In my early teens, I started experimenting with different ways to “improve” on flavors of the foods I had, growing up at home. Check out Part 1 of My Life with Food here http://www.hluizpresents.com/2010/07/09/my-life-with-food-the-beginning/
My father, may he rest in peace (until my mother gets there jajajajajajajaja – go Golden Girls) was my first-ever cheerleader. My most vivid memory of his encouragement had to be when I made him garlic mash potatoes. He loved instant mashed potatoes for whatever reason and so I decided to add carnation milk (we didn’t have cream) instead of water, a little garlic powder, and dried parsley flakes…he went over the moon. My mother then said that the next time she were to go food-shopping, she’ll pick up another box of the instant potatoes for me to whip up another batch.
I pointed out that a bag of potatoes cost just as much as a box of instant and could she please pick that up instead. She then asked if I needed some more Carnation milk as well. Carnation evaporated milk was used for coffee in our house – it’s creamier and cheaper than cream and my father had a strong affectation to evaporated milk…could drink it right out the can. I said no, but then asked “How about buttermilk?” She looked at me like I was crazy. Buttermilk was not something we were accustomed to in my childhood home. I really had no idea what it was. Actually, I figured it was “milk” flavored with butter and I thought it would give my potatoes a buttery taste – that was my 13 year-old logic anyway. She said yes to the potatoes and fresh parsley and no to the buttermilk, but she would buy a small container of cream. Fine.
The day came…I started cutting clean potatoes into quarters. I placed my potatoes in a pot of cold, salted water – not because I “knew” to do so, but I was afraid of boiling water (my left shoulder was accidentally scolded by boiling water at my best-friend’s house.) Once tender, I placed the potatoes in a bowl, added black pepper, a quarter stick of butter, and I took a fork and broke up those potatoes. I added some cream (thanks Mami) and some fresh parsley (or what I “thought” was parsley – it was actually cilantro) my mother had on hand to make her fresh sofrito. I believe I added more salt and pepper and probably some garlic powder and a dusting of paprika on top. It didn’t know how it was going to taste (tasting while cooking came much, much later) but it sure did look good! My mother made her fried chicken and I’m sure we had our typical salad (white onion, quartered tomatoes, and avocado slices with red-wine vinegar and oil.) We also had a pot of Arroz con Gandules, just in case the potatoes did not work out.
My father took a forkful of my mashed potatoes – I held my breath. I watched as he took another forkful and then another. The table fell silent, but was that a good sign or a bad one? He smiled that wonderful smile of his and he looked right at me and said, “Wow…Luizito!” Then he took another forkful of those glorious potatoes and smiled all through dinner. My mother nodded her head in agreement. I was so happy!
Then I tasted it. It was…well, it was kinda…I mean…they were, uhm…they sorta…they were okay – just okay.
The potatoes were over-boiled and over-whipped and the parsley turned out to be cilantro. Actually the cilantro was not too bad, but I used too much (cilantro can be very overpowering in a dish.) The sodium level – arrghhhhhh, way too much garlic powder and salt. They mashed potatoes were okay, they really were – but those damn instant potatoes that I cooked up nights prior really did taste better.
However, my father sat there with those olive-green eyes of his and told me that those were the best mashed potatoes he has ever tasted in his entire life! Mami said that they were good too and then asked in Spanish, “So, who wants some rice and peas?” All of us shouted, “Meeeee!”
I strongly believe that cooking foods to make family happy was born on that day…Thanks Nary!!