¿Cómo como lo que como?

Yes, it’s me again! This week was a little rough for me, but it started to get better. My kids were sick, and anyone who is a parent knows how that can be. But they are better now, and eating and running and wrestling with their father, which means we are back to normal (Gracias a Dios).

¡A comer!
¡A comer!

The other day I was sitting having lunch, and I thought that food is not the only thing that makes a Boricua special. I know for a fact that there are many things that make us special (and if we don’t see a reason, we will make one up), but in terms of food, it’s not only what we eat but how we eat it. I had a class in college that explained how what we eat and how we eat it is taught and learned. Let’s say for example that Juano was born in Puerto Rico, but adopted by a Chinese family. He moved to China and ate Chinese food (for them is just food since they are in China). Juano will learn to eat that type of food and he will learn how to eat it too. Food is not something we come to the world with, and like every other thing in life we have to learn to eat it and how to (this HOW thing is pissing me off already. Use another word man!).

Pa la dieta...
Pa la dieta…

My professor walked to the classroom one day with a ceramic plate, a fork and a knife. He placed it in his desk and asked us to tell him something we eat as Boricuas. We all agreed: white rice, habichuelas guisadas (stewed beans) and chuletas (pork chops) – with some amarillos on the side would be awesome, right! Anyway, he asked us: “what is the first thing we do when we have all in the plate?” “Eat”, “Say a prayer”, “Drool”. None of those is correct. The first thing we do as Boricuas – and in you are Boricua and never realized this or you are not Boricua and need to learn how we do it, the following will help – is to mix the rice and beans. Most of us Boricuas will mix the rice with the beans and then proceed to eat it. In my dad’s case, Ketchup is also an important part of the mix. We were all surprised of this discovery; something we do every day and were never fully aware of it.

Pupusas
Pupusas

“What do we do next?” “Eat some more because we already thanked God for it?”. No. We mix the whole thing one more time! “We do? I will be watching myself next time”. YES WE DO! Before we take the second bite, we mix the already mixed food one more time (just to make sure it’s mixed). We eat our chuletas and amarillos, but before we take a bite of the rice and beans, we mix it (maybe not every time, but 80% of the time). If you are in Puerto Rico, you will see every Boricua does it that way because we were taught to. Maybe our parents did not actually tell us it has to be done that way, but when we were kids they mixed it for us and we believe that way to be the correct one and sometimes we do it without even noticing (the same way being awesome is something normal for us Boricuas). If you are in Puerto Rico, but from another culture, when you get rice and beans, most likely you will eat the rice and then some beans without mixing it. Or if you have a Boricua friend with you, you will be asked something like “tu no lo vas a mezclar (aren’t you going to mix it)? As I said, it’s not only what we eat but how we eat it that makes us who we are. In El Salvador you just don’t take a Pupusa and eat it just like that; there is a process and a plate full of things to eat it with.

WHAT?!?!
WHAT?!?!

That day was an eye opener for many of us; we were able to see us, as a culture, in a complete new way. We were amazed, like when Neo was told he was in the Matrix (I love the movies, so what?), like when Harry met Sally for the second time (because it got normal after that), like when we learned that Bruce Willis was really dead all along in the Sixth Sense (no spoiler alert, I don’t care). Just take some time to watch yourself when you eat and watch others too (but don’t be too obvious because you may look weird) and you will see all the differences there are.

Remember to share this post and comment here to. If you want to give me an idea, or even want to write a post about Boricuas in this blog, send me the information to enlopositivo@gmail.com. Until next time, cójanlo suave!

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You are Boricua!

I was on the beach a couple of weeks ago with my family and my mother-in-law made arroz con pollo and took it to the beach. For us Boricuas that is a normal and expected thing to do when we go to the beach. I posted the pic in my blog and also in Facebook, and one of my friends commented that I should do a complete blog about stuff like that; things we do as Boricuas that are not normal for other cultures. But it will be better to do it as a list. Have you ever seen the comedian Jeff Foxworthy? He has a redneck list. For example, and this is something he has in his stand-up comedy shows, “If you have your working TV on top of your non-working TV, you might be a redneck”. I can easily change that to fit a Boricua. Here we go:

Why are you standing? We called first class!
Why are you standing? We called first class!

If you are at the airport waiting to board the plane, and once they start calling first class, all of you stand up and make a line even if you will be sitting at the tail of the plane…. YOU ARE BORICUA.

