Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Shining Star

Puerto Rico. Yesenia's been missing her island since her return, and she copes with it in many ways. One is the 90-minute baths she takes. Another is the appointment to have highlights put in at the local salon, for the princessly sum of $150. Thirdly, she cooks her Puerto Rican food, which meant that dinner tonight was fried pork chops and rice and beans.

It's quite good, of course.

Still, I'm always vaguely surprised that I can digest pork. I grew up in a non-pork house. Not that we were kosher - there was always ham and bacon and sausage around. In fact, any way that you could render a swine carcass into foodstuffs short of pickled pig's feet and the aforementioned chops. But, with the exception of the sausage links (not kilbassa, just the dinky frozen breakfast variety), I didn't like any of it. The bacon that my stepsisters loved seemed to me just like crispy slices of pan-fried salt lick. The sliced ham that turned up - always the pre-packaged kind, since my dad never visited a deli counter in his life - was gelatinous and had a sickly rainbow shine to the grain when you held it to the light in a certain way.

But pork? Never even saw the stuff. Maybe it was out of style in the 1970's. I have heard reference to "The Great Pork Famine," but I think they were probably made jokingly.

The rice is the good yellow rice, made the real way. Not with saffron, the other real way: she heats up a deep pan full of tomato sauce, with olives, kidney beans and sofrito, then drop in the white rice a handful at a time. Eventually, all the liquid boils away and the rice remains, nice and fluffy on top and with some great crusty stuff on the bottom. We have some differences about how to make white rice, but her yellow rice is killer stuff.

Still, the food isn't quite enough for her to keep from thinking about "home," and as I'm the reason she isn't there now, there's little help I can offer. All I can do is keep plugging away at home repairs, trying to make this - her second home - at least a pleasant enough place to spend the rest of her life with me.


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