Sopa de Pollo Salvadoreña

Sopa de Pollo Salvadoreña

Carlos has been sick for a week, and on Friday he was so sick that he even took off work. I’ve been doing every home remedy I know of to make him better – Vicks Vaporub on the feet before bed, honey lemon tea, vaporizers, vitamin C, and just plain old bed rest, but nothing seemed to help very much. (I did all these remedios caseros on myself too for prevention and so far, so good.)

On Saturday Carlos asked me to make him Sopa de Pollo, but he didn’t want the Bolivian Chicken Soup recipe I always use. He asked if I’d try to make Salvadoran Chicken Soup “with lots of vegetables” this time. Obviously he was needing a little extra apapachamiento! Of course I always love making a new Salvadoran dish and seeing the way his eyes light up when it’s a success, so I did some research, looked at a handful of recipes, and then headed to the grocery store to get what I needed.

Before the soup was even ready, Carlos was getting excited. He kept calling out to me from the living room where he was on the sofa covered in a blanket, “It smells so good. It smells like I remember…” Then when it was ready, I put the bowl before him at the table and he smiled, “It looks like how I remember!” … Then he tasted it, and I’m not exaggerating, he stood up, kissed me (on the neck so I wouldn’t get his germs) and told me he loved me. Jajaja.

Here’s my recipe in case you know a sick salvadoreño or salvadoreña who could use a little “TLC”, (Cuidado amoroso y tierno.)

Sopa de Pollo Salvadoreño

You need:

10 chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
3 corn cobs, broken in half
1/2 1 small cabbage, cut in chunks
cilantro
basil, (fresh, not dry)
2 to 3 celery stalks with leaves
2 cups baby carrots, (or cut up carrots)
3 green onions, (roots cut off)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 small potatoes, cut into bite-size chunks
1 small zucchini, skin removed and chopped in bite-size pieces
1/2 cup uncooked rice or small pasta like “conchitas” (little shells)
1 tsp. salt, plus to taste
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. achiote (ground annatto)

Directions:

1. Assemble and prepare all your ingredients, (wash and chop vegetables, etc.)

Note: I used all boneless, skinless chicken thighs because Carlos prefers dark meat and it gives the stock a better flavor, but you can use a whole chicken cut in pieces (remove skin – bones optional as some people like to “chupar el hueso”), or substitute some chicken breasts. As for the vegetables, feel free to experiment. For example, some people use yucca instead of potatoes, and some add chayote/güisquil, broccoli, cauliflower, and/or green pepper.

2. In a large stock pot over medium high heat, add the chicken plus enough water to cover by about 2 inches.

3. Add to the pot: a handful of cilantro, a handful of basil, celery stalks with leaves, garlic, tomatoes, green onions, 1 tsp. salt, cumin, pepper, and achiote.

4. Simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked. Use a slotted spoon to remove and then discard the cilantro, basil, celery, tomatoes and green onions. Use a small sieve to skim off any foam.

5. Add the rice (or pasta), corn cobs, potatoes, and carrots. Cook covered until rice is cooked and vegetables are tender.

6. Remove cover. Add cabbage and zucchini. Simmer for a minute or two and then remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly and then taste. Add additional salt as desired. (I prefer to let each person add more salt to their own individual portion.)

7. Ladle into bowls and top with cilantro if desired. (I like to eat all the meat and vegetables out of it and then eat the broth with crushed Ritz crackers.)

Buen provecho!

Hand it Over: Cultural Differences in Giving

Image source: Ian Sane

Image source: Ian Sane

After 15 years of marriage, Carlos and I have both compromised a lot. Some of the compromises are not on personal preferences, but on cultural differences – which tend to be a bit more complicated to sort out. Sometimes the belief in the rightness of our own way of doing something is so strong that our kids are forced to navigate two different responses to the same situation, depending on which parent they’re interacting with. (Such is the life of a bi-cultural child!)

An excellent example of cultural differences Carlos and I still haven’t quite hammered out yet – the art of giving something to somebody. This may be something you do on a daily basis and you don’t think twice about how you do it – but in our household, you must.

