How to Win a Salvadoreño’s Corazón

So, you’re a gringa (or gringo!) and you’ve fallen in love with a cute Salvadoran. Hey, it happens. But now how do you win his or her corazón? … Two words… “plato típico.”

“Plato típico” [typical dish] can refer to any traditional meal, but this is the “Plato típico” for “desayuno” [breakfast.] A typical breakfast in El Salvador usually consists of thick handmade corn tortillas, huevos picados [scrambled eggs], frijoles molidos [pureed beans], platanos fritos [fried plantains], and crema [sour cream.] … this meal is usually served with coffee.

Here are the recipes you need to make a typical Salvadoran breakfast.

Tortillas

Simply purchase a bag of corn flour for tortillas and follow the directions on the bag. The most commonly used brand is MASECA. Salvadoran tortillas are typically formed in the hand and patted back and forth before being placed on a comal [griddle.] Salvadoran tortillas are usually thicker than store-bought tortillas and are not formed using a tortilla press.

Huevos Picados [Scrambled Eggs]

Beat eggs in a bowl with a little salt. Stirring often, in a pan greased with oil or butter, cook until fluffy. (Some people add chopped tomato and onion.)

Crema [Cream]

If you can’t find Salvadoran crema, any full fat sour cream will do. (We like Daisy brand sour cream.)

Frijoles Molidos [Pureed Beans]

If you can’t find Frijoles Rojos Salvadoreños, [Salvadoran Red Beans] – you can use any small red or black beans. You will have to cook the beans the day before if using dry beans. Cook following standard directions, but add to the water 2 green onions and some garlic for flavor. (Do not add salt until after they’re cooked or they’ll be hard.)

The next day, cook beans with a few spoonfuls of lard, oil or butter. Put into a blender with some of the bean water (reserved from boiling the day before.) Blend until smooth. Heat again, adding salt to taste.

If using canned beans, simply drain, cook with a spoonful of minced garlic, and a few spoonfuls of lard, oil or butter. Put into a blender and blend until smooth. Add a little oil or melted butter if the mixture is too dry and the blender blades won’t move. Add salt to taste.

Platanos Fritos [Fried Plantains]

Choose plantains that are yellow with black markings – this means they’re ripe. You don’t want them to be really black (too ripe/mushy), but you don’t want them plain yellow or green, (they’ll be hard and not sweet enough).

Remove peel with a knife by splitting it open and peeling off. Cut plantain in half width-wise. Cut each half into three pieces. (Alternately, you can cut the entire thing into circles.) Fry in a little oil until browned on each side.

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Arrange on a plate, serve with coffee.

Watch him fall in love.

Clementino, ya no me quiere

(New to the Clementino saga? Start at the beginning.)


With my supply of Bubu Lubus at dangerously low levels, and my attempts to find another local dealer of my favorite Mexican candy having failed, I swallowed my pride and found myself outside Clementino’s store. Weeks had passed since our last encounter – since the day he had gotten into a shouting match with my husband. Carlos granted me permission to go to the store on the condition that I “act like una mujer casada and not like a school girl.” … Fair enough.

The bells on the door tinkling behind me, I went inside the small dimly lit store. As I got in line behind a little woman wiring money, Clementino looked up and smiled. There on the counter top sat the familiar blue box full of Bubu Lubus – his previous threat to no longer sell them had only been a bluff meant to make me feel badly for not accepting his piropo.

The woman in front of me shuffled out of the store and I approached the counter.
“Buenas tardes,” I said.
“Buenas tardes…¿Qué quieres?” he asked in a friendly way, lifting his chin toward me.
“Cinco dólares en Bubu Lubus,” I said, looking at the box.
“Cinco dólares…en… Bubu Lubus,” he repeated, taking the box down and counting them out on the counter.

I thought about saying something, about asking why he had been so rude to my husband that day – but what acceptable excuse could there be? I asked no questions and he offered no apologies. The unspoken thing sat between us like an unseemly fence between good neighbors.

After a moment passed, Clementino cleared his throat. Breaking the silence, he finally said what was on both our minds.
“Estás enojada conmigo.”
“No, no estoy enojada,” I replied, immediately chastising myself for being too nice.
“Sí, estás enojada,” Clementino insisted, “porque ya no vienes a visitarme como antes.”
“Bueno, estoy un poco enojada,” I said. He lifted his eyes from the counter top and looked at me.
Before he could say anything and before I could lose my courage, I forced myself to say what I knew I should.
“Portaste muy mal con mi esposo,” I said, tsking him.
“No,” he said shaking his head.
“Sí,” Now it is I who insists. “Sí, portaste mal.”

