Saturday, August 14, 2010

Puerto Rico 7: Food (among other things)

One absolutely terrible thing about Puerto Rico is that there’s so much good food and so little room in my stomach. Well. Comparatively, at least.

Day after my eventful return to San Juan, dad, grandma, and I went to Maggie’s for lunch. She had blood sausage (surprisingly good considering its name), and cheese stuffed pana (unsurprisingly good). Pana is basically breadfruit. It tastes a bit like potato, which means it tastes awesome, and it’s not very healthy.

Lunch tends to be a bigger deal than dinner here, which makes more sense to me. You know, seeing as eating a heavy meal right before sleep is a metabolism disaster. It took us like three hours to finish everything from the stuffed pana to the amaretto cheesecake. When someone suggested dinner later that day, I could only shake my head and hold my stomach.


However. There is always more room for good food, I’ve found. Later that night we went to Janet’s mother’s house again, so that I could meet her sister, Glorimar, who is also getting married. Yep. Double wedding fun! Glorimar was nice, and soon the whole family was squished into a very tiny space. Think fifteen people in a single dorm room. Yeah. That’s how we roll in Puerto Rico.

Glorimar’s husband, David, is from the Dominican Republic, and he cooked some kind of plantain dish while we watched Puerto Rico VS Venezuela volleyball. Even though I’m not very into sports, their enthusiasm was contagious, especially once I started referring to Puerto Rico as “Us” and Venezuela as “them.” I’m sure the beer helped my enthusiasm.


I kid.

Anyways, we won, just in time for David to finish cooking, and despite my full stomach, I wanted to try a little. When he made my plate, I asked for half of what he gave me.

“You’re sure?” he said, doubtfully.

I nodded. “I’m not really hungry.”

He raised his eyebrows and shrugged. “When you want more, let me know.”

One bite of this glorious dish and I was SOLD on second helpings. SOLD. It’s called “Mangu,” and it’s basically mashed potatoes (except plantains, not potatoes). It’s got garlic, onions, and lots of amazing flavor, and the best part is I can cook it now! Here’s a picture:

Yeah, it’s not the most glorious presentation, but trust me. It’s good. David made chicken with it, and used the spicy broth as gravy for the mangu. He won me over.

Back at Aunt Elba’s, she’s been cooking a LOT. So much good food that I no longer know what to do with it.

And one fateful day (Tuesday, maybe?) I adamantly insisted that I want to learn how to cook. Especially Puerto Rican cuisine. It’s just too good.

At this point I should make it known that despite years of sitting in the front room while my grandmother cooked countless amazing Puerto Rican dishes, I’ve never once tried to learn.

But Elba quickly fixed that by insisting that I would learn how to make mangu and dulce de leche. On top of that, I helped make fish.

Then this morning, she taught me how to make flan de queso!

Add that to my impromptu tostones lesson earlier this summer, and I feel quite confident of my cooking skills. Roomies, if you’re reading this, be prepared for a LOT of awesome food next year.

I wish my writing was going as well as my cooking though. By the time I post this, things may have changed, but right now I feel pretty bummed about writing. It’s stupid, but I feel like I don’t know enough about the story to write it.

Wow. That sounds like a lame excuse. But it’s true. I’m afraid that if I don’t know enough about the story before I trudge through the first draft, it’ll be beyond editing. Too crappy.

Sigh. I know. Suck it up and write. Hopefully I’ll have a bit of time in Florida to work on it.

Days left in Puerto Rico: 2
Days until Key Largo: 12
Listening to: Andres Segovia

Note: One more Puerto Rico Post, then Florida. As of this posting, I'm back in Texas and eagerly waiting to return to Milwaukee. I miss my friends, and my mommy. Just thought you all should know.

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