A Home-Reared Chef! Cook by Instinct, Recipe #9!
What could be more exciting to a thirteen year old just blossoming than to sit and listen to love stories of another young girl (sixteen years old), someone close and dear to her heart? Of the first time she’d stepped over into the threshold of love; to feel her first crush, to taste her first kiss? How one far away day, when the seasons had come and gone and youth had long-ago composed a sad farewell, with nostalgia, and with a voice most painfully off key, she sang-along to an old love song—words thought to have been forgotten—playing on the car radio. And whirling images appeared forth; when beneath a star-filled night she was swept-away by a first dance and in a moment smitten by her lover’s first kiss. And she remembered the feel of her little heart drumming fast to the beat of love. And though her cheeks burned with an obvious rising flush at receiving that first kiss, unexpected but welcomed, she silently prayed that that magical night, an irreplaceable moment, would never come to an end. Moments such as these are often wished to be frozen in time forever. Alas, from that night, from that stolen first kiss, a lasting consequence was conceived to an impressionable young heart, the endless searching to find true love. And true love she did one day find.
I was thirteen, pimpled-face and working on filling-in my training bra, and just beginning to really notice the opposite sex when, over a delicious plate of tangy and sweet Carne Achorizada, Vinegar Meat with potatoes, pickled green olives, sweet raisins, and capers, served over Spanish Fried Rice, my mother told me of her first crush. She told me of a charming, young boy (seventeen)—sweet-on-her—that had come respectfully, and with good intentions, calling to her home and, one bright-moon night, braved to serenade at her bedroom window.
Ricardo and Olga had been dating for about six months or so and keeping their relationship a secret. When one day he had finally built enough courage to knock on the door of his sweetheart’s home—knowing full well who her mother and stepfather were, because their reputation preceded them (rich and in a class above the ordinary) —he was greeted by a servant who bade him wait outside until Señora Roa was informed. He waited for a while before la Señora showed at the door. She inquired as to the reason for his visit. Timidly, but with determination, he asked for permission to openly visit la señorita Olga. La Señora callously harrumphed in his face and told him that la señorita Olga was not receiving male visitors and that she was too young … unless he had a marriage proposal to offer? To which the young gentleman quickly replied, “No, Senora, I am too young, and for the present have nothing to offer her! I simply would like your permission to visit her.” He made this declaration with much discomfort, and cause for shame, for the Señorita. She looked him down to his feet, sniffed as if she smelled something bad and said, “I thought as much,” and bid him good afternoon, closing the door without another word said.
He did not stop there, however; he would not be easily dissuaded. He went back yet again, a few days later, sometime after supper, waited until he saw young Olga’s light at her window and, backed by two friends with guitarras, began his serenade. But only moments later did La Señora Roa step out into the balcony, bucket in hand, and poured water over the unwelcomed trio, saying, “If you ever come here again, or if I get wind that you have been sneaking to see my daughter, I will call la policia!” With that she turned around, confident in her action and threat, and straight-away disappeared.
Young Olguita was left crying, embarrassed and broken hearted. And the young man, drenched and openly humiliated, and fearful of the possible consequences, stayed wide-and-far from her.
My mother told me that this was not the only time she was courted or serenaded. And that she would not have ever traded one of these memories for anything. Ricardo was not to be her last love, and that falling in-love is wonderful!
Ah, food and romance have got to be the greatest combination ever … and the best therapy for a down-cast heart. “¡Comida, amor i pesetas … ! Food, love, and money are the toast cheered at Latin gatherings. The thought of having one of these without the other …well, it’s inconceivable, at least, to me—though having riches is no guarantee to happiness. But together, perfectly balanced, is like a perfectly risen soufflé.
Salvadorian Carne Achorizada—Vinegar Meat
Frying the meat:
In a skillet on medium-high, heat oil (ingredient 1)
1. Oil of choice (enough to keep meat from sticking)
Add ingredients 2 thru 4 and fry meat until it is golden-brown
2. 2 pounds (lean) ground meat
Simmering the meat:
Add ingredients a thru j, incorporate well (taste for salt now, carefully add as needed), cover and lower heat to simmer, and cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend (and potatoes to cook, if using).
a) Sprinkles of herb seasonings of choice
b) Bay leaf or two
c) A good throw of green olives (from a jar), and a little of the juice
d) A good throw of capers, and a little of the juice
e) A handful of raisins
f) Water (enough to cover meat for simmering)
g) Vinegar (to taste!)
h) Salt (taste your broth before adding!)
i) About 3 medium (small diced) potatoes (optional)
Lastly, add 1 can of tomato paste (blend well) and cook for another 15 minutes.
NOTE: Serve over Spanish rice or steamed rice.