Posts Tagged ‘scallops’

tropical scallops: lost in a pineapple

pinaIn my last post I announced fruits and veggies would be on my mind, and so I have been thinking about pineapples. I feel they’ve been shamed in my sub-tropical turf of South Florida: they keep appearing packaged in odd, cylindrical shafts in the supermarket: peeled, cored and ruined of outer beauty, all for the unbeatable price of $5.99. The pineapple, known to scientists as ananas comosus, has a rich and long history, dating back to its origins in Southern Brazil and Paraguay before the Spanish explorers got wind of this delectable fruit when they reached the new land. After the Spaniards got in on things, they took it back to Europe where it made its way to the Phillipines and eventually Hawaii. The rest is history. And that’s history I don’t want to see pre-packaged in cylindrical plastic, I don’t care how rushed we all are.

I live a quiet, gastronomic revolution amongst my culinary-challenged bretheren, a sort of one-woman show that entails pathetic little habits I practice to spread my word of food. One of which involves the pineapple: I’m in the supermarket. I walk up to a real live normal pineapple, nestled amongst an untouched pile of real live normal pineapples, pick it up and raise it towards the sky just as King Mufasa lifted his baby cub Simba to the heavens in the 1994 film, The Lion King and announce to the sterile air piping Lionel Richie’s “Three Times A Lady”:

“Ahhhh. I think I will get THIS pineapple.”

Then I wait and look around. (I do, I really do. Because I believe I have some sort of undiagnosed egocentric culinary illness that compels me to do this.) And then it happens. It always happens. Someone looks at me in subtle shock while trying to squeeze a bag of pre-packaged, pre-rinsed, perfectly chiseled germ and flavor-free produce. There may even be a slight gasp. And then I am bestowed with a combined look of awe, admiration, and pity as folk wonder how I will ever achieve bliss or understanding holding that spiky odd contraption they’ve been told houses pineapple flesh but never, ever, ever have known how to reach. It’s a sick thrill, but, someone’s gotta seek it. I’ll have the occasional gutsy housewife come up to me and ask how on earth I get the pineapple from there and for God’s sake, why.

It’s a perfect opportunity for me to teach about food, something I can’t help myself with, carefully explaining the proper way to cut a pineapple depending on the dish: thin, round rings for a delicate pineapple upside down cake or small cubes to caramelize tenderly with red peppers, onions and cilantro for a Florribean specialty of Tropical Sea Scallops. By the time I am done even the manager who had been eyeing me nervously is just about ready to hand me a knife and a small card table in the corner for free demonstrations.

Housewife’s brow is beginning to burrow and her lips tighten in disapproval and I know what she is thinking: she is wondering why bypass the clean $5.99 plastic pineapple special for this one, with all the waste it will produce. And then there’s the need to actually touch it. Get sticky. Feel fruit. And before she fully loses herself in that bad, bad, world, I explain the difference of freshly cut fruit and fruit that’s been sitting around under cold neon lights, that even though pre-cut produce is a thriving industry, it is one that absolutely and utterly compromises the flavor. I tell her there is nothing lovelier than carving out one’s food, reaching for that gold fruit with sticky fingers and losing oneself in a moment of sunshine and bliss and as I tell her this her face relaxes and a smile spreads over her chapped lips and she licks them as if she can already taste the fruit’s gem.

Yes, I’ve peaked her interest I see. If I were a man this may even work other wonders… I tell her that using the whole pineapple is possible, even practiced in many places. Throw the peel, unwashed and all, into a pitcher of water and let it ferment for several days until it turns into a tasty, slightly alcoholic pineapple guarapo, a popular Venezuelan weekend drink. Take the crown and create a centerpiece with it if you’ve got the Martha Stewart in you, or root it and plop it into a pot of dirt and see how a new pineapple will eventually form. Get your hands dirty while you’re at it, lady. Always get your hands dirty, close your eyes, and savor the sweetness of life. I know. I have screaming children too and I need to do this. Regularly. Cutting and carving and dicing and eating this golden slice of paradise so beats the $200 bucks an hour shrink or a shiatsu massage, I promise her. So beats it.

