Greetings from sunny south Florida. I am back in my old stomping grounds, visiting my aunt in Miami.
I am doing the oh-she’s such-a-nice-daughter thing, driving my elderly parents into the city from Chattanooga. They get to spend the week catching up with family and friends, or as we Cubans tend to call it: Straight up gossip!
Yeah I get brownie points for driving them around the city. But, better yet, I get a chance to truly get my taste buds back in alignment and —wait for it — eat authentic Cuban food!
Every Cuban bakery and lunch stop between Little Havana and Homestead better stock up. I’m bringing my appetite and it won’t be pretty.
I’m also looking forward to sitting with my aunt and picking her brain for the recipe of my all-time favorite dessert — flan (it’s a baked caramel custard and yummy).
My aunt makes it from scratch. It contains a lot of things that are likely too sweet and too fattening but I don’t care!
From here on out I am going to follow my aunt’s and my grandmother’s example on longevity and stop giving a poop.
It’s bad for you — I don’t care!
It will shorten your life — I don’t care!
It will make you fat — I don’t, err, shut up!
My aunt is 90 years old, goes to church every Sunday, can cuss like a sailor (when mad), can put down large plates of food (every day), speaks her mind (often and loud) and can put away more booze than I can in a sitting (And if you read my columns, you know that’s a lot of booze).
I have meet my grandmother once a brief period when she visited Miami in the 1980s. Back then, some relatives were granted temporary entry into the U.S. through visitor visas. She was elderly then. Years later, when grandma was in her late 90s she broke her hip. The doctor in Cuba told her she needed to start taking better care of herself and lay off the cigars, booze and fried foods she’s lived off for nine decades.
My understanding is that my grandmother laid into that doctor something to the effect of, "Are you freaking kidding me? I’m freaking 93 years old. Why the hell would I stop now you dumb jerk? For what, my health?"
(OK all my Latino friends read that sentence again but this time in Spanish and fill in the curse words…you know the ones).
Grandma, cussed, drank her fair share of wine and booze, smoked her cigars and ate whatever she wanted until she died at the age of 102.
So this week I’m going to sit down with my aunt. We are going to get drunk together (not the first time, nor will it be the last). She is going to show me how to make flan and I am going to eat all of it.
And when that’s gone, I’ll go with mom and dad and visit my cousins, several of whom are chefs.
Most of the relatives I speak of are on my dad’s side of the family. Many on my mom’s side are still in Cuba or elsewhere in the U.S. but we have yet to meet.
Come to think of it, all of the relatives on dad’s side are loud (But that is a Cuban gene. If you aren’t loud we question whether you’re family). They all drink copious amounts of booze (but only at parties and yeah they have a party or two every week) and seem to live to a ripe old age. Last year at our first-ever family reunion my dad’s older cousin turned 96 and he’s still with us today.
So heck yeah. I am packing my XXXL T-Shirt and all my stretchy pants for this visit. I plan to shovel in as many Cuban meals as I can to include ample servings of flan.
Here’s to a week of feasting followed by the month long feeling of guilt that will likely hit me upon my return and step on the scale. But for now, just for this week — I don’t care!