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?

Las Ruedas (The Rides)

fiestasagostinas

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation is in italics!

Hoy, en honor de las Fiestas Agostinas en El Salvador, ¡vamos a aprender los nombres de las ruedas en las ferias! (Los nombres abajo no son los únicos nombres para las ruedas. En inglés y español tienen muchos nombres que pueden cambiar dependiendo del país.) ¿Listos?

Today, in honor of Fiestas Agostinas in El Salvador, let’s learn the names of rides at fairs! (The names below are not the only names for the rides. In English and Spanish they have many names that can change depending on the country. Ready?

Roller Coaster = Montaña Rusa

Ferris Wheel = La Chicago

The Tagada = El Tagadá

Carousel = Carrusel (o) Los Caballitos (o) Tiovivo

Bumper Cars = Carros Chocones

Tilt-a-Whirl = Remolino Chino

The Hammer (or) Salt and Pepper Shakers = El Martillo (o) Kamikaze

Swings = Sillas Voladoras

The Pirate Ship = Barco Pirata

The Caterpillar (note, there is also a different ride called The Caterpillar) = El Gusanito

The Trabant = El Trabant

Chaos = Chaos (o) Caos

Vertigo = El Vértigo

Round up = El Satélite

¿Conoces más ruedas? ¡Compartir en los comentarios!

Do you know more rides? Share in comments!

Cabalito: An interview with aspiring Salvadoran restaurant owner, Randy Rodriguez

Randy-Rodriguez

I receive at least one request per week from random strangers to support their Kickstarter campaigns but recently I was contacted by a guy named Randy Rodriguez who said he wanted to open a Salvadoran restaurant. For obvious reasons this interested me much more than any other Kickstarter campaign sent to me before, so I got to chatting with Randy, and I ended up deciding to not only give his Kickstarter a shoutout, but because I found his personal story interesting as a Salvadoran American born in L.A., raised in Vermont, and now living in New York, I interviewed him as well. Meet Randy, and his project – a Salvadoran restaurant in Lower Manhattan called “Cabalito.”

Interview with Randy Rodriguez of “Cabalito”

Latinaish: Tell us a bit about your family. Your parents were born and raised in El Salvador, right? Did your mother and tías cook much Salvadoran food when you were growing up?

Randy: Yes, both my parents were born and raised in El Salvador. I am 100% My mom came in her late teenage years and my dad when he was around 13 years old. My parents both have very interesting stories coming to the U.S., (which is a whole other story!) Neither my mom or dad know how to make pupusas but a few of my tías know how to do it up. My grandma makes a mean panes con pavo (which will be on the menu.) My mom can also make the plato típico, but for the most part, I ate most Salvadorian food at the best restaurants in L.A.

Latinaish: You mentioned to me that when you were about 10 years old, your family picked up and moved to Vermont. Why did your parents move there? Was it difficult to adjust? Were there unique challenges as a Salvadoran American growing up in an area of the country that doesn’t have a strong Salvadoran or Latino community?

Randy: Yes, I was around 10 years old when my parents moved to Vermont. They wanted us to have a better childhood. Living in a peaceful countryside was the plan. The L.A. neighborhood I was living in was getting dangerous. They did research and heard that Vermont was one of the best places to raise a family. My dad told us that if he was going to move he would do a big move. So we went for a big change, west coast to east coast.

I think it was a very difficult adjustment. I have an older brother and a younger sister. We had to make new friends and start over which can be hard at that age. I look back now and I don’t know how we did it! I went from being just another latino to the only kid in my school with color! I stood out like a sore thumb. I was different. The kids in my school were nice. I didn’t have any problems which I am thankful for. It was more about how uneducated they were about my culture. They didn’t know anything about Latin American food, dance, culture, or language. They thought I was Mexican! Not because they were mean but because they didn’t know better.

Latinaish: Now this question is definitely out of personal curiosity as a mother raising 2 Salvadoran American sons who are bilingual, but not quite as fluently bilingual as I had hoped. You learned Spanish as an adult – Did your parents attempt to raise you bilingually or did they speak to you in English? Did you grow up with Spanish around you (when your parents spoke to each other or on the phone, or the TV programs they watched)?

