In the first few years of my family’s exile, we still had high hopes that that whole pesky revolution nonsense would quickly blow over. Every year around the holidays we would make our Cuban egg nog, which we call Crème de Vie (or Crema de Vie - “the cream of life”).
Every year we would raise our glasses at our Nochebuena celebration and toast:
“El año que viene estamos en Cuba.”
My family continued hoping and toasting year after year after year.
And time marched forward.
We grew up.
We had children.
My parents grew old.
My dad passed away.
Every year during the holidays we make the Crème de Vie.
So much life has happened, and so many years and hopes have come and gone and still we toast:
“Next year we’ll be in Cuba.”
The toast has taken on a life of its own even though it has lost much of its original meaning. But we continue to make the Crème de Vie, and we continue to toast. It’s one of my very favorite Cuban Christmas traditions.
I just made the first batch of Crème de Vie for this holiday season. My daughters helped make and bottle it and, of course, we had to try it. I was about to recite the usual toast, when a new and unexpected hope clutched at my heart and brought tears to my eyes.
I raise my glass to you all with this toast:
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 6 egg yolks
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- ½ cup white rum
1) Mix the sugar and water together over very low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves – about 3 minutes. It has to be just low enough so that the sugar doesn’t carmelize, but makes a thick sugary water.
2) Put the egg yolks in a blender and mix with the condensed milk.
4) Flavor with the vanilla.
5) Pour the mixture into the sugar-water and mix together.
6) Finally stir in the rum (as a preservative. =D)