Sunday, February 9, 2014

Culinary delights

I would be severely remiss if I did not describe my wonderful culinary experiences during the course of working in homes.
Almost invariably it is the immigrants who provide me with the best experiences. The reasons for this, I believe, are multi-faceted:
They come from cultures of hospitality.
The women  are in the home, caring for the family, they are not out working. Of course this means feeding their families, like their parents (read mothers), and grandmothers and great grandmothers did before them.
Feeding, cooking, is a source of pride, of creativity, of resourcefulness of nurturing and caring. The kitchen and the hearth are the vital centers of the homes.
Many of the families are poor, and I think for them, providing me with food and nourishment is their way of saying thanks for the work I do with their children.
Because they often live in multi-generational families it is difficult for them to comprehend that I live alone and I think they feel terribly sorry for me. I explain that this is my choice, and I do not feel bad, but as long as they ply me with food, their concern is fine with me!
My most recent treat was in the home of a family from El Salvador. Grandmom cares for the baby while mom works. I see the baby girl at one, and the other day grand mom left me with the baby while she disappeared into the kitchen from which emanated chopping sounds, grinding sounds, oil sizzling in a pan
I saw her lay plates and cutlery onto the kitchen table
She called to me to come and eat pupusas, as she set a plate of two healthy size pupusas on a plate. In the center of the table was a finely chopped salad of cabbage, carrots, onion, and a plate of what looked like a fresh home made tomato salza.
Delicious pupusas stuffed with mozzarella, she also makes them with ground meat and frijoles, or frijoles and mushrooms she told me.
A meal fit for a king, that saw me all the way through to breakfast.
A family from Ethiopia treated me to their wonderful coffee - a ritual similar to the tea ceremony. The mom showed me the green coffee beans which she then roasted in a pan. As the home filled with the enticing aroma of coffee she brought the pan of coffee beans to me and, placing a hand over the pan she waved the smoke in my direction. She told me this is part of the coffee ritual and I, in my turn, am supposed to inhale the smoke and exhale a satisfied 'hah.'
She then did something with the coffee and put it in a beautiful vessel, tall - sort of like a samovar, but not the same. This vessel, brought from Ethiopia, she placed on the table and brought out tiny coffee cups which she filled with the delicious coffee.
The Palestinian family would ply me with tiny cup after tiny cup of thick black coffee cooked in a finjan.
The mom of twins from Pakistan insisted on making me fresh chai on every visit.
A mexican grandmother sent me home very friday with containers full of chile rellenos, or quesadillas, or delicious moles, and a flask full of horchata!
I just mentioned "malawach" to the family of yemenites, and from then on was treated to endless piles of the delicious fried dough. I don't quite know how t describe this, but I first learned of it in Israel, where it can be served with soups, or just by itself.
I saw the woman kneading and preparing the dough which they formed into one large ball, and then took out and formed smaller balls of dough and proceed to roll them out until they were almost gossamer thin. They placed these circles of gossamer dough over a special elevated plate kind of thing brought from Quattar. The edges drooped over the circles and they cut these edges and made more circles until the plate is piled high. They put this into a corner on the counter and covered them all. The whole process was fascinating - three women kneading, rolling, slicing, and then the circles are fried in olive oil - it is quite delicious.
How I have not gained weight is a mystery to me, maybe kept in check by my endless kneeling and crawling and lifting -
I wish to give them all a deep bow of gratitude.

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