Randy: I heard the language a lot when I was young in California. Once I moved to Vermont I stopped hearing it. There was no Spanish television shows, music, or anything around like that. My parents did not make the effort to make us learn. I think it was mainly because my brother and sister didn’t really want to learn. They tried but never fully committed. I think it was hard for my parents because they came to the USA very young. My dad has told me he feels more comfortable in English. They told us that if we wanted to learn it we would have to take the initiative. That’s exactly what I did. Obviously my Spanish is not perfect and I am still learning but I am doing the best I can because I realize it’s important as an adult to be bilingual.

Latinaish: At some point you moved to NYC and began working at Mexican restaurants, right? What was that like? Was a career in the restaurant business something you’d always wanted or something you fell into?

Randy: I moved to NYC in 2010 and I simply needed to find a job. The only job I could find was at an Indian restaurant. It was terrible – it didn’t pay well – but I needed the money. The restaurant was next door to a Mexican place. I met the manager and he eventually called me in to start working. I was happy to be working there. It paid well and I needed to make friends. I worked my way up to be the general manager. That’s when I really grew to love the industry. I started to work a lot and I felt I was running the place myself. I eventually told the staff to stop speaking to me in English. I learned a lot of Spanish from my friends there. I believed in the place and put my time and energy into it. They eventually opened a new location and they wanted to hire someone else with more experience to take my job. I realize now that I was young and someone with more experience could run the place better. I left and started to work at a wine bar and the owner there inspired me to open my own place. That’s when I wrote my business plan.

To answer the question simply. I fell into the business with no regrets.

Latinaish: When was it that you decided you wanted to have your own restaurant? Why a Salvadoran restaurant?

Randy: At the Mexican restaurant my co-workers would tell me that I should open up my own taqueria since I know how to run one. I felt that there is a lot more competition in Mexican food. People have a strong opinion about Mexican food. So many types from tex mex, taco trucks, west coast Mexican, Chipotle, and the list goes on. I did not want to get involved. When I left and started working for a wine bar, the owner motivated me to do something big. A lot of self reflection and thought went into the idea for my own place. The fact that almost no one in NYC has had pupusas made all the pieces come together.

cabalito

Latinaish: How did you come up with the name “Cabalito”? Who designed that awesome bird logo? (I love it! It’s very Fernando Llort-esque.)

Randy: The original name was “El Colón” after the currency of El Salvador from 1892 to 2001. I wanted “El Colón” because it would represent how El Salvador is becoming more and more Americanized. I wanted people to know and remember how El Salvador use to be when it had it’s own currency and to embrace that. However, I did not want to glorify Cristóbal Colón. I also considered that people might mispronounce it and call it colon from human anatomy or colon from punctuation.

After days of brainstorming I was looking over all the slangs from El Salvador. I was also hanging about with a friend born in El Salvador and she was using the word “Cabal” a lot. I liked it. I felt that you could use it for many things. However, I did not click with it because cabal in English is a secret political clique or faction. I read an article with someone using “Cabalito.” That was it! It sounded more Spanish, more official, more on point. “Cabalito!”

My logo was designed by my roommate who is a very talented graphic designer. I showed him art work by Fernando Llort and told him how much I liked his birds. I obviously wanted the logo to be very clear on representing art work in El Salvador. He did some sketches and surprisingly that was the first one he drew of many. We didn’t need to play around with it. That was it! Cabal!

Latinaish: Are you hiring Salvadoran chefs or did you learn to make the food? What’s going to be on the menu?

Randy: I want to hire authentic chefs I can work with to create traditional dishes with a twist. I care a lot about being authentic, however, I want to evolve the traditional recipes to the New York tongue. I am very aware of people being more careful of what they put into their bodies. I want to adapt to the new way of eating without damaging the original recipes.

I have a lot of traditional dishes that I would like to put on the menu but for now I’ve limited it to a few that I think would be diverse enough and affordable. The menu I have ready for Kickstarter is not going to be exactly the same as the menu that will be used for the restaurant. I made a mock up menu to give people an idea of my vision and to understand the brand I want to create. I will later work with a chef to discuss my menu and his/her recipes that will work for the official menu.