You see, in the United States, when giving something to someone in a casual environment, (at home with one’s family), it’s quite normal to toss the item to the person requesting said item. A roll of toilet paper, a towel, a pillow, an apple, the remote control, a chancla – all of these things are appropriate for tossing. Obviously one wouldn’t toss anything that could be easily damaged or spilled, but everything else is fair game.

In El Salvador, (at least according to Carlos), such casual tossing of items is disrespectful to the person receiving the item. I can understand in formal situations. I can understand not tossing something, perhaps, to a grandmother or a visiting guest – but to close family? At home? Something completely unbreakable? Carlos believes in absolutely no tossing whatsoever of anything to anyone at any time, and gets highly offended just seeing it happen, even when he’s not involved.

This leaves my children with an unspoken set of rules to follow:

1. Tossing to mom = OK
2. Tossing to dad = forbidden
3. Tossing to mom in front of dad = forbidden

When Carlos isn’t home and the boys and I are watching T.V., I might say, “Hey, could you toss me a pillow?” – One of the boys will then literally toss me a pillow. No big deal.

When Carlos is home and we’re all gathered in the living room to watch a movie, I might make the same request. (I’m always needing pillows for some reason.) The boys, knowing Carlos is right there, will get up and hand it to me. If the boys forget and toss the pillow to me, no matter how gently, Carlos will say, “Hey! Get up and hand it to her. You know I don’t like that.” And whichever son threw it to me will have to get up, take the pillow back, and hand it to me properly.

My only other encounter with “the art of giving” was in Tae Kwon Do classes. My masters (teachers) were Korean and in Korean culture it’s also rude to toss things – particularly to someone older than yourself. Not only that, but it’s considered disrespectful and insulting to hand things to someone, or receive things from someone, with only one hand. If you’re younger, (or lower ranking in some way, like if you’re giving something to a boss), you should be holding the item with two hands when you give it to them. If the item is very small, it’s permitted to hold it in your right hand while supporting the forearm with the left hand. (This also applies to handshakes!)

What have been your experiences in “the art of giving”? What cultural differences still cause problems in your bi-cultural household?

¡Vamos USA!

USA-familia-2

Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign in collaboration with Crest® and Latina Bloggers Connect. All opinions are my own.

The tagline of Crest®’s current campaign is “Más lejos llega tu equipo, más cerca estás” and it’s totally true; with each game, our familia gets closer – not just physically during goal celebrations which turn into hugging-jumping-up-and-down-mini-fiestas, but we’ve had a great time bonding and creating traditions.

I always say I’m not superstitious, and I often tease Carlos because he’s very superstitious, but I have a few “traditions” which make me feel more confident about my team winning a game.

When Mexico was still in, my tradition was to put a can of sweet peas next to the television. My kids were confused the first time until I explained that in Spanish, sweet peas are called “chícharos” – and Chicharito’s nickname is “little pea.” Now it all made sense! (Well, sort of. It still might be a little weird.)

peas

When the US team plays, first of all, everyone in the family is required to wear their American flag T-shirt, (we still need to invest in the official jersey now that, thankfully, the team no longer looks like Where’s Waldo.)

Second, we eat hot dogs during every game the United States plays. I like to make my hot dogs sort of “Sonoran style” with a slice of bacon, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, chopped tomato, onion and jalapeño on a bun which I toast for a few seconds on the comal. They’re delicious, but after eating them, your breath will be kicking.

After I finish my hot dogs I usually run off for a minute to brush my teeth, (and hope I don’t miss any of the action!) Since I signed up for this campaign, I bought Crest® Complete + Scope because I wanted to make sure it’s a good product, and that’s the toothpaste I’ve been using. It’s kind of awesome that it’s an “all in one” toothpaste. Not only does it whiten teeth, fight cavities, and prevent tartar, but it has mouthwash built right into it so you don’t knock out any of your family members yelling “¡GOOOOOOOOOOL!”

If you want to #CelebrateCloser and give Crest® Complete + Scope a try, here’s some coupons! (Click here!)

