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Black Velvet
December 16, 2012 – 3:09 pm | 17 Comments

Childhood memories are vivid, almost indescribable in their detail, and impossible to forget. A Christmas memory I have is that of a black velvet dress  a family friend gave to me for my seventh Christmas.
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Faking It

Submitted by on August 10, 2009 – 5:58 am2 Comments


Memories of my mami from my childhood all revolve around the kitchen.  From the moment I woke up to the second I went to bed, she was cooking something up.  The blender would buzz midday with the green swirl of her sofrito.  The frying pan would sizzle with maduros in the evening just before dinner would be put on the table.  Late into the night I could hear her picking out the bad seeds from a bag of frijoles.  I’d wake up to a giant pot of something brewing and with the most amazing patience, she’d stir that pot from sunrise until dinner never rushing or raising the heat (like her inpatient daughter often does).

I imagined everyone’s mami was a maven in the kitchen.  Imagine my surprise when I visited a good friend of mine and discovered otherwise.  I was about to have dinner with my friend and her family when her mom asked me if I liked maduros.  I smiled from ear to ear and said, “I loooooove them!”  Next thing I knew, a box came out of the freezer and with a quick move of the hand it was placed in the microwave.  A minute or two later a plate of juicy, ripe maduros was sitting at the table.  On another visit to the same friend’s house, we were enjoying some croquetas de jamon.  I asked her if they were difficult to make and she looked a bit puzzled.  She said they were frozen and all she had to do was fry them.

Thanks to my friend I realized you could fake some of the amazing home cooking of my childhood.  Good thing for me, too, since my mami was never one to invite me into her kitchen; it was her territory and hers alone.  Despite not having much guidance from her, I always figured I’d inherited the Cuban gene for cooking and would one day turn into an amazing cook.  Needless to say, without practice or guidance, I’m not that great of a cook.  My Americano husband is much better at cooking some of my favorite Cuban dishes than I am!

I’ve learned to embrace the frozen Goya section at our local grocery store.  When I first discovered it, I’ll admit I snubbed my nose at it.  I thought my mami would disapprove (she does) and that I needed to learn to make everything from scratch.  I thought somehow if I could cook everything from scratch I’d prove something.  I’ve learned it doesn’t really matter how the food gets there.  It’s about enjoying and sharing the amazing flavors of my island even if it’s a mix of microwaving and cooking from scratch.

Since I’m all for short cuts, what are some of your favorite shortcuts?

Share, por favor!


  • Catherine says:

    Some of my shortcut favorites are the maduros, as well. I too, snubbed at the frozen Goya section at the mercado. But one day, we were eating dinner at my grandmothers house (Puerco asado with black beans and rice. A Cuban must) and abuela brings the maduros to the table and they were great. When I asked her what she did to them, she sheepishly pointed at the freezer and said, “Ay chica, no estamos en Cuba. Deje que la Yuma me ayudara esta ves.” Since then, I haven’t replaced homemade plantains entirely, but I have taken some American help.

    My other shortcut involves Pillsbury cake mix. I fill it in with homemade pudding for cupcake éclair.

  • Carrie says:

    My favorite food cheat: Black Beans.
    I used the canned ones. To cubanize them, I use a fork or potato masher to mash a few and thicken, pour in red cooking wine, some cumin, oregano and a little olive oil y ya…instant “homemade”…
    Oh, and how about using Marta’s puff pastry recipe for homemade pastelitos? The heavens sang to me when I read that recipe of hers.

    I too have avoided the freezer maduros…maybe now I won’t.

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