I do the most thinking about my mom while I’m in the kitchen.
Like on lazy Sundays when the TV is off, the guy is hanging out with his brother and the only sound heard is the sharp edge of my knife slicing and chop chop chopping against a smooth bamboo cutting board.
I love that sound. Sometimes I will just chop, dice and slice every bit of produce I’ll need for a week all in the same day just so that I can practice the art. You know, just in case I’m ever on Food Network Star or something.
Those moments of solitude and silence are when I relive stories of my mom. Never a day goes by that I don’t try my hardest to remember things. Sometimes I feel as if I don’t make a conscious effort to go through those 32 years of life, year by year, I’ll forget something important that I want to be able to remember and share with my own children.
My mom loved to be in the kitchen, just like I do. She was in her element entertaining, cooking up comfort foods (like her scrumptious chicken parmigiana!), baking for a crowd, or prepping a Thanksgiving feast.
I’ve mentioned before what a picky eater my mom was. My dad was the complete opposite. He’d eat just about anything (and anywhere!). He’s dined at some sketchy establishments that my mother wouldn’t even drive by. Somehow my palette fell somewhere in between.
As I was prepping ingredients for fruit smoothies the other day, I was reminded of something I had forgotten about my mother. As much of a finicky eater that she was, she did possess some very strange eating habits! One of her favorite foods of all time was ropa vieja (old clothes). It’s a Cuban staple of stewed flank steak in a rich tomato sauce cooked for hours until it’s fork tender and served over rice. My grandmother would make it for her all the time, and after she passed, my godmother Laurie took over and made it for my mom.
The strange part about my mom’s love affair with this dish was in the way she ate it. She would start with a base of white or yellow rice, top it with a scoop of the saucy ropa vieja, then top the beef with sliced bananas.
No, not plantains. Bananas. You know, regular bananas that you would make smoothies with? Yup, those. Bright yellow bananas slices right on top. She would then proceed to fork all three into one bite and add more slices if she ran out.
I would have to ask my uncles or my mom’s cousins when and how my mother conjured up this crazy creation. But as far as I can remember, this is how she ate her ropa vieja. It didn’t stop there though. Mom would also add banana slices to her yellow rice and chicken!
I couldn’t help but laugh at loud when I was thinking of this story. I think I’ll have to whip out Clarita’s Cocina next week and try my hand at making ropa vieja. Maybe I’ll through a few banana slices in honor of my mom so that I can taste what all the fuss was about!
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