Randy-Rodriguez-pupusas

Latinaish: Okay – the big moment! Sell us on contributing to your Kickstarter campaign. Why should we support this project?

Randy: I want people to know that this is my dream. I hope this becomes a story that people will read and feel inspired. I believe that if you can shape it in your mind you will find it in your life. The restaurant represents so much to me. It’s a reflection of myself. It’s more than amazing food. It’s culture, it’s music, it’s art, it’s style, it’s social, it’s Latin American, it’s flavor, it’s affordable, it’s friendship, it’s different, it’s – more importantly – for everyone to enjoy. I hope anyone who comes from little corners of the world will have the courage to share their culture if they want to. This restaurant is for all the hidden recipes all over the world that are not exposed to us because the people who open restaurants don’t typically know how to. The people who should open restaurants don’t have the money to. Unfortunately money is the only thing holding me back from sharing this cuisine with New York City. So anything helps or share this info with everyone! This restaurant is also for El Salvador – a small country with a big heart.

(Visit the Kickstarter campaign here!)

Latinaish: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Wishing you suerte!

Randy: Special thanks to you, Tracy. I wish you and your family the best. May you continue to give El Salvador a good name. It would be an honor to someday see you in NYC with your family at Cabalito.

You can follow Randy and his restaurant, Cabalito, on: Twitter, Facebook, and at CabalitoNYC.com.

“Chachos”

platanos

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Cuando fuimos al supermercado le pedí a Carlos buscarme algunos plátanos. Regresó un minuto después y dijo, “¡Mira! Son plátanos chachos!” Yo no sabía la pálabra “chacho” entonces Carlos me explicó. ¿Ver la foto? El plátano de la izquierda es un plátano normal. Los plátanos de la derecha están pegados y les puede llamar “chachos.” En El Salvador “chacho” significa algo doble. Uno puede usar la pálabra para referirse a cosas así como frutas y también se usa cuando los dados salen iguales. ¡Chachos!

¿Sabes otra definición de la palabra “chacho” en otro país? Comparte en los comentarios!

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

When we went to the grocery store I asked Carlos to find me some plantains. He returned a minute later and said, “Look! They’re plátanos chachos!” I didn’t know the word “chacho” so Carlos explained to me. See the photo? The plantain on the left is a normal plantain. The plantains on the right are stuck together and you can call them “chachos.” In El Salvador “chacho” means something that is double. One can use the word to refer to things like fruit and also when you roll double in dice. Chachos!

Do you know another definition of the word “chacho” from a different country? Share it in comments!

Central American Artifacts in D.C.

Did you know that the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. has a large bilingual (English/Spanish) exhibit called “Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed“? It’s there until February 15, 2015 and features more than 160 objects from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama – so check it out while you can if you live in the area. If not, here are a few highlights!

ceramica-de-los-ancestros

designs

Lempa River jar in the form of an armadillo, AD 900-1200, Near Palacios, Oratorio de Concepción, Cuscatlán, El Salvador

Lempa River jar in the form of an armadillo, AD 900-1200, Near Palacios, Oratorio de Concepción, Cuscatlán, El Salvador

Classic period Maya figure, AD 600-900, Usulután, El Salvador

Classic period Maya figure, AD 600-900, Usulután, El Salvador

Classic period Maya bowl, AD 250-600, San Agustín, Acasaguastlán, El Progreso, Guatemala

Classic period Maya bowl, AD 250-600, San Agustín, Acasaguastlán, El Progreso, Guatemala

Stamps from Costa Rica and Guatemala

Stamps from Costa Rica and Guatemala

Pre-Classic period Maya female figure, 200 BC-AD 1, San Jacinto, San Salvador, El Salvador

Pre-Classic period Maya female figure, 200 BC-AD 1, San Jacinto, San Salvador, El Salvador

Carlos said, "Hey, this one looks like me!" even though I told him that usually statues with hands on the hips are females.

Carlos said, “Hey, this one looks like me!” even though I told him that usually statues with hands on the hips are females.

Want more?

