Meet Exhibit A: My dear friend Cedric.
He is studying to be a chef. Have any of you ever been friends with someone going to culinary school? Let me tell you how much fun it is . . . IT IS AWESOME. He is always experimenting and practicing for school. His roommates are lucky beneficiaries, as am I. Anyway, being that Mami is kind of a famous cociñera too, and I think I have that gene in me, I love discussing recipes and food with Cedric. I've taught him how to make Picadillo and how to take canned black beans and make them taste not so canned.
Well, I had a craving for Arroz con Pollo (it's one of my favorite dishes) and thought it would be fun to share it with Cedric. But there was NO WAY that just two of us should benefit from the dish that lasts for days . . . So I called Sheila. Her Mama is like a 2nd Mama to me and leaves for Africa next week, so I had no shame when I said, "I'm coming over to make Cuban food and I invited Cedric."
Because I am constantly cooking in other peoples homes, I have a small "java" (or is it spelled "jaba"? – either way it basically means "little bag") I take with me everywhere that has all the basic spices for every Cuban dish. On my way to Sheila's house, I wondered if she would have tongs to turn the chicken, but decided that of course she would. I also decided to take my olive oil just in case.
As she started helping me unpack my bag of ingredients (all those cans of things that go in the sofrito), she noticed the olive oil and said, "Why did you bring oil? We HAVE oil! What do you think we are? Savages?" (She was totally kidding)
We turn on some fabulous background music and I started to brown the chicken (while dancing, of course), I asked her for tongs, or some other device to turn the chicken, she handed me two wooden spoons says, "African household, we cook with wooden spoons."
She was laughing and went on to say that she had been meaning to buy some, and just hadn't had the chance. I made due with the spoons. Cedric, Mr. Top Chef, just sat back and laughed.
Now it was time for the sofrito. I tore apart the kitchen looking for a can-opener.
"Umm . . . Sheila?"
She came into the kitchen and grabbed her "African" can-opener which consisted of a hammer and a really big knife.
Hey, don't knock it if you haven't tried it . . . it worked and that's what matters. 🙂
We invited a couple more people to our impromtu dinner party and (as always) had plenty of left-overs to send home with people. (Cedric's roommates called me later to ask when I was coming over to make more Cuban food.)
But from now on, I'm adding tongs and a can-opener to my little bag.