I’ve gotten lost in a pineapple again and in doing so I’ve closed my eyes. When I am done I open them to see she is hugging two whole pineapples, invigored and renewed; she thanks me, ready to take on the world with sweetness and earth, one sticky slice at a time.

Bienvenidos!

Bienvenidos!

Bienvenidos a Culinary Compulsion en Español!

Hoy estoy pensando en la piña, o ananás.

Me parece que esta fruta no ha recibido el tratamiento que merece aquí en la tierra subtropical del sur de Florida. En vez de celebrar la piña, la veo encarcelada en cilíndricos plásticos en el supermercado donde vive desnuda de su belleza externa.

La piña, conocida a científicos como ananás comosus, tiene una historia rica y larga, empezando con sus orígenes en Brasil y Paraguay, luego fue introducida a Europa por los conquistadores y de allí viajo a las islas Filipinas y finalmente Hawaii donde despego como una de las frutas mas comercializadas del mundo. El resto es historia. Así que no me da gusto ver la historia embalada en un plástico cilíndrico, no me importa que tal apresurado estemos.

He creado hábitos un poco patéticos que practico para vocalizar mi frustración sobre la falta de entendimiento culinario entre la comunidad Americana. Uno en particular es para informar la gente sobre la piña: entrando al supermercado, voy hacia la montaña de piñas abandonadas, agarro una de estas bellesas, y en mi voz mas alta le informo al mundo:

“Ahhhh… comprare ESTA piña.”

Entonces espero y miro alrededor. (Lo hago, realmente lo hago. Como creo que tengo alguna clase de enfermedad culinaria egocéntrica no diagnosticada esto es mi vicio.)

Y lo hago porque se que va pasar algo. Siempre pasa. Alguien me mira en asombro mientras tratan de apretar una bolsa de espinaca o lechuga o pimentón rojo picado- no importa que es, pero siempre es algo esteril y sin sabor. A vecez hasta oigo un grito reprimido de sorpresa, inevitablemente vienen miradas de temor, admiración, y compasión mientras me observan y tratan de imaginar como ese objeto que tengo entre mis manos me traerá la fruta dulce de la piña- algo que han visto en libros o revistas pero nunca, nunca han entendido como alcanzar.

Habrá una ama de casa curiosa que me preguntara que se hace con eso. Es mi oportunidad perfecta para educar sobre la comida y no me puedo contener.

Con cuidado le explico la manera apropiada de cortar una piña según el plato que se vaya prepara: anillos delgados y redondos para una torta de piña patas arriba o pequeños cubos para acaramelar tiernamente con pimientas rojas, cebollas y cilantro para una especialidad de comida Floribeana de Vieiras de Mar Tropicales. Cuando termino de explicarle hasta el gerente que había estado observándome nerviosamente está listo para darme un cuchillo y una pequeña mesa de juego para dar clases de cocina en la esquina.

La ama de casa me da una mirada de desaprobación y sé lo que piensa: ella se pregunta por qué evitar la piña plástica de $5.99 para ésta, con toda la basura que producirá y el desastre pegajoso de tocar la fruta. Antes de que ella se pierda en el rincón oscuro de ignorancia, le explico la diferencia de sabor entre una fruta frescamente picada y una que ha vivido en un envase plástico. Le explico que no hay nada mas sabroso que perderse en el sabor dulce y pegajoso de una piña recién picada, y que aunque en su mundo estéril donde nunca lo ha hecho, le pareciera extraño y sucio, es, al contrario, una experiencia llena de sabor y vida que la dejara mas contenta aun.

Ella me escucha atentamente, ya casi convencida. Le informo que la piña se puede usar completamente: la concha sirve para un sabroso guarapo y la corona puede usarse de decoración o hasta para crear otra piña, si tiene paciencia. Le urjo que lo intente, que compre su piña completa y abandone los envases plásticos y cuando termine de hablar ella me dio las gracias y vi que ya tienia en sus brazos dos piñas completas, que cargó con ternura y orgullo, lista para conquistar el mundo, un trozo de piña a la vez.