The food that remembers me

Today I spent the day cooking. The theme is Viva Cubana! I’ve never even been to Cuba because as an American I’ve never had the right to travel there, or at least not directly. I almost went one time when I was having a little vacation in Jamaica. Apparently they look the other way and don’t stamp your American passport if you fly in from somewhere like Mexico or Jamaica. But I didn’t go. None of my group seemed at all interested .  They were Americans. Here in Europe everyone is curious about Cuba, and many of my friends have been.

I feel like I must have lived there in another life, maybe in the beautiful 40s. There is something in my blood… or at least I wish for there to be! The closest I’ve  been to Cuba is having had a Cuban boyfriend; his parents were  immigrants to New York. They left there with so many others. I remember saying “estoy enamorado con tigo” to him and loving the way it sounded. I loved that he spoke Spanish. I guess we weren’t meant to stay together, but it was so romantic. He was chocolate colored like me, a mix of every race and culture that passed through his parent’s little island. I loved his family too, and he loved mine – me and my little boy. He’d wake up early in the morning to go buy us savory breakfast treats like whitefish and bagels and cream cheese. We ate so well together. And sometimes when I’d come home from work he’d have a lovely meal waiting for me. Bacalao. Platanos. Frijoles negro. This must have been during my last fish phase because I remember the taste of the bacalao like it was yesterday. It has been more than 30 years since then, but today when cooking the bacalao fritters I didn’t need to taste the salt cod to remember what it tastes like.

So as I prepared the food that remembers me from long ago, I remembered an old love from long ago. I thought that it was me that was doing the remembering but then I realized that I’d made the acquaintance of the members of my menu before. We hadn’t seen each other in a very long time, but they remembered me. And in their kindness, reminding me of who they were and how we met, I was able to recall someone I’d long forgotten. I love how food remembers me.

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