Clementino switches to English as he slides my debit card through the machine.

“Your husband said I sold the phone cards to him but I didn’t,” he said meekly. “You came that day – not your husband. I never saw your husband that day. Maybe he bought the cards from my wife, but he said I sold them to him, and I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did. Yo estaba en el carro cuándo él venia a comprarlas. Bien recuerdo que fue tú.”

Clementino shakes his head, puts the receipt and pen on the counter. I sign while he puts the Bubu Lubus into a small, black plastic bag.

He holds the bag hostage as he tells me, “He came with your mother-in-law. Your mother-in-law always has problems with the phone cards – nobody else. If she was a more regular customer, I would care, but she only comes for the phone cards and to cause problems. N’hombre. I don’t care about her.”

I’m not sure what he expects me to say. If he doesn’t like my Suegra, I don’t care either – that didn’t give him the right to yell at my husband that day. I look at Clementino. He doesn’t apologize. Qué terco. He shrugs as he hands me the bag.

“Okay then,” I say, sighing. “Hasta luego.”
He lifts his chin in my direction and mumbles “hasta luego.”

Standing on the sidewalk in front of the store, blinking against the bright afternoon sunlight, I feel a little like a deflated balloon. It’s obvious, Clementino ya no me quiere… this is a good thing… but I was so hoping we could go back to being friends. Maybe that will happen again some day, but we aren’t there yet.

(Image source)

Tatuado

My cumple is at the end of the month, but Carlos wanted to give me his gift un poco temprano.

This is Carlos’s first and only tattoo… y lo amo!

Suegra still doesn’t know about it. When she finds out, she will probably threaten to disown him, (otra vez.) She believes tattoos are a pecado and that only “mala gente” like pandilleros get them. When Carlos told me this I said, “Wait, doesn’t your older brother have tattoos?”

“Yeah,” Carlos said, “but when my mother found out, she slapped him.”

So Carlos’s birthday present to me? A permanent reminder of his love, and the promise of mucho drama to blog about in the coming days.

(Thanks, nene!)

Gringa Invasion

While she passes most of her time in Chalatenango proper where her family lives, and Soyapango where Carlos’s childhood home is – Suegra sometimes goes to visit her childhood home which is in a town in the mountains of Chalatenango called San Luis del Carmen.

I visited there one afternoon when we went to El Salvador. Against all my gringa instincts which screamed that I needed a seat belt, I rode in the back of a Tío’s pickup truck with my then one year old baby. They threw cushions from the sofa in to make the ride more comfortable. We rode up, up, up, stopped for some bony looking cattle to cross the road, and then up, up, up some more. San Luis del Carmen was very quiet. There was a pretty white church, typical Salvadoran-style cement block homes lining the road, the ever present chuchos aguacateros (street dogs), and a small store selling soda en bolsas and snacks.

A typical Salvadoran-style house. “DIOS ES AMOR” means & “God is love”

chucho aguacatero (street dog) that followed us

A little store selling snacks, etc.

Carlos enjoying a bag of orange soda and a snack.

Suegra’s modest childhood home has been kept in good repair despite being over 50 years old, though no one inhabits it. The home sits on a fair amount of land – the trees in the backyard are heavy with coffee beans.

That is how I remember San Luis del Carmen, so I was surprised when Suegra told me there are a lot of gringas there now – “jovenes, chelitas, americanas – como vos!” she says, though I imagine they are younger than me – maybe Peace Corp. volunteers or missionaries. She says they are pairing up with young Salvadoran men, (she emphasizes that they are dark-skinned country boys – “pero puro del campo!” she says, as if this made it more shocking, which to me it isn’t. Country boys have their charm though I married a city boy.)

Suegra went to San Luis during the feast day in December. During the festival, the town traditionally picks a “reina” (queen) … This year, the reina was one of the gringas.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this. I’m fascinated by the idea of an entire village that ten years from now may be made up of families that resemble my own. Part of me wonders if these girls know what they’re getting into. It’s one thing to marry a Salvadoran who has immigrated here – but quite another to marry a Salvadoran in El Salvador. My mind swirls with the compromises, sacrifices, and struggles they will face. Culture shock. Language barriers. Machismo. They are on his turf. They are on their suegra’s turf. As romantic as it appears on the outside, the situation raises many concerns.

