Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cereza!



When we first got here we Netflixed a movie called Sugar. I highly recommend it. It's about the experiences of a Dominican pelotero (baseball player) who is recruited to the minor leagues in the US. In one scene, the main character recalls getting a scar on his head as a child. He says he got the scar falling from a cherry tree. I remember when we were watching the movie I said, "They have cherry trees here?"

Indeed - we are now in cherry (cereza) season! I really wish I had a photo of the man who goes down a super busy street near our house with a rickety horse drawn carriage and wagon with cerezas overflowing. It's this unbelievable contrast of the modern with the old - like so many things here. When we go out - jugo de cereza has now been added to the list of fresh juices that the waiters list off for our boys when they order.

Yesterday, on the way home, stuck in the loco Dominican traffic a man was selling bags of cerezas. One large bag went for 100 pesos (about $2.50, but more like $1 in real value). He ended up giving me two bags for 150 pesos.
The bags were almost overflowing and filled the car with a thick, syrupy sweet smell. I was imagining cherry cobbler.

When we got home Vilma said, "I'll make juice!" I said we could do that, but to freeze half the cherries so I could use them later to make a cobbler. As soon as she started preparing them for juicing I realized that was not going to happen. I actually have a cherry pitter - a very handy little tool that I almost never use. But, I was surprised to find that the cherries had more than one pit! And, they are so small they popped right through the part of the pitter that is supposed to hold the fruit. So no cobbler for us - which is really okay because we are now less than one month away from Austin and the final stages of peach season which means peach cobbler…with BLUEBELL!!! Yippeee!


But - no worries! They are sweet and do make great juice. Interestingly, because of the seed and size issue, Vilma just dumped the whole fruit in the blender, chopped it up and then strained out the seed parts with a sieve. De-lish!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Where the Heart Is

My teenage neighbor - an FS child - has asked to videotape me for her theater project. I have apparently now reached the age where I can be considered an adult by high schoolers and therefore worth "interviewing." I'm not sure what this means considering I think she thought I was about eight years younger than I am, but anyway that's what's happening.

Tonight was the big interview. One of the questions was, "If you could have the perfect evening out what would it be?" Amazing - no matter where I am in the world - the answer is infinitely easy. Beer, chips, queso, tacos, live music, outside.

Life is picking up in pace here. We're feeling settled. We're both working. We have a great network of super cool friends. The boys love Vilma and are speaking killer Spanish. We are in love with our life. But…well, it's not really a "but," maybe more of an "and" my greatest moments lie in Texas food. In the end, even if for just a night, nothing will ever top my Austin comfort foods paired with the perfect bliss of rock-a-billy, hill country breezes and summer shooting stars. Maybe this is me beginning my R&R countdown.

The Small Stuff

My life is full of great and fantastic adventures. I frequently think, "Is this real?" So much of our FS life is big - big moves, big language adjustments, big pack-outs, big culture shock. I try not to get wrapped up in the big stuff. I am a constant observer of the small things - but not by nature - it takes practice. Having kids has helped. They always notice the little things and that helps me notice the little things too. Like yesterday.

Back in Austin it's a normal spring occurrence for oak pollen to collect on one's windshield. It's really ugly stuff - brown, bristly, dusty and hyper-allergenic. It's nasty. Sometimes, because I used to only wash my car twice a year (yes, that's right) I would find oak pollen from the prior spring collected in the nooks and crannies of the engine.

But, this is DR - no oak pollen. What did I find collected on the windshield along the wipers - a mango!! I had parked under a mango tree the other day. My four-year-old thought this was endlessly fantastic. He was speculating about how long it had been there (I am thinking it rode out three days). He couldn't wait to cut it open - although, he is not the biggest mango fan (it's the texture, I think). It was delicious!

Seriously! I live a life where mangos fall on my car and collect like autumn leaves…or Texas oak pollen. It's awesome….and perhaps provides a warning about parking under coconut palms.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

You Can Take the Boy Out of Texas



You see it above - we are first time recipients of "the drink order." Evidently, above all else, Americans abroad crave drinks from home. I am not sure if all posts do this, but here in Santo Domingo, twice (I think it's twice) per year you can look at a long list of things you might want to drink and order cases at US prices.

I hadn't planned to order drinks, but then I was in the AERA store one day and decided to browse through the list. That is when I saw the Dr. Pepper. Sodas are bad for you. I am the occasional Diet Coke drinker, but we very rarely buy sodas. But, Jeremy, born and raised in Texas, loves Dr. Pepper. I decided that he works so hard he should have this extra special treat from home. So, I ordered five cases.