The National Museum of the American Indian website has more information related to the exhibit including photos, video, and even a really awesome printable coloring book for the niños!

A Sweet Game

BY TRACY LÓPEZ
(This was originally published on the now defunct CafeMagazine.com on June 14, 2010. Since this piece is no longer available online, I thought it would be fun to reprint it and take a look back at our familia during the 2010 World Cup.)

On Friday, my kids and I gathered around the television to watch the opening game of World Cup 2010, Mexico vs. South Africa.

I was rooting for Mexico, so naturally the kids were, too, (much to the annoyance of my Salvadoran mother-in-law who awakened to the entire household vested in green).

The kids really like fútbol but they have short attention spans, so to make it more exciting for them I promised candy at half-time – but this was not any ordinary candy. This was a mixed bag of “Dulces Mexicanos” from our local Latino market. Luckily my boys are pretty adventurous and were willing to give everything a try. Here is how they rated the Mexican candies, keeping in mind they’ve been raised on chocolate, butterscotch, jelly beans and other traditional U.S. candies. The candies are rated from one star (yucky-face inducing) to five stars (they’d eat the whole bag if I let them):

boycandy

Coconut “banderitas”: The tri-colored green, white and red Mexican flags were pretty to look at and tasted almost as good. Rating: ***

De La Rosa Dulce de Cacahuate: To be fair, I buy these all the time and am slightly addicted, so this candy is very familiar to the boys. They rated it highly and licked the crumbs from the wrapper. Rating: *****

Pica Pepino Relleno con Chile (lollipop): My younger son took one lick and rejected it. The older one took a few licks and ultimately agreed. I thought it was kind of interesting though. Rating: **

Duvalín Dulce Cremoso Sabor Avellana y Vainilla:
My husband really likes these, but the kids weren’t that impressed. Rating: **

Go Mango Enchilado: I think the boys were more put off by the way this one looked than the way it tasted. They barely gave it a nibble. To me it tasted like a slightly spicy fruit snack. Rating: *

Obleas con Cajeta: How can cajeta possibly not taste good? Yet, they didn’t like this one. Rating: *

Eskandalosos Paleta de Caramelo con Chile: I thought they would reject this one immediately but they loved it. They were fruity flavored with just enough spice to make them interesting. Rating: *****

Benyrindo: Deceptively shaped like a Coca-Cola bottle, everyone was fine with this candy until biting into it and releasing the tamarindo flavored juices. Maybe you have to be raised eating tamarind to appreciate these sorts of things? Rating: *

Pica Limón: One child rated this highly and the other rated it low, yet they both kept trying it and laughing. I think the fun of this one is watching people’s reactions after eating it. Rating: ***

In the end, Mexico and South Africa tied 1-1, bitter disappointment for fans on both sides who wanted to see their team win, but my boys’ memories of the game are not bitter; they are sweet like cacahuate, sour like limón and spicy like chile.

Tostadas de Plátano

tostadas-de-platano-6

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Desde que fuimos a un festival salvadoreño el año pasado y comí tostadas de plátano preparadas con curtido y salsa, he estado haciendo mi propia tostadas de plátano en casa porque me encantan. Tostadas de plátano son mi bocadillo favorito mientras ve partidos de la Copa Mundial, y van perfectas con cerveza o una gaseosa. Aquí está mi receta fácil, (que incluye mi nueva receta de curtido. Este curtido es el mejor curtido que he hecho. Creo que el secreto es un poco de azúcar moreno para garantizar el vinagre de sidra de manzana no es tan fuerte.)

Tostadas de Plátano Preparadas con Curtido y Salsa

Para hacer el curtido necesitas:

10 oz bolsa de repollo, (estilo de corto “angel hair” – o sea, cortado muy fino)
4 tazas de agua
1 cebolla pequeña, cortada en rodajas finas
3 zanahorias medianas, ralladas en el procesador
3/4 taza de vinagre de sidra de manzana
1/2 cucharadita de sal
1 cucharada azúcar morena
1 cucharada aceite de canola
orégano al gusto

Instrucciones:

1. Coloque el repollo en un tazón grande. Deja a un lado.
2. En una gran taza de medir de vidrio, calienta el agua a alta potencia durante 5 minutos en un horno de microondas.
3. Vierta el agua en el repollo. Tapar y esperar 5 minutos. Escurrir el agua. (Está bien si un poco de agua se queda con el repollo.)
4. Agregue la cebolla y la zanahoria al repollo.
5. Mezclar el vinagre, el azúcar moreno, el aceite y la sal en un tazón pequeño y verter a la mezcla de repollo.
6. Sazonar con el orégano. Mezclar bien para que todo el repollo está saturado. Deja a un lado.

