Thursday, March 5, 2009

What do you like?

" Keep the blanket around you" the boy said "you'll not fish without eating while I'm alive"
"Then live a long time and take care of yourself", the old man said. " what are we eating?"
"Black beans and rice, fried bananas and some stew".

The boy had brought them in a two-decker metal container from the Terrace.
The two sets of knives and forks and spoons were in his pocket with a paper napkin wrapped around each set.

-The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway-

I'd really like to be there on the Havana beach with the old man Sanitago, and the boy Manolin, sharing that meal; maybe washed down with a beer and then sitting around a fire with tin cups of strong, steaming-hot Cuban coffee with sugar. That's my romanticized version of it anyway - the truth is that this was more like a subsistence meal for a fisherman just before he collapsed into his cot after God knows how many hours of backbreaking work fighting the Gulf current in a tiny skiff under a blistering sun trying to make your catch to bring to the market. And I'd probably be up all night with diarrhea or something - this wasn't the most sanitary environment after all. Still though, there's something about just hearing the description; black beans and rice, fried bananas and stew that triggers a primal, sub- conscious response: I WANT THAT NOW! I've had all of those things and really good versions of them all. That's what instantly comes to mind: tender-cooked black beans, lightly smoky, not too salty, a little brothy with the muted zing of vinegar the way Cuban black beans are supposed to be, aromatic and fluffy white rice (I've heard this dish called "Christianos y Morros"!) Also, the bananas: Platanos. nice and ripe so that most of the starch has turned to sugar, sliced diagonally about a half-inch thick and fried golden brown, the outside caramelized and crispy almost like the top of a creme brulee, the inside tender, not pulpy, kind of custardy, lava-hot so you have to wait for like a half hour before it won't scorch your tongue. Yeah right - Emeril was no where near this place and the stuff was probably bland, stale and greasy and stuck to your gut like glue! No matter, I will always conjure up this heavenly picnic in my mind whenever I read this story - I can't help it. Like later on in the story when the old man is fighting the giant marlin, he cuts some pieces of raw mackerel to eat and wishes he had brought salt and limes along on the trip - I can picture the freshest, most delectable ceviche I had one time in Rosarito Beach..........

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

-Luke 24:36-43-

Broiled fish? They gave Jesus a piece of broiled fish? Maybe a grilled Chilean Sea Bass fillet brushed with a ginger-soy-red pepper and honey glaze? The honey would be Lebanese or Aegean, of course.

What do you like?

1 comment:

  1. Black beans with pork and rice? Nothing better.
    I knew a Cuban priest who was a fanatic about fried plantain; couldn't have a meal without them. Things got bad. One day the restaurant he was eating at was plantainless. He sprinted to the little market across the street and returned with his own fruit for the cook to prepare. That was the end. He had to be locked in a room for three days until he sweat the banana from his body.