So, now we have 118 cans of Dr. Pepper. It would have been 120, but two of the cans busted open in transport, so they replaced it with two cans of Diet Coke at my request. It may be an interesting study in consumption. I wonder what it will feel like to arrive at the end of 118 cans of Dr. Pepper and think, "I have consumed 118 cans of Dr. Pepper." Or, worse, "I have just added an additional 472 teaspoons of sugar to my life." Nice.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Meals

For many years, every Sunday morning I have taken a piece of paper and written the word "Meals" in the top right hand corner of the sheet. Then I start making my list of things we will eat for the following seven days. Usually, on the left hand side of the paper I start the list of things we need at the store. It usually reads something like, "milk, apples, bananas, yogurt, raisins, snacky things…"

However, since moving here the list has almost ceased to exist. It has been replaced by any number of lists on scraps of paper that subsequently collect in the bottom of my purse. These lists might say, "milk, culantro, ajo paste, perijíl" or "oranges, berengena, vainitas." Usually they are the result of me realizing in the morning that either Vilma or I are going to cook something and we are missing a handful of the specific ingredients.

Then yesterday happened. I knew we had to go shopping. Since I started work today there would be no last minute running to the store, no debating what to cook for dinner until 3:00 in the afternoon and no on-again, off-again veggie chopping breaks to draw the dinner preparations out over the course of the day. I went to the printer and pulled out a clean white sheet. I found a good pen. I wrote "meals" in the top right hand corner.

Then, I sat I looked at the page. There was so much pressure. I felt the draw of the "meals" heading, outlined by a neat rectangle and its history. My mind slipped right back to the old employed me - the me who loves to cook, but had stopped finding the time for meals that take more than 20 minutes.

I used to have a notebook in which I would write down our grocery lists every week. I rarely pulled out the old pages so they just stayed there. I was flipping through it one day last year and discovered that every week we bought exactly the same thing. And the meals varied between only about ten different things - fewer if you count veggie burgers with mushrooms and Swiss and veggie burgers with guacamole and pepper jack as the same essential meal.

I am happy to be back at work and so thrilled about this new endeavor. On day one, what does this mean for our meals, for the list? Well, the list looks like this: couscous, black bean tacos, pizza, pasta and (since no veggie burgers here) grilled cheese and salad. I'm glad I got that Eggplant Parmesan in while I had the chance. And, admittedly, it was great to see our oldest son delight in an old staple at dinner tonight - couscous with roasted almonds, feta and cranberries over a bed of greens. I thought it would feel disappointing, but we always ate those meals because they're tasty, healthy and easy. It was a quick, delicious dinner. Final verdict? Perfect. I feel in a weird way like this means we - the old two-working-parents we - have finally arrived. Like somehow this meal system reflects the real us, or something. Maybe it just symbolizes me as not being just EFM, but a more complete identity. And anyway, now I have a whole office to make cookies for…

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Branching Out

WOW - where to begin? So, I have been kind of silent the past week…or really, completely silent. I have had a busy week. A week that is certainly going to affect my blogging, my cooking and my eating. I now have a job!

How I came to have said job is really kind of a long and complicated story. I am still a little bit overwhelmed that it happened. I'll be busy. It's full-time and I will be traveling a couple of days per week. Does it say something about how much I have come to feel like For Lack of Tacos is part of my identity that some of my thoughts after I accepted the position were, "Ooo, local food to try in really local ways!" and "I bet I will get some great photos of fruit!"?

I start on Monday. The reason I was so busy the past week is because this was not the only job for which I had applied and one of the jobs required a lot of testing and coordinating and interviewing, all of which seemed to happen at once.

Now, back to food. What's to come of For Lack of Tacos? I'm not sure. I'll keep blogging, but it will be different I know. I won't have my leisurely mornings to walk the dog, do yoga and bake/cook before the boys come home. But, the rickety fruit stands with colorful vendors will only increase I'm sure. And, I will be doing habichuelas (beans) and arroz like there's no tomorrow on my visits to the campo so my boredom with Dominican food may change as I try new….types of beans? Maybe? Well, who knows about that one. For now, I'm not going anywhere. And, I kind of feel a new sense of energy and have a new perception about blogging. So, we'll see. We. Will. See.