I’m in D.C. visiting my parent’s. Again.
And it’s all wonderful, especially because I decided that I was going to spend two days relishing in all the things that make our home a fun, exciting, unique and welcoming one. Trust me when I tell you there is never a dull moment in this house.
My brother came up from Miami this past weekend and we celebrated Mami’s 60th birthday all over since he wasn’t here in May. It was pure madness. All the kids, grandkids, nephews, nieces, 7 dogs, the girlfriends and wives and mami’s relentless desire to feed us from the moment she opens her eyes.
Some would say it’s pretty pathetic. But it’s the way we function.
The kitchen door stays open, the espresso machine(s) has seen its day, the domino table needs fixing. Actually, we could benefit from a new one. And I think I might upgrade mami’s stove to a gas range. For year’s she’s been cooking on electric and I can’t stand it. Not to mention one of them is out!
That’s a whole other issue I don’t understand and won’t waste my time (or my dad’s) trying to figure out. It’s her kitchen after all.
While any given day kinda takes its course as it will, breakfast is that moment that sets the tone for our personal interaction. For us, it’s not planned or fancy, it just happens. And it’s usually the simplest form of satisfaction, requiring little effort and few ingredients or props.
It’s the best, no-fuss breakfast a busy family could have.
So, I decided Mami and I would make breakfast this morning. And then eat it on the deck. The sun was out, nice and bright with our willow tree hanging its branches over our umbrella.
Without a doubt, you know there is the tasita de café, which is the most important detail to enjoying a great breakfast. Without it, it’s not right. Not having it is the biggest faux pas. When getting ready to have your sip, you can’t just pour espresso into your demitasse. There’s a process, which is why it’s the most critical element on the table. You have to make espumita first; the foam if you will. And, it’s a trick not everyone I know has mastered.
It’s a matter of taking a bit of sugar and adding the 1st drippings of the espresso into a larger cup and whipping it with all of your vigor until you yield a lovely and fluffy layer of caramel colored foam. You then pour the rest of the coffee into the foam and you will end up with a lovely taza of espresso with a beautiful head of foam.
Practice making it!
The second most essential portion of our breakfast is toast. Yup. Just a piece of toast with butter slathered all on it! No jam, jelly or preserves. Just pan tostado con mantequilla. In this case, it has to be pan cubano, the ultra delicious crusty bread I encourage all of you to try if you’ve never. It’s the same bread we use to make the famous Cuban Sandwich. Any Cuban home you have the delight of breaking bread in — no pun intended — will have a few whole loaves. We cut a good 6″ piece, slice it in fours and toast it.
So damn good, I could eat an entire loaf on my lonesome. Don’t mind the calories or carbs. If you care about those things when eating a Cuban breakfast, surely you’re so far removed from the culture that you probably can’t even appreciate the simplicity of sitting on the deck with the family and sipping perfectly sweetened café.
That’s pretty much it. Toast and café.
But, sometimes we like to infuse our Spanish background (oh yeah, my paternal grandmother’s blood line is Spanish—but then again Cuban food is comprised of Spanish, African and French cuisine). So, we like to have a tortilla, a really nice, thick one. I’ve shared one or two with you guys. While the plantain one is my all time favorite and the single one I would fight over, a plain one with onions is the default choice for a morning desayuno. Sometimes, small chunks of white potato adds lovely texture and a different flavor profile.
Mami made it this morning and I just snuck over her shoulder to watch her in action….she does everything with such ease and precision without ever measuring– a bad cooking technique I’ve learned from her but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work!
The Spanish-style omelette was beautiful. It was fluffy and wonderfully, yet simply seasoned with sea salt and onions. That’s it. In Spain, it’s what you find on every street corner, what you have for breakfast every day and what you love to eat just because.
And lastly, some ham. Good LAWD— the one meat that defy’s my eating capacity. I passed on it, but sliced it up for her and plated it. She laughed all the way to the deck while I gasped at the though of her gnawing Calabrese salami and prosciutto. But it makes her most happy and when Mami is happy, I’m happy.
There are few things that are more special than taking some time to break bread and enjoy delicious food that’s always cooked with mucho amor. The food always tastes better and stays with you all day!
By the end of this post, we’ve both had 3 tazitas de cafecito! Ay que rico!
* this post on culture and traditions is part of my participation in the Latina Smart campaign and as such, is sponsored.
SIMPLE SPANISH-STYLE OMELETTE
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 white onion, minced
- 1.5 tbsp. butter
- salt and pepper to taste
Whisk eggs in medium bowl. In medium non-stick skillet (about 8") heat butter and sauté onions. Add onions to egg. Add salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture into same skillet and cook on each side until light golden brown. Serve on plate and cut into 4 triangles.