Sunday, November 09, 2014

Words Made Flesh

"Candelita de ojos azules," wrote my mother when I turned 2 years old 45 years ago.

Candelita literally means "little candle" or "little flame on the candle," but in Cuban Spanish it can also mean "a little girl with fiery curiosity and mischief to spare."

My love of cooking must have started then. My mom noted that I cracked eggs on the sofa and grabbed olives from the refrigerator. I also remember opening and emptying out every single jar in the spice cupboard onto the countertop in neat little piles -- my first mis-en-place.

Forty-seven years ago my mother gave birth to me in San Juan. Every year since -- until Alzheimer's stole her memory -- my mother would tell me the story of my birth, of how I came into this world her flesh and blood, both bound to each other, poised for a 47-year adventure.

My mother always wanted to write a book. And today, on the eve of my birthday, I caught a glimpse of what could have been a career in writing three months after my mom's last breath on earth.

"Now I understand why rental apartments in the U.S. post NO CHILDREN signs," she wrote to introduce a description of my childhood pranks in a baby book, still wrapped in protective plastic, which I found in a box next to her ashes.

Thank you mother, for recording this moment in time.

Many memories have dissipated in the sea since my childhood years, shoring up now through your handwriting, which floods my heart with immeasurable love.

If I could speak to you now and hold the hand that once traced those words, I would say to you: "But you did write a book, mother. You did!"

You raised a prankster daughter who has written more words than she cares to remember. Words so charged with urgency. Important words. Words that mean nothing now. Those words crumble down, collapse into a pile of meaningless absurdity next to the simple phrase candelita de ojos azules.

I see you writing this, probably after I had gone to sleep, on the living room table. I see myself reading this now and there is no time, no distance between us. It's 1969 all over again. It's also 2014. The heart doesn't know time. Love is boundless, with no beginning or end.

Mother, know that your voice still lives, has always lived, through the ink and tears, the laughter and parchment of my own writing. Words made flesh in the fiber of my being.

My words are your legacy, mother. And since I couldn't give you a grandchild, my legacy -- our legacy -- lives on through my writing and the stories engraved in our hearts.

Thank you for giving birth to me, mother. It was and always will be "our" birthday.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

To Know Such Love

They would have been married 55 years this Thursday. Havana, Cuba 1959.

I don't know if my father remembers the date but today was especially quiet, as if a premonition of the anniversary. I mourned my mom in a different way. I mourned her for him, for his sadness. A tether keeps him attached to his body, knowing full well his soul wants to be next to hers, that his life is meaningless without her. Time stands still, stuck in the past of all he has ever known, the one constant in his life, the woman he most loved, my mother.

Would we all be so lucky to know such love.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Local Foodies Travel the World Without Leaving Miami

World Cuisine Potluck - South Florida Foodies & Zonin Wines
Maude Eaton beckons with a "come eat" look and her Persian Polo (steamed basmati rice with golden saffron crust).

I'm American but you can keep your turkeys, cranberry relish, green bean casseroles, bread stuffing and mashed potatoes for another day.

This is what I'm talking about: a great afternoon savoring delicious food and wine in the company of friends without having to rush through a meal that took an entire day to cook just to stand in line at some megastore. Forget about Black Friday. How about Sunshine Sunday?

Because that's what happened last week in Miami.

"This is better than Thanksgiving," said my friend.

"Better than what you'd get at many a restaurant," I replied.

So there was much to be grateful for when South Florida Foodies gathered at Zonin Wine's hospitality suite for an afternoon of gourmet delights, thanks to Maude Eaton and over a dozen folks who prepared 16 dishes, paired perfectly with prosecco, red and white wines chosen by Casa Vinicola Zonin.

And in true American fashion -- after all, we're a country made up of immigrants from around the world -- these potluck dishes served up flavors from French Polynesia, Lebanon, Scandinavia, Asia, Italy, India, the Middle East, Britain, Colombia and France.

So let our palates be thankful for variety and the pleasure of eating in good company, without having to set foot on an airplane.

Behold a sampler. If Pavlov was right, get a napkin.

The appetizers alone were enough to satisfy ...

World Cuisine Potluck - South Florida Foodies & Zonin Wines
Sardinian Octopus Salad (made with conch instead of octopus) for a Bahamian twist.

World Cuisine Potluck - South Florida Foodies & Zonin Wines
From other islands, across the globe: Poisson Cru with Coconut and Lime Juice, inspired by Tahiti.

World Cuisine Potluck - South Florida Foodies & Zonin Wines
Quick stir-fry bell peppers for Asian tacos by Wokstar.

World Cuisine Potluck - South Florida Foodies & Zonin Wines
Asian pork meatballs in sesame-toasted wonton cups with sweet chili aioli and pickled scallions by FOODalogue.

World Cuisine Potluck - South Florida Foodies & Zonin Wines
Unfortunately, the Italian wasn't on the menu, but the Prosecco was.

And then the main courses ...

World Cuisine Potluck - South Florida Foodies & Zonin Wines
Cooking, laughing, eating, drinking at the Zonin hospitality kitchen.

World Cuisine Potluck - South Florida Foodies & Zonin Wines
Tuscan grilled chicken with rosemary, lemon and olives.

World Cuisine Potluck - South Florida Foodies & Zonin Wines
Khoresh Gheimeh (Persian meat stew), saffron rice and Masto Khiar (yogurt salad with shredded cucumber and mint).

World Cuisine Potluck - South Florida Foodies & Zonin Wines
In the cup, a tribute to Louisiana: spicy Cajun crawfish sausage with creamy smoked gouda grits.

World Cuisine Potluck - South Florida Foodies & Zonin Wines
To sip it all down: Zonin's selections for the gourmet potluck.

And last but not least, dessert ...

World Cuisine Potluck - South Florida Foodies & Zonin Wines
Il Diplomatico Cake by yours truly.

World Cuisine Potluck - South Florida Foodies & Zonin Wines
Truffles, Sticky Toffee Pudding and Cheese Platter.

Hungry? More photos on Flickr or mouse-over and click on the arrows to see a slideshow.