_____

Puedes hacer la salsa con mi receta (aquí), o si quieres la manera fácil, sólo tienes que utilizar su marca favorita de salsa. Me encanta la “salsa casera marca Herdez – mild.” Hago puré de la salsa en la licuadora y después caliento la salsa en una olla hasta que hierva. Deja enfriar. El calentamiento de la salsa no es necesario, pero creo que le da un mejor sabor.

_____

Para servir las tostadas de plátano, póngalas en un plato, (Goya es la marca más fácil de encontrar. Puedes encontrarlas en el “pasillo hispano” en las tiendas Walmart pero hay otras marcas en mercados latinos.) Encima de las tostadas, añade el curtido y la salsa. ¡Servir y disfrutar del partido!

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Since we went to a Salvadoran festival last year and ate tostadas de plátano prepared with curtido and salsa, I’ve been making my own here at home because I really love them. Tostadas de plátano are my favorite snack while watching World Cup matches and they go perfect with a cold beer or soda. Here is my easy recipe, (which includes my new recipe for curtido. This is the best curtido I’ve ever made. I think the secret is a little brown sugar to ensure the apple cider vinegar is not as strong.)

Tostadas de Plátano Prepared with Curtido and Salsa

To make the curtido you need:

10 ounce bag “angel hair” coleslaw (if you can’t find this, cabbage shredded very fine)
4 cups water
1 small onion, sliced in thin rings
3 medium carrots, processed in a food processor set to “shred”
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
oregano to taste

Directions:

1. Put the cabbage in a large bowl. Set aside.
2. In a large glass measuring cup, heat the water 5 minutes on high in a microwave.
3. Pour water on cabbage. Cover and wait 5 minutes. Drain. (It’s okay if a little water remains.)
4. Add onion and carrot to cabbage.
5. Mix vinegar, brown sugar, oil and salt in a small bowl, then pour over the cabbage mixture.
6. Season with oregano. Mix well so all the cabbage is saturated. Set aside.

_____

You can make the salsa using my recipe (here, or if you want the easy way, use your favorite non-chunky brand of salsa. I love the “Herdez salsa casera – mild” pureed in a blender. I then heat the salsa in a pot until it simmers, then allow to cool. Heating the salsa is not necessary, but I think it gives it a better flavor.

_____

To serve the tostadas de plátano, spread plantain chips on a plate, (Goya is the easiest to find brand. You can find them in the “Hispanic aisle” of most Walmart stores, but there are other brands available at Latino markets.) Top the chips with curtido and salsa. Serve and enjoy the game!

20 Salvadoran Slang Phrases (in GIFs)

This Spanish Friday I’m going to do things a little differently than usual. Instead of a post in Spanish followed by the English translation, I decided we’d have a little fun and I could do a Salvadoran version of this Mexican slang post on Buzzfeed, complete with animated gifs. Note: Guatemalans and Hondurans may also use some of these words/phrases – and some are probably not appropriate to use around your abuela. ¿Listos? Here we go!

hola-beauty-queen

1. ¿Qué onda, bichos?
Rough English translation: What’s up, guys?

puchica2

2. ¡Púchica!
Rough English translation: Shoot! [Can also be used as a positive exclamation when impressed.]

hiju

3. ¡Hijueputa!
Rough English translation: Son of a bitch!

magico

4. Ta’ chivo, ¿vá?
Rough English translation: It’s cool, isn’t it?

cabal

5. Cabal.
Rough English translation: Exactly.

chucho2

6. El cipote está afuera juegando con en chucho.
Rough English translation: The kid is outside playing with the dog.

patas2

7. Tus patas están bien chucas porque no usaste chanclas.
Rough English translation: Your feet are really dirty because you didn’t use sandals.