If you are in the States and find yourself taking pictures of squirrels… YOU ARE BORICUA (That’s how to tell who is Boricua in a group of people).

If you have been living outside of Puerto Rico for at least a week and you receive a package full of salchichas, sofrito and pasteles… YOU ARE BORICUA (Yes, a week).

Road trip!
Road trip!

If you are living outside Puerto Rico and you take a road trip, and pack bread, ham, cheese and some rice and beans for the trip… YOU ARE BORICUA (We all need our vitamins).

If there is a hurricane watch and you run to the store to get two boxes of beer, some ice and maybe some food… YOU ARE BORICUA (hydration is the key to survive).

If you go to NYC or New Jersey to visit family, and when you go back to Puerto Rico you start using “You know, you know” a lot… YOU ARE BORICUA.

If after that trip you think you should speak in English to veryone, even if you don’t know the language… YOU ARE BORICUA.

No brinques en la furnitura!
No brinques en la furnitura!

If you have family in NYC, New Jersey or Massachusetts and you understand when they say “Carpeta”, “Yalda”, “Furnitura”, “Factoría”, or “Norsa”…. YOU ARE BORICUA (For the rest of you who are still wondering what the hell is that, talk to a Boricua there and you will know).

If you think you know Spanish, but can’t understand half of the words a Boricua says in Spanish… YOU NEED TO HANG OUT WITH A BORICUA. I GUARANTEE YOU WILL HAVE A BLAST!!!!!!

Don’t forget to share this with your friends, Boricuas and non-Boricuas. Send me more of these examples, or add them here as a comment. Until next time, cójanlo suave!

Special Delivery

Is that time of the week again: time to see what this Boricua will tells us about the best culture in the world (Boricua, of course). At the end of last week, usually the time when my brainstorming begins, I had different topics for today’s discussion. But it was until Monday when I saw a picture posted by a friend of mine in Facebook that gave me the food to feed your minds (Ohhh, I’m a poet now).

GOYA, you owe me for this mention!
GOYA, you owe me for this mention!

As any culture out there, when Boricuas leave the Island looking for a better future (or running from an ugly present) we miss our family, friends and, today’s topic, our food. Here’s a story for you. I was an intern in Washington, DC back in 2000 (a week or so ago). As a regular Boricua, living and sharing every day with other Boricuas, we tried the best we could to find food in the supermarket that we used back in Puerto Rico. Adobo, for example, is seasoning for meat. We found it hard to believe there was no Adobo in the market in our building complex. How in God’s green earth you season the meat if you have no Adobo? You can use salt, pepper, spices and stuff, but still is no Adobo, c’mon! One day, one of the girls called us from her apartment and gave us the wonderful news that she was able to find Adobo, the real Adobo; the one God intended humans to have. We were happier than a five year old in Christmas. We went to her apartment and we finally had some real seasoned meat.

Sofrito
Sofrito

To continue the story, one day my mother sent me a package with home-cooked food, her food. Needless to say, it was a lot of food and I shared only some with my roommates. But in that same package there was SOFRITO (all in caps because is THAT important to us). It was like a better present in your neighbor’s house in Christmas; one of my roommates almost cried and we were dancing of joy all around the apartment. Ok, maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but we were happy. What is Sofrito? It is a mix of certain vegetables and stuff that we use mostly to make stews. What is a sancocho without sofrito? It is like El Gran Combo without Salsa, like Little Richard without the “Little”; just boring and tasteless food. Enough comparisons!

Need I say more?!
Need I say more?!

Now that we had sofrito, we could make lots of stuff, like rice and salchicha, or vienna sausage. But we had a problem: there were no salchichas Carmela around (that is a brand we have in Puerto Rico). Most likely it would taste the same, but we cannot tell our new non-Boricua friends to have Arroz con Salchichas and use any salchicha, you see. We tried the same place were the Adobo was bought, and we found it. We had a wonderful dinner that day, and even our new friends understood why we were so happy. We made some Mofongo and also had some seasoned meat. And on Thanksgiving, a group of around 18 Boricuas and 10-15 non Boricuas, we had Arroz con Gandules, Turkey, Mofongo, Pasteles and we had an awesome time.

