pasta.” Una defensa concisa vino mi camino por parte de mi amiga.
“Ah pero cariño, esto tiene tocineta. Tociiiinetaaaaaa”, ella chilló como si había blasfemado el aire alrededor de nosotros.
Y con esto, estallamos en un ataque de risa que sólo asustó a la Madre más.
“Esto no es tocineta, señora. Esto es pancetta,” le informé impacientemente. “Paaaanceeeeta”, repetí, dejando mis 16 años sentirse claramente. Mi amiga y yo sonreímos con una impaciencia hambrienta empezamos a comer susurrando entre tragadas, “Ah sí la pancetta me cae muy bien, muy, muy bien.”
A couple of posts ago I declared I’d be focusing on fruits and veggies over the summer.I’ve been sweating a bit voraciously ever since I said that.Don’t get me wrong:I dig fruits and vegetables.But I have a hard time with planning and commitment.Such announcements always bite me in the butt.I know the scheduling goddesses that created the concept did so in efforts to relieve stress and remove chaos, but in my warped head, it seems to invite the two.
Night after night vegetables and fruit have bounced in my psyche.Florida has already nose-dived into disgustingly humid weather and apocalyptic afternoon thunderstorms, typical summer behavior, so, of course, I have tomatoes, the cliché of summer produce, bopping my eyes in REM sleep.Plum, roma, teeny, tiny grape ones, distorted and now-overly priced boutique Ugly tomatoes (the kind no one wanted until they were written up).Of course, tomatoes don’t sit well with my conscience anymore.As much as I adore them, I can’t help connect them with overworked, mistreated immigrant farmers, shedding every ounce of sweat and money so that I can enjoy a caprese salad whenever I want.Way to ruin the mood.So tomatoes are out for the blog. For now.
…But not quite.I just can’t disconnect from them that easily.Yes see, I love tomatoes.And, as you read this, I am in Spain.Yes, Spain.A place that is so comfortable with their produce that they simply showcase it as a dish to enjoy:take one succulent tomato, slice in half, squeeze generously over one slice of garlic-rubbed, grilled bread, then go ahead and massage it on there real good.More.More.More.Okay.Drizzle the whole darn thing with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of coarse sea salt and, voila!There you have it.
This is my kind of eating.Simple, satisfying and perfect.And yet, right now, I am traveling 400 kilometers of Spanish road to make my way for a much-anticipated reservation at Mugaritz.Make that 420 kilometers.I have no sense of direction so I know I just missed my stop.Mugaritz is the restaurant of the famed Chef Andoni Luiz Aduriz who acquired his culinary skills under careful tutelage of Gastro-Science Guru Chef Adriá from El Bulli.So I can’t imagine what he’ll do with a tomato there, but I can guarantee I’ll try it and let you know.And chances are I won’t be able to duplicate that kind of high-tech science in my kitchen; another reason to celebrate the simplicity of a good squeeze.
Un Buen Aprieto
Cuando comencé el blog en español declaré que me concentraría en hablar sobre frutas y vegetales a lo largo del verano. He estado sudando vorazmente desde que dije esto. No se confundan: adoro las frutas y verduras. Lo que me cuesta un poquito es la idea de planificación y compromiso. Las diosas de orden que crearon el concepto de planificación lo hicieron en esfuerzos para aliviar la tensión y quitar el caos, pero en mi cabeza alborotada, parece invitar a los dos.
Noche tras noche ideas de frutas y verduras me robaban el sueño. Con la llegada del verano en Florida ha descendido la humedad insoportable y las tormentas de tarde apocalípticas.Pero tambien, por supuesto, hay tomatoes. Pequenos, grandes, Roma, uva, y hasta los famosos feos Floridianos (Ugly Tomato).
Admito sentirme un pelo incomoda añorando los tomates. Tanto como los adoro, no logro quitar imagenes de los agricultores inmigrantes maltratados e agotados por tanto trabajo para que yo pueda disfrutar de una ensalada caprese siempre cuando quiera. Si saben como arruinar el momento. Asi que, por los momentos, le dare un descanzo a los tomatoes en el blog.
…Pero no completamente. Es que no logro desconectarme de ellos tan fácilmente. Sí ven, amo tomates. Y, cuando ustedes lean esto, estare en España. Sí, España. Un pais tan cómodo con sus productos que simplemente los celebran en su forma mas sencilla: tomen un tomate suculento, piquenlo en la mitad, aprietenlo sobre una rebanada de pan rozado por ajo, dandole un masajito de jugo de tomate al pan. Siga. Más. Más. Más. Bien. ¡Termina con un llovizne de aceite de oliva y una rociada de sal marina y, voila! Allí lo tiene.
Este es mi clase de la comida: simple y perfecto. Y aunque ahora mismo, mientras ustedes lean esto, viajo 400 kilómetros por territorio español hacia mi muy esperada reservación en Mugaritz (hazlo 420 kilómetros. No tengo ningún sentido de dirección y seguramente pase mi salida. Mugaritz es el restaurante del chef famoso Andoni Luiz Aduriz, quien adquirió sus habilidades culinarias bajo la tutela cuidadosa del Gurú de Alta Cocina Espanola, Ferrán Adriá del Bulli. No puedo imaginar lo que hará con un tomate allí, pero puedo garantizarles que lo intentaré y les avisaré. Y las posibilidades que no seré capaz de duplicar aquella clase de la ciencia de alta tecnología en mi cocina son bastante altas; otra razón para celebrar la simplicidad de un buen apretón.