Honestly, I do laugh a little imaging the phone calls home. The parents expect information about when to pick their precious daughters up at the airport now that their volunteer assignment has come to an end. Instead, their daughter’s voice sounding farther away than ever says, “Mom, Dad, I met someone here. I’m staying in El Salvador and getting married!” … Those poor gringo parents! …And then imagine when the parents go to El Salvador for the wedding. Will there be tears of joy or tears of sheer terror for what their daughter has done? (Oh wait, I’m just having flashbacks to my own wedding…jiji…)

But what about the relationships that don’t work out? What if they love each other but the girl desperately wishes to return home? It isn’t easy to adjust to a drastically different culture and way of life. It also isn’t that easy to bring your new novio with you thanks to immigration law which splits us all up into these man-made parcels called countries. Will the girls go home with broken hearts or will it be the muchachos who are left con el corazón en pedazos? (Either way, one must make the sacrifice of being away from their own family and culture.) If the girls stay in El Salvador, get married, start a family and then for whatever reason, end up divorcing, what happens with the children?

How do the Salvadoran women of San Luis del Carmen feel about this “invasion” of gringas? Do they feel animosity towards the gringas for “stealing” the men? Was it fair for an outsider to be chosen as the “queen” of the town?

If I were a sociologist, I know where I’d be buying a plane ticket to right now.

Clementino Part III

I still really haven’t had closure to the whole Clementino situation. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out Part I and Part II.) What kind of closure am I expecting? I don’t think there can really be any. I’ve tried to put words to how I feel about all this, mostly for myself, so I can untangle it and move on. Unrequited love is one of those tragic things that I find difficult to process, no matter which side of the equation I happen to be on.

This would all be hilarious that I’m suffering all sorts of angst over this piropo if Clementino was just looking for casual sex and doesn’t really love me. I’ve tried to convince myself of that but Suegra told me something that makes me think otherwise.

She went to the market the other day with my older son to buy phone cards. Clementino’s wife was at the counter and Suegra said she could hear Clementino in one of the aisles stocking shelves. Suegra bought the phone cards and then requested to purchase Bubu Lubus, (for me of course.)

Well, Suegra says that as soon as she said the words “Bubu Lubus,” – Clementino raced to the front, almost tripping over himself. He came out to the front counter, and seeing Suegra at the register, started looking around the rest of the store. When he presumably saw that I wasn’t there, he went back to re-stocking shelves.

To make sure Suegra wasn’t just making up stories, I asked my older son and he said that’s exactly what happened.

So anyway, yesterday was Valentine’s Day and I received a package in the mail covered in hearts. The boys hoping there was something for them inside despite my name being on it, watched me open it. I pulled out a 24 pack box of Bubu Lubus.

My youngest son looked at the Bubu Lubus and the hearts all over the envelope and jumped to conclusions.

“Woah!” he said, “Are those from Clementino?”

I assured him they weren’t. Silly cipote. Then Carlos came home and seeing the box of Bubu Lubus and heart patterned envelope raised an eyebrow.

“Who are those from?” he asked.
“My friend, Amanda!”
“….Hm….are you sure?”

I showed him the shipping address as proof. Obviously, Carlos is still thinking about the Clementino situation too.

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Read: Clementino Parts 4, 5, 6

Feliz día de San Valentín to YOU

Today’s post is for YOU, sí tú! … To those of you who visit me loyally each day, and to those who visit once in awhile. To those who comment and those who are too timidos – Gringo, Latino or otherwise – I love you all.

Thank you for understanding me and Latinaish.com – for contributing your thoughts and positive energy. You help make this blog a place full of amistad y corazón.

Ricky Martin says, “Lo mejor de mi vida eres tú.” – I say to you, “Lo mejor de mi blog eres tú.”

Feliz día de San Valentín, amigos.

Más Romance!

I know I usually post about our telenovela on Wednesday but I have something fun to share in the spirit of romance y amor that has taken over my blog this week!

Here is a very romantic message from Andrés Guardado, Mexican fútbol star of Deportivo La Coruña in Spain.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I shared this video because I love it.