What are your family soccer traditions? How do you celebrate during fútbol games, and which teams are you cheering on? … We can’t wait for today’s game at our house. ¡Vamos USA!

A Garden for la Virgen de Guadalupe

The garden before we fixed it up.

The garden before we fixed it up.

As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

Many years ago my suegra brought a very large statue of the Virgen de Guadalupe into our household. At the time I wasn’t happy about it because it was extremely large and she expected us to display it in the middle of our small living room. We ended up putting the statue in a garden on the side of our house, and that’s where it’s been ever since.

Over the years Carlos and I both became fond of the statue, (although we’re happy with its outdoor location and don’t regret putting it there) and this year we decided we should give a little more care to the neglected garden we put her in.

virgin-garden-BEFORE-2

I spent hours at Lowe’s trying to decide what I wanted to plant in the garden. We knew we needed top soil, so that went onto the cart first, but then I took forever choosing flowers.

Roses seemed a logical choice because of the story of the Virgen de Guadalupe, but I was a little intimidated by the thought of caring for them. It’s been a couple months now since we planted the roses though, and I have to say, they really haven’t been difficult. If you’ve always wanted to plant roses but have been worried you’ll kill them, I recommend buying some and giving it a try.

Carlos says I have a “good hand” with the plants, (that’s a direct translation of “buena mano” in Spanish – which is like saying someone has a green thumb), but it isn’t true. I’m not a great gardener and I’ve had things die before – a lot of the time I think I just get lucky, but really, the roses haven’t been a challenge at all.

Besides the roses, I thought it would be nice to plant rosemary. I love the smell of rosemary and the way the herb looks – but planting the rosemary was also symbolic. During the Salvadoran civil war, there was a Catholic archbishop named Oscar Romero. He was an outspoken defender of the people and it ended up costing him his life. “Romero” is how you say “rosemary” in Spanish.

For added color I chose some heather and snapdragons. Finally! All done and ready to get to work, right? Not quite. As we were getting ready to head to the check-out, a big spiky plant caught my eye.

“This looks kind of like Flor de Izote,” I said, calling Carlos over. Carlos inspected it. “It is,” he said, “That’s Flor de Izote.”

Flor de Izote! The national flower of El Salvador.

Flor de Izote! The national flower of El Salvador.

I checked the tag on the plant, (carefully because the leaves are very sharp!) and it was labeled “Variegated Spanish Dagger.” A quick check of the internet via my smartphone, and I found that these most likely are the same plant, or at least are closely related. (Any botanists out there who can verify?)

Flor de Izote went onto the cart. Instead of planting the Flor de Izote directly in the ground, I thought it would be nice to have it in a pot. Luckily, I spotted these beautiful pots made in Mexico. We hurried out of Lowe’s before I bought enough plants to rival the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.

pots-at-lowes-for-gardening

Back at home, we unloaded the supplies and got down to work.

lowes-garden-supplies

pullingoutplants-garden

I don’t have any fancy step-by-step directions this month. We pulled everything out of the garden besides a large bush and the statue itself, then added some fresh top soil. I set the plants out, (still in their pots), to see how they looked in different locations. When I settled on the layout I liked, we dug the holes and planted them.

One thing I was still not satisfied with was the fact that you could see the ugly yellow gas line. Stacking some old cement patio pavers and putting the Flor de Izote on top helped, but Carlos ended up going back to Lowe’s and buying a white plastic lattice screen to help further disguise it.

virgin-garden-2

We’re really happy with how it turned out and we visit that side of the yard almost daily to check on things, water flowers if it hasn’t rained, (and sometimes fix things up. Our dog Chico has stepped on a few of the snapdragons and broken them. I also caught him trying to eat a rose one day.) If my suegra were here and she caught Chico in the garden, I can imagine her reaction and it makes me smile; she would chase him out of there, waving her hands as if to smack him, maybe with a chancla held high. She would almost certainly yell “¡Chhhhhht! Chucho condenado!” and then walk away muttering…”Ay, qué pecado…”

virgin-garden-3

Do you have a Virgen de Guadalupe garden? What did you plant in it?