ride

8. ¡Ey, chero! Dame un rai!
Rough English translation: Hey friend! Give me a ride!

nervioso

9. Me da nervios.
Rough English translation: It makes me nervous.

paja3

10. Pura paja habla esta maje.
Rough English translation: This idiot tells nothing but lies.

cipitio

11. ¡No seas bayunco!
Rough English translation: Don’t be goofy/stupid!

chindondo2

12. ¡Ay! Golpeaste. Por cierto vas a tener un chindondo.
Rough English translation: Ouch! You hit yourself. You’re going to have a bump for sure.

pisto

13. ¿Tienes el pisto de la cabuda?
Rough English translation: Do you have the cash from the lending circle?

paco-flores

14. ¿Dónde está el bolado?
Rough English translation: Where is the thing?

bolo

15. ¡Qué bien baila el bolo!
Rough English translation: How well that drunk dances!

pupusa-bailando

16. La fiesta estaba bien vergóna. Estaba toda la mara allí.
Rough English translation: The party was really awesome. The whole gang was there. [And by "gang", I mean group of friends, although "mara" can also refer to criminal gangs as well.]

caida

17. Jajaja, ¡te pelaste!
Rough English translation: Hahaha, you screwed up!

vaya-pues

18. Vaya pues.
Rough English translation: Okay then.

yuca

19. Está yuca.
Rough English translation: It’s difficult.

vos

20. Vos.
Rough English translation: You

Refresco de Ensalada

refresco-de-ensalada

Hot summer days call for cool refreshing drinks, and Salvadoran “Refresco de Ensalada” (also known as Agua de Ensalada, Salad Drink, Salad Water, or Fruit Salad Drink), is like drinkable fruit salad. The tiny pieces of minced fruit are not to be swallowed! Sip the sweet liquid, and then savor the apple, mango, pineapple, and orange pieces that find their way onto your tongue. It’s a drink and a snack all at once! Assemble your fruit and get chopping!

fruits

Refresco de Ensalada

You need:

1 20 oz. can pineapple slices in 100% pineapple juice
1 mango, peeled
3 oranges
2 Granny Smith apples
juice of 1 lemon
6 cups cold water
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Optional: iceberg lettuce
(See notes for additional variations!)

Method:

1. Put the lemon juice into a large mixing bowl.
2. Mince the apples into tiny, uniform pieces (as you see in the photo below.) Stir the minced apple into the lemon juice as you go along. (This keeps them from turning brown.)

cut-apple

3. Peel the mango. Mince. Add to the bowl.
4. Open the can of pineapple. Pour the juice into the bowl.
5. Mince the pineapple and add to the bowl.
6. Squeeze the juice of 2 oranges into the bowl. (Do this over a sieve to avoid seeds falling in.)
7. Mince the remaining orange and add it to the bowl.
8. If using lettuce, add 1 cup of minced lettuce to the bowl. (I kept mine on the side and added it to my individual cup later since Carlos didn’t want it in his.)
9. Transfer the contents of the bowl to a large pitcher. Add 6 cups of water.

(Note: Once we drank all of the liquid, we later added another couple cups of water to finish off the fruit, so you’re able to add more than 6 cups of water, but you’ll have increase the sugar and salt in the next steps if you do.)

10. Add 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir. (I prefer to keep the juice as natural as possible without adding too much additional sugar and it tasted great to me with 1/3 cup. Some may prefer this drink sweeter and you may add sugar to your personal tastes. Carlos added sugar every time he drank a cup of it but my boys and I liked it without adding more. If your fruit is super sweet, you may find you don’t want to add any sugar at all.)

11. You can drink this immediately, but it tastes best if you put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour, (and even better if you can wait until the next day.) Serve cold.

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(I like lettuce in mine. It sounds odd, but give it a try!)

Other variations of this recipe typically include mamey, marañon, watercress (“berro”), and even cucumber. Feel free to experiment by adding your favorite fruits and vegetables, or fresh herbs like mint.

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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…”

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

Want more creative ideas?

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