Praise The Interruption

I’m working on the porch with fan on and bug spray at the ready to fend off my latest fear of dengue fever when I hear the familiar whhooooOOOOP! of the vegetable vendor coming down the street.

I grab my keys and wallet and head outside, grateful for this path of least resistance to replenish my depleted-by-grocery-shopping-procrastination egg supply.

This man has become the super Catholic grandpa I never had. He showers me with blessings, tells me I look like a pretty doll, then sends me on my way with vegetables and benedictions for the coming day. It’s pretty much the most feel-good interruption to your research you could think of.

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The Meat Of The Matter

I had agreed to transport half a cow to the butcher, so the meat could be used to make five pots of stew for the celebration today. Fortunately, we left the head and the bucket full of intestines behind.

 

The hulking, wobbling masses got loaded into the back of the pickup truck. I was mesmerized by the kilograms of flesh that were now starting to attract flies. At the butcher shop, my attention honed in on the heel of the butcher’s hand guiding the impossibly thick bones across the singing blade of the band saw, set into a granite counter.

 

“If you eat this meat,” V. said, stabbing the cow leg with her knife, “it doesn’t mean you have to vote for him. The politicians do this every year for everyone, for Indigenous People’s Day, but the meat isn’t political.”

 

In Argentina, voting is compulsory. This may seem like a good idea: what a great way to get everyone involved in democracy! What it actually means, though, is that politicians come to many poor communities to buy votes, by promising new health centers, new social assistance programs, new schools. And sometimes they actually build the health centers, or the schools. But here’s the catch: the pristine-from-the-outside buildings topped with “another job accomplished in Namqom” banners often remain untouched, unopened, and unused, until the next election rolls around. 

Left To Figure It Out

I claim that I only started experimenting with cooking and baking in my (falling-apart)ment during my sophomore year of college, but really I was already doing it when I climbed up onto the counters in the kitchen at age 5. I dumped the entire contents of a can of peaches into a bowl of Rice Krispies, and flavored the whole thing with a generous dash of almond extract from the tiny glass tubes my grandma kept in a plastic container.

Obviously the “dish” was disgusting, but I’m glad I was either left unsupervised for the amount of time it took to put together this concoction, or deliberately allowed to figure out what doesn’t work, on my own.

My Formosa Kitchen

Feeling experimental, I pulled my box of different flours out from the kitchen cabinet. Delicate plastic bags full of different neutral tones, textures, smells. Amaranth, chickpea, coconut, corn, manioc, potato, white rice. I categorized into whole grains and starches. I converted grams to cups. I calculated the amounts necessary to make the gluten-free flour blend 40% whole grain and 60% starch. I used a little ruler that my coworker got for free from the dentist and a sharpie to eyeball cup markings on a straight, clear drinking glass. Put it all in a pot, stirred, and transferred the now-uniform mixture to a big plastic container that once held ice cream.

Some say baking is a science and cooking is an art, but in my Formosa kitchen I have either gotten very good at estimating or have fully accepted the loss of control over how things will turn out.  

Memories of Maliny

I had forgotten the flavor of weak Polish sun in delicate fruit. The flavor of sitting on the kitchen counter with my sister when we were both home from school for break, polishing off a plastic container of the Driscoll’s kind between the two of us.

So when one of my research team members brought me a jar of homemade raspberry preserves from Patagonia, simply labeled FRAMBUESA, I couldn’t stop myself from eating it by the spoonful, and remembering.

Confused In Translation

The four of us finally flopped into a booth, setting down our backpacks while trying not to lose our hats or trip over our hiking bootlaces. We weren’t running late, exactly, but we would only have time for a sit-down breakfast if we ordered immediately and asked for the check early.

Hasty glances at the menu. I probably ordered pancakes, my sister maybe a sandwich, and I can’t imagine my mom not getting an English muffin involved in the start of her day. Tata ordered eggs before turning back to his map of Idaho.

“And how would you like your eggs, sir?” asked the waitress, leaning in to get his attention. He looked up, confused. “Erm, I, um… almost raw?” More puzzled looks all around.

Motherly matter-of-fact damage control: “He’ll have them scrambled.”