Want more creative ideas?

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Pachamama

pachamama1
Image source: Dauro Veras

This morning when I remembered it was Earth Day, I started thinking about the concept of “Mother Earth” or “Madre Tierra” – and this in turn reminded me of a word I have always loved – Pachamama. Since it’s Earth Day, this is actually an excellent day to learn, “What or Who, exactly, is Pachamama?”

First, what does “Pachamama” mean, and where does the word come from? Pachamama is an Aymara and Quechua word commonly translated to “Mother Earth” but there isn’t really an exact equivalent in English or Spanish. While “mama” means mother, in Aymara and Quechua, the word “pacha” means far more than “earth” – the word also encompasses the cosmos, universe, time, and space. (On a personal note: I find it interesting that the word “pacha” in Salvadoran slang, which typically comes from Pipil/Nahuat, means “baby bottle” – So it’s another sort of mothering/nurturing word. I wonder if they’re related?)

Pachamama is a goddess of the Inca people and is adored in various areas of Latin America – primarily in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, but also in parts of Chile and Argentina.

pachamama2
Image source: ImagenesDeOcasion

Here are a few quotes about Pachamama that I found interesting:

“It is often difficult for an outsider to understand the devotion of the indigenous people for Pachamama…the principal deity of Andean religion. Pachamama is earth itself, sustainer of all life. In the words of one of the villagers, ‘Pachamama gives us life, she nourishes us throughout our existence on this earth and when we die, we go back to our Pachamama from where we will rise again.’ Pachamama is powerful. She sustains life for animals and plants alike, but she can also kill with devasting earthquakes and allow lightening to strike. Pachamama and the god of thunder and lightening are considered compadres.” – Inge Bolin, Rituals of Respect: The Secret Survival in the High Peruvian Andes

shaman
Description: “Q’eros shaman, called a Paqo, in his ultra-bright traditional poncho and chullo (hat) calling the Apu mountain spirits to bless a mesa, a cloth-wrapped package of special found and collected power objects (like rocks and crystals from places you’ve done ceremony) that a person on the shamanic path carries for ceremonies.” // Image source: McKay Savage

“It is very common for the Pachamama to receive the first serving of beer at social gatherings since believers pour a few drops on the ground before they take their first sip. This is a way to thank and feed the Pachamama.” – Caserita.com

car-pachamama Description: “Decorated Landcruiser – All decorated in honor of Pachamama over the Carnival period. People were doing this all over the Andean countries today.” // Image source: Andy Hares

“According to Mario Rabey and Rodolfo Merlino, Argentine anthropologists who studied the Andean culture from the 1970s to the 1990s, ‘The most important ritual is the challaco. Challaco is a deformation of the Quechua words ‘ch’allay’ and ‘ch’allakuy’, that refer to the action to insistently sprinkle. In the current language of the campesinos of the southern Central Andes, the word challar is used in the sense of ‘to feed and to give drink to the land’. The challaco covers a complex series of ritual steps that begin in the family dwellings the night before. They cook a special food, the tijtincha. The ceremony culminates at a pond or stream, where the people offer a series of tributes to Pachamama, including ‘food, beverage, leaves of coca and cigars.'” – Wikipedia/Pachamama

pachamama-dance Description: “La juventud es parte fundamental del espiritú que aquí se vive, en conjunto. Yo junto a mi novia nos contagiamos del ritmo y la energía de un pueblo que le agradece a su tierra por lo entregado, un verdadero carnaval, donde no hay personas arrastrandose por demostrar su fe, al contrario hay gente saltando y bailando felices de saber que son ellos los hijos del Inti.” // Image source: Pablo Embry

In this quote, the person seems to be referring to the tradition of some Latin American Catholics to crawl on their knees to show their devotion and to thank God and or the Virgin for answered prayer, when he says “…no hay personas arrastrandose por demostrar su fe, al contrario hay gente saltando y bailando felices…” [Translation: "...there are no people crawling to prove their faith, on the contrary, there are people jumping and dancing happily..."] This quote draws a contrast between the two faiths and the way in which they worship, yet there are some who mix their beliefs.

