De Cocina Criolla
By Laura Feo-Fernandez
I like to think I’m a pretty good cook. I figure I must be as I am often the recipient of rave reviews from my hubby, usually in the form of clasped hands, eyes pointed toward the ceiling and the words “thank you, God” escaping his lips.
When we were first dating, I didn’t really express much interest in cooking and it never mattered because we were always going out to eat and dance. The first time I really threw down in the kitchen he confessed to me that he thought he was going to be opening cans for the rest of his life.
Now that we have been married almost seven years I am pretty comfortable with comida criolla…in fact many dishes, like picadillo con papas, have become my comfort foods too. Oh yeah, and my empanaditas are the bomb.
That being said, I had a rather interesting experience on our last visit with la familia cubana. My husband’s abuelita gave me the third degree. Granted, I have met abuela on other trips to Cuba but I guess now that I have more confidence conversing en español she felt she needed to make absolutely sure her grandson didn’t marry just another gringa stereotype.
The conversation started out innocently enough…she asked what we were up to, she asked about her great grandson. Then suddenly, “Sabes como cocinar comida criolla?”
I nervously rattled off everything Cuban I ever remember cooking, feeling proud of my criolla prowess, hoping abuelita was satisfied. Unfortunately, I left off one of, if not the most important Cuban staples.
I know, I know…gasp away.
She asked me if I did in fact know how to cook such an important dish. I told her yes and made sure to let her know that I make them from scratch.
I did, however, conveniently leave out the fact that I often make them de lata, for fear of losing credibility.
Because, you never, ever want to lose credibility con la abuela.
Laura Feo-Fernandez is a graduate student in music performance. She lives in Memphis, TN with her husband, Alexis, and their young son.