Blog Archive

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Lenten Special

Last night Dawn's mom made nopalitos con camarones/cactus with shrimp. It's a traditional Mexican dish for Lent. She likes it better than chiles rellenos, which is also traditional but I think more work. Maybe it's a wash.

With chiles rellenos, you have to beat egg whites to make the coating in which you dip the chile. With nopalitos, if you buy the freshest cactus pads, you have to cut off the spines yourself. On Thursday night we were sitting at her kitchen table. I was eating the Subway sandwich I had just bought with Joey while she was peeling the spines off the cactus with a knife. She got pricked by a spine. I winced. She grimaced a little, but she pulled it out and went on. "It's worth it to have the fresh ones," she told me.

When I came back last night to try the final product, School Lady and three of her four daughters were over to visit. The nopalitos were all cut up into bite-size chunks and had been simmered in a red sauce with the shrimp. The shrimp was dried ground shrimp, which reconstitutes into a little patty.

School Lady's youngest, Miss Opinionated, did not like the shrimp. (Truth be told, neither did I, but Dawn's mom doesn't have to know.) "It's rubbery!" she said in English, assuming the grownups wouldn't understand except for me.

Her mom understands English well, though, and tried to shush her.

Miss Opinionated, however, was not to be silenced. "I put my spoon on it and it bounced back!" Fortunately, everyone else was talking in English and Spanish, and Dawn's mom was busy with her youngest, so I don't think it mattered.

Miss Opinionated's next oldest sister is my favorite of all four. Usually she is very quiet, but she wanted to tell jokes last night. First, she asked me if I had any, but I didn't (except probably dirty jokes) so I just said no. She told one that was a little risque--"It has a word I can't say in it," she explained. But she thought of a substitute. "Can I say 'butt'?"

I said that was OK. So here's the joke: three men have been captured by cannibals. The cannibals decide to torture them by putting various kinds of fruit up their butts. If they make any noise, the cannibals will eat them, but if they can endure it stoically, they will win their freedom. The first one has to take ten apples--he only gets to the third one before he screams and is eaten. The next one only has to take ten blueberries. He gets to nine, but then he starts laughing.

"Why did you do that? You almost won!" one of the cannibals asks.

"Look at the next guy," guy number two tells him. "He's getting pineapples."

There was a pineapple among the fruit in a bowl on the kitchen table, and for the rest of the night we all kept eyeing it and making jokes about it. That, and the two potatoes in the shape of hearts--really!--they were potatoes that hadn't quite split in two, and they both were truly heart-shaped. Angelito kept picking them up, marching around with them and sometimes handing them off to one of the many females keeping an eye on him. School Lady's oldest is good with him--she got him to fall asleep for a few minutes, anyway. Then he wanted back in the party, so out he came, stumbling across the dining room floor and wiping the sleep out of his eyes most determinedly.

Apparently some guy at the store was teasing Dawn's mom about love and extra hearts. That got all us hardened old ladies joking about how Dawn's mom doesn't need any love or extra hearts right now. I suggested she could give those potato hearts away and let someone else suffer.

Dawn's mother's personality is starting to reveal itself to me a little more. I have always found her hard to get to know. Some of it is language--she has the least English of anyone in the family. But some of it may be she's starting to spread her wings a little now that the mister is out of the house.

She cracked me up on Thursday night. Shortly after we got back from Subway, Joey asked me, "Does my mom look different to you?"

I really wasn't sure what I was supposed to see different at first. Still the same long dark hair in a loose ponytail down her back, still the same face. Then I noticed her shape. She had more of a waist than usual. I was trying to figure out how to say this nicely when she smiled and pulled up the side of her sweater to show the corset underneath. We all laughed.

"That would have been a lot of sit-ups," I said.

Last night she didn't bother--she was explaining our laugh from Thursday night to School Lady, so she pulled her shirt up a little to show no corset this time.

It was quite a hen party--three grown women, three girls and Angelito soaking up all that female attention. Joey hid out--he wrestled with School Lady's oldest when they first arrived but then he went back in his room with his music. Dawn was out--I didn't quite follow where, but her mom seemed to know where she was and didn't seem worried about her. So I just enjoyed my nopalitos con camaron with rice and tortillas.

No comments:

Windy Citizen Share