viernes, 9 de noviembre de 2007

why ravioli? why green?

My mother was known by all to be a foodie. When it came to conquering her Everest, a lack of an ingredient was not going to stop her!

Like all great masters, her food evolved as she did. Picasso had a blue period, Nené had a pasta period. And just like the tiny Spaniard with a talent bigger than him… her creations where sometimes too much for the common people to grasp… or eat.

Pasta had to be made from scratch, real Italian chefs don't use Buitoni. Noodles, gnocchi, lasagna all went through her miracle maker machine, sometimes too thick, others just perfect. And so it came the inevitable, we all knew we had it coming, it was time to make raviolis.

With the steady hand a painters acquire after drawing fifty pair of eyes in a single sitting, my mother delivered the pasta in record time, smooth, perfect; but then she realized that her eagerness for starting her new culinary project had overshadowed one little fact… there was nothing to stuff those tiny pillows with.

I, like every time she went into one of her creative spells in the kitchen, was too afraid to even show my head in her domain, mainly because the unspoken treat of having me wash the dishes; so I tried to make myself invisible, and left her alone on her search for the perfect stuffing.

I should have helped her, I knew she struggled with the Tupperware, jars and “a date is only a number” leftover food in the refrigerator. But I was too afraid, anyone that has been in her kitchen in the middle of one of her projects knows that all math logic was cast aside when it came to food… in fact secretly awaiting for a call from some Nobel wining mathematician inquiring about the fourteen dirty pots for a five ingredient recipe “mystery” we had in 2004.

And so, when she called me to dinner, the guilt left no other choice, I had to sit down with her, and be the first human subject to try her new concoction. As any one that has gone willingly to the guillotine, I walked to that table with fear so big it gave me a rigid expression that could have mistakenly been confused with pride. I got to the chair as my knees buckled, just in time to save my butt from hitting the floor. And then I waited.

One plate was put in front of me, the other accompanied her to her side of the table, and with it in front of her she proudly stared at me waiting for that first taste like a kid who knows that his all A score card is coming. The smell was intoxicating, béchamel with a little bit of nutmeg (yes, nutmeg), who knew, maybe this was going to be a pleasant experience after all. And so I proceeded to “dissect” the first little sucker, searching for the mysteries guarded under that pasta belly. With a swift stroke one ravioli had now become two, showing unceremoniously a greenish/blue color of what my mother confirmed after looking at my puzzled stare: “Blue cheese!”.

I did not remember having any blue cheese in the house, but she was resourceful, so I happily dug in as my fears evaporated and took that first bite. But oh, the horror… she had mastered the fine art of packing a filthy stable, smell and all, into a 1.5 inch square, and now she was waiting for my nod of approval to have her taste of It's-Royal-Nastiness,-the-Crowned-Prince-of-Ravioli-Hell. What could a good daughter do?!?! And so I gave her whilst trying to swallow that thing without it touching my tongue one more time.

She was happy, pleased, and so she dug in. For a slip second I was hopeful, maybe she wouldn't notice and her feelings will be spared, but I thought to soon. My grandma's words “You can cheat others, but not yourself” came to mind as Nené graciously took her napkin and to spit that Italian-Dominican cyanide.

And then a scream… “Damn nutmeg!”. She took both our plates back to the kitchen as I followed trying to comfort her. I took a chance, I knew I was just a finger painter talking to DaVinci, but I said: “I don't think it's the nutmeg". She turned her back to me, incredulous, everything was perfect, it had to be that tiny spec of nut dust; and quietly threw away the hard “food” of her labour.

I turned around heading for the dinning room, and just as I was about to leave I saw it… sitting there, amongst the flour dust and leftover dough was an empty wooden Camembert container, and it all became clear. “Mom” I said “Are you SURE we had blue cheese?”. With that words the Devil awaked, how dare I, a single mortal, question her!. “It's just that… err” I stumbled “Was the cheese you used blue or green?”. It took a few seconds, but I think she got it also, because the first words out of her mouth were: “Mamita (endearing term she used with me only when she had done something wrong), can you please bring me my glasses?”.

And so, as she carefully inspected that round wood box she realize that overdue greenish Camembert, although it might look the part, could never be Blue Cheese.

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