I am under the wire for my Catching up in March post. Usually there’s a common theme that emerges in the stories that I come across but March was all over the place, a bumper-car month. There was a Cuban sandwich ‘throwdown’with Bobby Flay won by Nick Vazquez of Jersey City’s Azucar. There was also a good New York Times review for Pilar Cuban Eatery, a new cafe in Clinton Hill named after Hemingway’s boat that’s about bringing Miami to Brooklyn and another one for El Parador Cafe, the oldest Mexican restaurant in New York. If you’re looking for seemingly random food rules, Leslie Freeman Riva collected a few for the Atlantic (though I still believe that hot Read more
I decided to skip last month’s ñoquis del 29 post on a leap year technicality. Picking up in March, I decided to make cornmeal ñoquis baked in béchamel. I had never associated ñoquis with Cuban cuisine but, after finding several references in a few older Cuban cookbooks, I wanted to try it. The cooked cornmeal is shaped into small discs then baked with white sauce or cheese and put under a broiler. Though not like any ñoquis I’d had before, I thought their similarity to gold coins fitted with the Argentinian tradition of putting a coin or peso under your plate while you ate them to attract greater prosperity. I was a little up in the air about doing another one and questioned whether I really wanted to make ñoquis again so soon. As with most resolutions, the first time is all zeal, the second time may be a fluke, and the third time is when you decide whether or not to stick to it. After some starts and stops, I realized that I looked forward to answering the same question in a different way every month. Hopefully, with some consistency, I can be consistently lucky. Read more
A few months ago a friend recommended Frida’s Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo. Written by her step-daughter Guadalupe Rivera and Marie-Pierre Colle, it’s part cookbook and part food memoir. Organized by month, each chapter centers on the holidays and seasons as they were celebrated in the Blue House in Coyoacán. Describing a trip with Frida to the pyramids of San Juan Teotihuacán, the author writes:
After offering us the traditional refreshment of agua de chía, doña Rosa invited us to eat. She had prepared a number of Lenten dishes typically served throughout the central Mexican plain, where the gods that Frida invoked in her paintings had once upon a time resided. As it turned out, doña Rosa and don Tomas extended their hospitality to us for three more days, days in which reality was inseparable from magic. Read more
I’ve always been superstitious about throwing away keys. It could be a tiny gold key to a tweenage diary, an extra hotel key I forgot to return, or a loose spare to a forgotten door in a past dorm, house or apartment. I’ll be ready to toss it then have a last minute misgiving that makes me put it back in the drawer, giving in to the anxiety that I’ll be faced with a lock I can’t open. That’s probably why I was so fascinated when I heard about Jewish families in Spain who kept the keys to their homes after the expulsion of the Jews in 1492. A poignant detail in a larger history that’s always stood out in my mind. Convinced it was a misguided policy of Queen Isabella’s that would soon be corrected, they kept their keys with them. Another story I heard soon after that’s very popular, is about a man who stopped by a local bar in Toledo to ask directions to the house where his family had lived five hundred years before. Sent to a nearby address and carrying the key they had saved, he came back a few minutes later, shaken, only able to get out the words, it worked. Read more
While I try to keep to my posting schedule, I haven’t been sure of how to write about not eating. This past Thursday, I was asked to participate in a day of fasting in support of Las Damas de Blanco. I became aware of them a few years ago when I read Mariane Pearl’s Global Diary: Cuba for Glamour. A diverse group of Cuban women, they were brought together by the arrest and imprisonment of their husbands, sons and brothers during a government crackdown of over 75 political dissidents known as Black Spring. Since that time, they march every Sunday, dressed in white, through the streets of Havana to peacefully protest the continued imprisonment of their loved ones. In this light, a twelve hour fast was no great sacrifice. Completed by 8:00 PM, I experienced more heart pangs than real hunger, just a heightened awareness of women I admire. Though it’s not unusual for me to miss a post and pick up where I left off, that would have made it seem as though March 18th was any other day, and it wasn’t.
In 1992, salsa out-sold ketchup in the United States. I’ve heard that statistic for years, referenced it a few times, and read it again in Julia Moskin’s “Rediscovering Salsa, the Soul of Mexico in a Bowl” in this week’s Dining & Wine section. By now, most Latinos in the United States have claimed salsa’s success as our own. I have friends who’ve worked it into sales pitches and if anyone brings it up around the chip bowl, Mexican or not, we nod knowingly. Yet I’m not sure what kind of legitimacy we feel this confers on Latino cuisine or the growing market for Latino products. What does it say about us? What does it say about them? What does it say about ketchup? With so much baggage, it was great to read an article about salsa that was just that.
After years of winding my way through the streets of lower Manhattan, I think I’ve finally figured out Chinatown. A little overwhelming and often confusing, you always know you’re in New York. A few blocks in any direction and you’re in Little Italy, Tribeca or the Lower East Side. I’d always been curious about the “other” Chinatown – the one they keep in Flushing, where Jennifer 8 Lee said the “real” Chinese restaurants were. I had no good reason for not making it out there until now so when my teacher, Steven Shaw planned an excursion for his current food blogging class, I had to sign up. After all, he’d written the book. This weekend we met up at the French Culinary Institute on a gray day to make our way through cast iron Soho to Spring street where a 6 would get us to the 7 to Flushing. When we came up from the station, it was clear we were not in Manhattan anymore.