Years ago, my big, fat, Cuban family moved to a sleepy peanut-butter-and-jelly neighborhood in Anaheim, California. Our house was at the end of a cul-de-sac where the other families had been living forever. They had their own neighborhood traditions, including a 4th of July Block Party. Life was predictable and quiet and everyone liked it that way, thank-you very much.
And then…. The Cuban Family moved in.
We had moved in at the beginning of summer and were still unpacking boxes when the invitation came. We were invited to participate in the Annual 4th of July Block Party and Potluck.
“Potluck?” (actually it sounded more like “PAAT – LOK?” but that’s not important right now.) My mom didn’t understand. “Que es eso?” (“What is that?”)
We tried to carefully explain that everyone in the neighborhood literally brought something to the table. We would share the food. Everyone was expected to bring something.
“De todo un poco.” My dad simplified. (“A little bit of everything.”)
My mom took great pains deciding what she would make to share with our new neighbors. And if it was something to be shared as part of celebrating this great country’s independence, well, it should be something Grand. Possibly even Regal.
She took great care in her preparations. Like our adopted country, The Dish was to be something Magnificent, (not to mention delicious), it had to be Cuban, and it was meant to impress. She wanted to give our neighbors the very best The Cuban Family had to offer. It took a while to prepare (I have l shortened the recipe since then), but the outcome was well worth it.
We made a wonderful impression. As it turned out, The Cuban Family was generous and welcoming and so patriotic! Who knew? ;-)
What did she finally make for the potluck? Well, my mom made Arroz Imperial. And it was such a hit that she made it every single 4th of July for the next twenty years. The neighbors came to look forward to her signature dish. In fact, from then on, she would only make it for the Annual 4th of July Block Party and Potluck.
I offer it to you today in Remembrance and with the thought that this is what makes America great:
“De todo un poco.”
I will NEVER forget.