“When the Spanish invaded the Americas, they brought with them their Catholic religion, forcing it upon the indigenous people. But the people, devout to their own gods, resisted these advances…So the Spaniards had to adopt a different plan of attack. As Dr. Cajias says, ‘They then decided to mix Catholic beliefs and figures with native beliefs and figures.’ At the center of this syncretism are Pachamama and the Virgin Mary. Pachamama is an Aymara and Quechuan word loosely meaning ‘Mother Earth.’ The Andean people saw Pachamama as a mother who gave them food, water, and all of nature. She was considered a fertile mother because of the fertile land. And the Catholic figure most resembling a caring mother? The Virgin Mary.” – Source: Patrick Dowling, BolivianExpress

cruz-pachamama Description: “Ofrenda a Pachamama.” // Image source: Thiago Biá

Regardless of your religious beliefs, all of us living on the earth have a responsibility to care for it, and that’s what I take away from the belief in Pachamama. I find it difficult to live in harmony with nature in the modern world, balancing the wants and daily “needs” of American culture with a deeper and truer need to be in balance with everything outside my climate-controlled home which is filled with technology and other conveniences, but I try – and I want to try harder.

Happy Earth Day, Pachamama.

5 Meatless Salvadoran Meals

Vegetarian Salvadoran recipes for Lent

Carlos reminded me that yesterday was Ash Wednesday. Lent (“Cuaresma” in Spanish) is not something I grew up celebrating, but I know that many people do observe various traditions this time of year, such as eating meatless meals. I checked my recipe index and there are several options to choose from that fit this criteria, but I’ve chosen 5 of my favorites to recommend to you. Whether you’re celebrating La Cuaresma or just want to explore some vegetarian Salvadoran cuisine, these are some tasty meals to consider making and enjoying with your familia!

5 Meatless Salvadoran Recipes

casamiento1-302 Casamiento is a delicious marriage of beans and rice, best served with fried plantains and rich Salvadoran cream. Get the recipe here.











desayunouni1-302 Desayuno Universitario isn’t just for hungry university students on a budget. Beans spread on toasted french bread, topped with melted cheese and fresh salsa, make a satisfying and well-balanced meal for anyone. Get the recipe here.









latinaish_pupusas1-302 Pupusas are the national food of El Salvador and many varieties are completely vegetarian-friendly. Try pupusas de queso (cheese), pupusas de queso con frijoles (bean and cheese), or pupusas stuffed with cheese and shredded zucchini. Served with curtido, (the traditional pickled cabbage slaw), and a fresh salsa, even meat lovers will be begging for more. Get the recipe here.






platotipico-302 Plato típico is a traditional breakfast in El Salvador, but breakfast for dinner can be just as delicious. Fried sweet plantains, refried beans, scrambled eggs, Salvadoran cream, and warm, thick, corn tortillas fresh off the comal are perfect washed down with a cup of coffee. Get the recipe here.








rellenosdeejotes_latinaish3-302 Rellenos de Ejotes are a must for cheese lovers. Green beans are encased in slightly salty mozzarella, then dipped in a batter and fried to a golden brown. Serve with fresh salsa and rice and you’ve got yourself a complete meal, my friend. Get the recipe here.



Do you eat vegetarian meals once in awhile? What are your favorite meatless meals?

Tattoos in Latin American Culture

bird tattoo - Latinaish.com

Carlos’s second tattoo

I don’t have a single tattoo, and while I have nothing against them, it’s a good thing I never got one. Impulsive as I tend to be, and with passions that change over time, the tattoo I would have wanted at 18 years old is not one I would have been happy with today. At times I have drawn a design on myself with permanent marker (usually on my wrist) to see how it would look, and even if I love it, by the end of the day, I’m ready to wash it off. If I ever get one, maybe it would be something functional, like a “to do” list, or a Harry Potter reference, perhaps a favorite Lotería card, but for now I’m happy being ink-free.

