Thursday, June 3, 2010

colcannon

Most of my friends know that my heritage is Mexican.  My mothers' family (all of whom I grew up with) spoke Spanish quickly and coyly, mainly to avoid the young American kids that never picked it up.  My grandmothers' kitchen was a swarm of people and smells, all of which was reminiscent of great times and family --- the men playing horseshoes out back or watching football in the living room.  I now cook most family dishes with great delight...even menudo.  Tonight (for my friend going from England to Rwanda) I made enchiladas and beans.

I am American to everyone in South Africa.  BUT to my friends in the states I am "Half Mexican and Half Irish" --keeping with a descriptive used by most Americans -- an explanation of where your family is from to show your heritage.

The part of my heritage that I talk less about is my father's side...Irish.  My father grew up in Boston and came to California in 1958 to make his mark (and a fortune) and left his whole family behind in the eastern portion of the USA.  He fell in love with my mother (a Mexican girl) and went back to tell his family, none of whom ever married anyone outside of Boston, but also never married a non-Irish.  They were amazingly supportive...and the union was on.

This year my parents celebrate 50 years of marriage.  Married in 1960, they have endured everything under the sun... and are happy still.  Tomorrow they leave for a motoring tour of Ireland...to touch the part of my father's heart that has never been touched - his homeland heartstrings.

Tonight as I was talking to them and said goodbye I made sure to tell them to have a real boxtie and colcannon.  They assured me they would.

Potatoes are the staple of Ireland, and many things are made from them.  To make a real Irish boxtie you grate potatoes, soak them in milk, then strain them and whip in eggs and flour and throw in hot oil in an awaiting skillet .  Chefs began adding onions, parsley, bacon, sausage...you get the picture.   When the boxtie is nice and crisp on the outside, you flip it over and do the same thing.  It looks like a big hash brown.  When it's done, you salt, top it with applesauce and sour cream and serve.  (My mouth is watering).

When we moved to South Africa, there was a remarkable absence of Mexican food...and Irish food.  So when a traditional Irish pub opened up, Mario and I ran to eat there.  I ordered a boxtie, and they brought me a large pancake rolled up with steamed vegetables inside.  On top was cheese sauce.

I called the waiter and told him that the boxtie was done wrong (he assured me it wasn't) and if he could get the manager I'd show him how to do it.  They thought it was funny, and politely declined my offer.  I couldn't finish the thing... and left a very small tip.  A boxtie is hard to get wrong... unless you're in Africa.

Another Irish comfort food is colcannon.  This is basically mashed potatoes with spinach, broccoli or cabbage  stirred together and baked in a big pot (also with sour cream).  The beauty of both the boxtie and colcannon is that they are simple, full of carbs and love.  They also remind me that I am Irish by descent.

My parents have never gone off the continent until tomorrow.  They have seen nearly every state in America, Mexico and Canada, but have never travelled internationally.  I am excited for them, and hope one day they will venture out here.

It would be a dream come true to serve them enchiladas and colcannon from my own kitchen in South Africa.  Love knows no boundaries