Judy’s Tales: beef and sliced bananas

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!

photoDo you have any strange eating habits?

Steph 🙂

PS- Don’t forget to enter my giveaway!

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Judy’s Tales: The Ketchup Incident

I wrote a speech at my mom’s memorial service about all of the adventures and good times she had throughout her life. At the end of the speech, I mentioned something about ketchup:

I can’t wait for the day to come where I’ll find peace in a photo, find comfort in her belongings and be able to laugh at an empty ketchup bottle on a restaurant table.

As my uncle Marty read that final line, the packed room let out a chuckle, as most people knew exactly what I was referencing.

I’ve mentioned before about how picky of an eater my mother was. Not only was she particular about what she ate, but she was also ridiculous about where she ate, how things were prepared and who could have potentially tampered with her food prior to arrival. She was the mom version of Sheldon Cooper. 😉

The universe loved to fuck with her too. If a hair dropped onto a plate back in the kitchen of a restaurant, you can guarantee it ended up on her plate. If someone was serving cake at a birthday party, they’d lick their finger just as they were handing my mom her piece. If there was a fly in a restaurant, it would be buzzing beside our table (with a few dead ones along the windowsill too).

All of those things would send my mom into a tizzy, having her either make us leave, or politely decline to eat, sending us into a rage of fury. “You’re being ridiculous, mom!” “Just close your eyes and pretend the hair was never there, Judy!” we’d all exclaim. But once my mom was disgusted, there was no changing her mind.

But the one thing that was the most terrifying, detested, wretched, despicable, gut-wrenching, and offensive of all was when my mom caught a glimpse of an almost empty, crust-rimmed ketchup bottle on a restaurant table.

Empty Bottle of Heinz Tomato Ketchup - Oct 2011I can’t remember exactly when it started. I do know it was way before glass ketchup bottles were replaced with the squeeze bottle version. My mom had witnessed a guy stick his butter knife into the bottle to help aid the flow of the ketchup. He then proceeded to lick his butter knife, place it into the bottle once again to retrieve more ketchup, resulting in my mother wincing in absolute horror and making her forever ask for full bottles of ketchup from that day on.

When she learned that some restaurants refill bottles as they get low, she began asking for NEW bottles of ketchup and demanded to open them herself so she can hear that heavenly pop of a new cap twisting off. Even as establishments moved away from glass bottles and into plastic squeeze bottles, the mental damage had been done, and if a used bottle was in my mom’s view, she’d ask the waiter for a new one. She would never demand a fresh bottle, it would be more like a request backed with giggles and a singsong voice charming even the most ornery of waiters to abide by her insane request with a smile.

As more and more ketchup incidences occurred, eventually we (her family and even friends!) would be the ones to start asking the waiters for a new bottle as we saw needed. Even before they’d take our drink orders we’d say “save time and confusion and just bring us a new bottle of ketchup, trust us”. My mom would laugh and laugh and laugh giving us this deer in headlights look (see pic below) that I swear I have started giving people myself!

Miss you so much mom. Hoping you’re surrounded by nothing but fresh and sparkling new ketchup bottles in the afterlife! 🙂


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Judy’s tales: Sing a song

As long as I can remember, my mom loved to sing. One of the earliest memories I have of my mom singing is when I was a very young child, maybe 3 or 4, and my mom would sing “It’s Baby’s Mi-Mi time” as we marched to bed each night. Once I was all tucked in, mom would sing the Lawrence Welk goodnight song to me before turning off the lights. Continue reading

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Judy’s Tales: You’ve got mail!

My mom Judy loved to travel. If she would have been financially able to, she would have traveled full time. Most of our trips were to the mountains, camping or the beach with my father, friends and family. Trips to Vegas and cruises with her cousins, long road trips with my grandmother and I, and adventures on water down in the Keys. My mother’s first love was her camper. She was constantly planning her next camping trip and even dreamed of towing it cross country once her and my father retired. Continue reading

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Judy’s tales: Spring break break

My mother was SO clumsy.

Oh, no. It wasn’t alcohol induced either. She was a natural.

So many times we’d see her tripping, falling or tumbling down something. I mean, remember the first installment of Judy’s tales?

Here’s a poem I wrote way back in once upon a time time after my mom broke her ankle, just 30 minutes into a weekend camping trip. Obviously the trip got cut short, as it was a pretty rough break, but of course, I had to document the event to lighten up the mood my mom was dealing with at the time. She got the biggest laugh out of this!

Twas’ The First Night of Spring Break
Twas’ the first night of Spring Break,
As we headed up to camp,
We were all driving fast,
Up the Tillis Hills’ Ramp.

The rain was falling lightly,
As we set up at our site,
Hooked up hoses, opened chairs,
Ready for a weekend of delight.

When what should our wandering eyes and ears here,
But a very noisy Judy falling down onto her rear.

She tumbled and she fumbled,
Right down the camper steps,
Broke her ankle in a few places,
It was her worst accident yet.

“Aye Dios Mio!” yelled Abuelita,
“What the HELL!” screamed my dad.
We ran down the stairs to see,
If it really was that bad.

She had twisted, she had turned,
Got her poor foot mighty stuck,
From the looks of the situation,
We all knew my mom was… not good.

When the ambulance arrived,
They put her on the stretcher bed,
The yelling and the crying,
Was a sound of dread.

At the hospital they twisted,
At the hospital they turned,
As they adjusted the bad ankle,
Our minds filled with great concerns.

Our camping trip was shortened,
Because my mother’s horrid fate,
We drove home the next morning,
Broken ankle and a dislocate.

The next day brought more hospitals,
More doctors and waiting rooms,
Not enough medicine was given,
To remove that feeling of “doom”

No more jet skis, No more Wal-mart,
Mom was the image of despair,
But even cast to her knee,
She got compliments on her hair.

Spring Break was spent delivering,
Ice cream, cokes and Krispy Kreme,
Even though the bones were broken,
Mom’s appetite was non unseen.

Nights and nights were restless spent,
Mom could get not much relief,
Tossing, turning, crying, aching,
Getting help to go pee pee.

Days and days my mother waited,
Until surgery day came,
They added plates, and lots of screws,
Terminator… a new nickname.

So now my mother waits patiently,
With casts and screws and boots,
She rolls around the house,
You better move when she’s en route!

If she does her weekly therapy,
And follows doctor’s rules,
She’ll be running around at Wal-Mart,
Before the start of next year’s school.

Until then well count the days,
Until mom can dance and twirl,
We all know she’s just not normal,
Unless her feet are in a whirl.

The end.

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