Carlos on the other hand has two tattoos and has been planning on a third. The first one he got was my name on his back – his mother still doesn’t know about it, (unless she discovered this blog.) … She lived with us at the time Carlos got it and it was awkward to see him as a grown man, making sure he didn’t have his shirt off around his mother lest she find out. Apparently his older brother got a tattoo years ago and it earned him a good slap in the face when he showed her.

I’ve asked Carlos before, “Why do you get tattoos?” – because each individual has different reasons. Aside from liking the way they look, he’s realized that part of it is a sort of rebellion for him. His mother always had strict expectations for Carlos that dictated everything about how he live his life – some of those expectations being illogical, unfair, impossible, and burdensome. Getting tattoos is one way he began to claim his independence – more so an internal message to himself than an outward message to her, since, like I said, she still doesn’t even know about the tattoos.

The second tattoo Carlos got is of a pre-Columbian bird symbol, a reminder of his roots.

I love both his tattoos, and more importantly, he does too, but they haven’t been without problems.

When we traveled back to El Salvador, at one point Carlos wanted to renew his DUI, (which is a form of Salvadoran identification, not a “Driving Under the Influence.”) At DUI Centro (which is sort of like the Department of Motor Vehicles) you have to state whether you have tattoos as part of the process to get your ID. If they don’t believe you, they have you remove your shirt for inspection.

Having a tattoo in El Salvador can carry a heavy stigma and cause suspicion from law enforcement due to the history of gangs and their love of ink. Gang members themselves may also target you if they suspect you’re from a different gang.

Apparently, not only is there a stigma in Latin America because of gangs, but this has caused problems for Latino immigrants to the United States who have been denied visas, permanent residency and citizenship just because of their tattoos.

Here are some quotes from people on having tattoos in El Salvador:

“My friend’s first time going to El Salvador, he had tattoos on his arms and some gang members on the streets saw him and even followed him to his abuela’s house. Although the tattoos weren’t gang related, the gang members associated the tats with some other gang they didn’t know. They threatened him and said he had to pay “rent” and not to try and do anything funny. Every 20 minutes, the same red car came by and stop in front of the house which obviously meant someone was keeping an eye on him. He had to sneak out of the house that night and stay at another relatives house.”Amanda F., Trip Advisor

“If you’re of Salvadoran descent…you should definitely take care to cover them. There’s a huge difference between a white girl with tattoos and a Latino in ES. Many companies won’t even hire someone with even one tattoo here, that’s how deep the preconceived notion of tats are.”travel82bug, Trip Advisor

“I have one that I can conceal which I got when I was 18. When my mother saw it ten years later she stormed out and I had to chase after her to then hear a one hour lecture on how I have ruined my body, made my self look like a criminal, only gang members have tattoos in El Salvador, blah blah blah… She’s more accepting now that both her daughters have small hidden tattoos and both of her Australian son-in-laws have them too. As respect for her, and because of the stigma I would probably not get another one though. And when I took my husband to El Salvador last year I made him cover the tattoos on his arms and chest. Now I am a mother I think I might get upset too when/if my baby boy gets one, even if it is a beautiful one… I made him so perfectly beautiful. I understand my own mother now.”Lamden, Facebook

“My husband got his mother’s middle name instead of her first name on his arm because her first name has an ‘M’ in it. He won’t get our daughters name either because of the ‘M.’ The cantón where he’s from has a lot of 18 [18th street] gang members so to put an ‘M’ on himself would be a death wish.”Josie Iraheta, Facebook

“I have 3 tattoos that I got latter in my life, and when I went back to ES to visit my parents, my dad asked me to cover them, because his co-workers and friends would be put off by them. I got upset but honored his request out of respect. I wasn’t treated different by anyone else because of my ink, and I look like your normal average middle age woman when I cover them. But I want to get one by a Salvadorian artist if I go back to ES.”LadyAmalthea, Facebook

The good news is that in recent years, there has been a strong, organized movement to change perceptions of tattoos in El Salvador and in other parts of Latin America. At the time of this writing, almost a dozen tattoo parlors are listed for San Salvador in the Páginas Amarillas.

Do you have a tattoo? Have you experienced discrimination from strangers, friends or family in El Salvador or elsewhere? Share in comments!