Family, Latino culture

A to Z Challenge: U is for Uvas

A canopy of grape vines, photo by Igor Ovsyannykov, unsplash.com

The Spanish word uvas means grapes.

When I think of grapes many memories come to mind.

My mother’s family were migrant workers; her father a foreman. They followed the crops from Pomona, California to Fresno and all the little towns in between in the great California Central Valley.

Picking fruit, nuts, and citrus in 90-degree weather was the norm for Mom, her brothers, and sisters. They spent a childhood in migrant camps, traveling from town to town in a loaded down jalopy like the Joad family in the book, Grapes of Wrath.

One of her first memories is playing under a sunshade of green grape vines where the earth felt cool. At four years old, she cared for her baby sister as their mother worked up and down the vineyard rows clipping clusters of grapes.

When I think of uvas, I remember Cesar Chavez’ boycott which began in 1965. Although Mom no longer worked in the vineyards she honored the boycott and made sure everyone in the family did so too.

In 1970 the United Farm Workers union won their first contract and we could eat grapes again, but that was shortlived. Growers broke the union contracts three years later and signed sweetheart deals with the Teamsters Union.

In 1973, the family boycotted grapes again. I remember the bumper stickers, NO UVAS, and the boycott against Gallo Vineyards.

That boycott of grapes lasted until 1977. I was in college by then; carrying No Uvas, No Grapes signs in front of Safeway stores in Santa Barbara and my hometown of Oxnard.

College students and workers in Philadelphia boycotting grapes, 1976. Getty images

This tiny fruit, the uva, carries a huge weight of memories.

Thanks for reading.

Family, Latino culture

A to Z Challenge: S and T are for Sábanas y Toallas

photo by Igor Ovsyannykov for unsplash.com

This is the last week of the A to Z challenge, which presented me with (you know the answer)-

challenges.

I’ve never blogged every day; at the most twice a week and lately twice a month. This endeavor tested my commitment and discipline which were good things.

Every once and a while test yourself, commit to something new, dare yourself to try what you haven’t tried before.

Now on to the letter S and T.

The words that begin with the letters S and T which I’m most familiar with are sábanas and toallas.

These words mean bedsheets and towels.

During my childhood we were poor. Living in the housing projects poor, state government food poor, no dryer poor. We hung clothes on the rope clothesline in our asphalt backyard.

My job was to hang the sábanas and the toallas. They were the large items and with a little struggle, I could throw them on the clothesline.

The smell of bleach and detergent hovered in the air around me as I made my way down the lines.

Mom came behind me, taking wood clothespins out of her blue gingham apron pocket, and pinned the sheets and towels.

Old fashioned wood clothespins. Photo by Nong Vang for unsplash.com

I’d sit on the porch watching the white sábanas and colorful toallas sway in the breeze, feeling important because I helped my mom. I wondered when I’d grow tall enough to hang and pin the clothes myself.

By the time I turned nine, I could reach the clothesline. Hanging wet blouses, heavy jeans, and the families underwear (except Mom’s, who hung them in the shower during the night) was no longer a desire but a chore.

At that point, my daydreams switched to Mom buying a clothes dryer.

 

 

Latino culture

A to Z Challenge: R is for Rana and a Rhyme

Little tail of the frog. Photo by Jared Evans for unsplash.com

R is for Rana, a frog.

Anytime a kid in the neighborhood (under age 5) fell or got a cut his/her mother would rub or tap the area and sing this:

Spanish:
“Sana, sana, colita de rana,
y si no se cura ahorita, se cura mañana.”

In English, it’s confusing and doesn’t make sense.

“Healthy, healthy, little tail of a frog,
and if not cured now, cured tomorrow.”

 

As a kid, I wondered why the little tail of a frog was involved in a healing rhyme.

The frog tail portion may allude to folklore or tales of healing, involving a curandera’s (healer) use of “tail of frog,” or “eye of newt.”

The rhyme is not to be confused with this frog:

Not this frog. Photo by Jonathan Youssef for unsplash.com

 

I never thought to ask why my mom or aunts sang this song. I went with it and kept the song going with my own kids, puzzling another generation.

This rhyme is only for little kids. Once you hit five, if you fell, cut, or otherwise injured yourself you were expected to get up, dust yourself off, and keep going.

Latino culture, Mexican food

A to Z Challenge: P is for Pepino and Q is for …

This is all you need for a cool summer appetizer: Pepinos con chile

P is for Pepino, a cucumber.

You know how certain seasons have smells associated with them?

Some of these are Mexican food aromas like Christmas is chocolately champurrado and steaming green chile tamales.

Summer’s fragrances in the kitchen are the sweetness of watermelon and lemony taste of crisp cucumbers. Since pepinos are plentiful in the summer, they make for a cool dish on a hot day.

The recipe is super simple:

Peel and slice 2 cucumbers into circles or spears, arrange on a dish with edges

Squeeze a large lemon or two limes over the pepinos

Dust the top of the pepinos with chile powder or Tajin

Refrigerate if you want colder cucumbers.

Cucumber water accumulates at the bottom of the dish, you can mix this with cold water for a cucumber drink.

Another version is a cucumber salad. Slice the cucumbers and quarter them, put them in a bowl, add lemon/lime juice, a dash of salt, chopped cilantro, and diced tomato, red pepper flakes or Tajin. Chill.

Onto the letter Q. Q is for Que and Qué?

¿Qué….? in a question usually means What? Quiero saber qué es….. (indirect question)

¡Qué…..! in an exclamation usually means How….! or What a ….! (the accent on the e means one’s voice raises higher).

que (relative pronoun used to introduce a subordinate clause) usually means “that”, but can also mean whichwho or what depending on the context. (no stress over the e).

And if that’s not enough to remember, the slang phrase “Que qué?” means “Say what?!

¿Que qué?

 

See you mañana.

Latino culture, Latino family tradition, Mexican food, Mexican Vegan food

A to Z Challenge: O is for Olla

A variety of cooking pots, photo by Scott Umstattd for unsplash.com

 

I’ve passed the halfway mark of the A to Z Challenge. Yay me!

Today’s letter is O. O is for Olla.

An olla (hoy-ya) is a cooking pot. The pot can be any of the sizes above.

In my house, when Mom asked me to get her olla, the conversation was some version of this:

 “Small olla, big olla, the medium one?

“The one for the beans.” 

“Big olla then. Just say the olla for beans.”

“You’ve sat at that table cleaning beans for ten minutes, which other olla did you think?”

On a cold evening when Mom had more days in the week left before her next check, we feasted on frijoles de olla and hot tortillas.

The recipe is simple but not quick*:

1 lb. pinto beans, soaked for two hours. Rinse first.

6 cups water

2 garlic cloves

1 jalapeno

1/4 yellow onion

2 tablespoons salt

Combine all in a large olla, add the water. When it boils, cover and reduce flame to simmer. Check after an hour; salt to taste. When they’re soft they’re ready.

Cumin is also used but I hate the smell so no cumin in my recipe. Salt pork or bacon can be added.

If I’m making chile beans, like I am tonight, I add cooked soy chorizo, “beefless ground” (Trader Joe’s) and powdered New Mexican chile. The no meat recipe is for the vegans in my family.

The simple dish looks like this:

Frijoles de Olla, homestyle pinto beans. Photo by gailanng

Buen provecho! (Bon Appetit).

 

Here are a few A to Z Challenges that I’ve enjoyed reading:

For funny and weird French expressions see Evelyne’s blog.

Margo’s View: that little voice.

A blog of great DorkyMom doodles.

Short-short stories from Trina Balaka Looks Back.