I know that for every culture is basically the same: some make Mole, Salvadoreños eat Pupusas, and Venezolanos have Paloapique, and so on. And when you find yourself out of the country you were born and in which you had many experiences, you want to travel back even if it is with food. The smell of cooked food that it goes all through the house is amazing. And as Boricuas, when a bunch of us sit to eat, we own the place; we reminisce on the times we spent doing anything, about our neighborhood and when we were children. At that time, we travel back home and it does not hurt as bad to be somewhere else. And we try to do it again as much as we can.

Remember to share this post with your friends and family. You can comment in this post or email me at enlopositivo@gmail.com. Until next time, cómanlo suave (since we’re talking about food, you know!).

Image 2013-07-15PS. This is the picture that inspired this post. I want to thank Yahaira for this pic and the previous one, and whoever sent the package to her house.

¡Buen provecho!

This specific post may serve two purposes. First, if you enjoyed the adventure trip to Puerto Rico and are looking for something criollo (native to the Island and our people) to eat, this will help. And second, if you don’t know where to travel when time and money allow you to, the food issue will have you flying to Borinquen. Our food, as every place on this planet, is unique. The way it’s cooked, the taste, the look and the taste (yes, I said it already, but you have to understand it tastes great) makes our food one of a kind. There’s food that we eat all year ‘round, and there’s other that we eat more during the holidays.

The seasoning is one important part of our cooking. We don’t just add a little of salt and a little of pepper. We have specific seasoning or adobo (this is when I start with names of stuff in Spanish, so be ready for more) for every food. And what makes anything great? Sofrito, a mixture of herbs and stuff… (bottom line, sofrito is great, Google it if you need more info). That’s one of our secrets that every one knows about. Rice with beans, add some sofrito. Rice with chicken (arroz con pollo, my moms best dish), of course there is sofrito in it. And so on with many of our dishes (now I’m craving arroz con pollo). 

MofongoGallery

 Let’s pretend for a second you arrived to Puerto Rico and are hungry. You could eat some BK, or Mickie D’s, or the red-haired girl with pony tail (and YES, we have those “restaurants” here too) but you want to taste some awesome food. “Where should we go?”, you ask your friend. The answer, Piñones! A place in Carolina really close to the beach, near the Aiport, where greasy, tasty food is served. Seafood, land food, pinchos (Shish Kabob, but tastier) and mofongo (fried plantain) is in every menu. Let’s take a minute and explain mofongo to you. One of my friends from Washington, DC tasted mofongo once and said it tasted like potato. We did not like that comparison (really, potato?), but we understood that we have to compare new food to the one we already know. Some mofongo with chicken or shrimp, served in a pilón (once again, Google it) or served plain with some steak and mayo-ketchup (that’s an easy one, c’mon). Mofongo was made on the third day when God wanted some great food, really (it’s a joke. I hope no one gets offended)! We can spend this whole post in Piñones, but we have some other places to go.

IMG_0239Enough mofongo for now, lets move a little bit to the center of the Island (I will only read this post once since is making me hungry), Cayey. There is a part of the town of Cayey known as Guavate where the main attraction is rotisserie pork (lechón asao’). It’s a pork, a full grown pork… here’s the picture, it’s easier that way. And it’s served in many different ways: with some tostones, guineos, or some rice with pigeon peas (arroz con gandules) and morcillas (this is one you have to Google because I refuse to explain how it’s done). And make sure to get that down with some beer, juice or water (even the bottled water is great). That’s not even where the fun is. Guavate, other than the food, has a great atmosphere. There is always music everywhere, people are always happy and there is someone weird enough to make you have a good time. You will see people in Jeeps, some will arrive in horses (a lot of people will arrive in horses), but what is sure is that you will have a great time on a great weather.

I can go on, and on, and on (you get the point) about the food of Puerto Rico. But this blog will not be enough to cover it all. Just remember to ask the locals when you travel to the Island or your Boricua friends to cook something for you. You can ask for alcapurrias, bacalaitos, mondongo… If you what to eat some Christmas specials (other than arroz con gandules), ask for some pasteles (that is not cake in Spanish), tembleque, arroz con dulce, and a whole lot of stuff that we eat and prepare fried and with love (no other combination is better).

Feel free to share with us some other food that I know I missed in this post, or foods that you cook in your culture or family. Remember to share this post and, if this is the first one you are reading, check my first two posts and share them too. I have no idea what I will write about next time. But knowing us Boricuas, there is a lot to tell. Until then, cójanlo suave (you should know what this means)!