It is said that Latin American countries possess a festive, welcoming, and friendly culture. A few things that separate Latin Hispanic communities are soccer, the large variety of empanadas, and how we use the same ingredients, but in a different way. The wide selection of regional music we offer is played at every wedding, at quinceañeras, bailes de debutantes, in the plazas, and at all types of school graduation parties. A couple of things remain constant from Mexico all the way to Argentina. We love food made from scratch, and we love sharing food at the table with family and friends. Food is a very important element of all social gatherings. Many of the times I’ve had the chance to hang out with my Latin American and Hispanic brothers and sisters, everyone is in high spirits, sharing jokes, music is playing in the background, and up to three generations share food whether in the form of potluck or everyone cooking together. This is a feature I know we also share with some old-world cultures from the Mediterranean countries.
When Jo and I lived in the townhouse over on Lincoln street in Harrisonburg Virginia, we only had Sundays and very few holidays to hang out with our friends because I was working the second shift at George’s Chicken, a poultry manufacturing company out of Springdale, Arkansas. There was a time we hosted a dinner and invited Sury, Chris, and Sury’s cousin Melissa along with her boyfriend, Ruben. That first time making chimichurri for friends I hand chopped the parsley, something you could do when preparing the recipe here if the romance of the traditional method of preparation appeals to you, or if you want to impress your beloved companion. If you do decide to hand chop the parsley to impress someone, make sure you play some sexy tunes, and have a couple of options of wine for you and that special someone, or whatever drink you want to pair with the dishes you’re cooking up.
Because I was hosting a group of friends I was listening to some 90’s Mexican rock tunes like the first couple of albums Mana put out and probably drinking some Bohemia Lager. Back then I didn’t know much about the rich history of wine, or beer. I knew wine comes from grapes and that beer was the third favorite drink in Mexico with Coca-Cola being #1, then aguas frescas #2. Food was my biggest focus, and I gave much less thought to wine and beer before Cueva Bar Café came into existence.
To stay close to how I envisioned chimichurri being used, I cooked a steak dinner with mashed potatoes and roasted carrots. Simple, I know. I’ve always focused on cooking delicious meals and didn’t start working on complex ideas until after the winter of 2005. After the winter of 2005 when I learned the art of making dinner rolls from Mike, my cousin Lety’s ex-husband I felt I could learn and execute any dish so I began to expand my horizons. The fun began every time I’d go to the store with no grocery list, but basically putting dinner together in my head while I was walking through the aisles of the grocery store grabbing ingredients on the fly. No, I did not come up with the game show Grocery Games or Super Market Stake Out.
That night back on Lincoln street I remember talking about soccer--Maradona and El Bocas Junior. For dessert, Ruben and Melissa brought ate de membrillo with a mozzarella-like cheese but with more flavor, almost like a Mexican manchego.
While enjoying the cheese and ate dessert I asked Ruben, my friend from Argentina, what he thought of dinner. He gave me his approval and said it was as good as a chimichurri found in Argentina.
A couple of years later, my friend Chuy from Mexico moved to Greensboro N.C. for work. He began to take trips to Harrisonburg just to hang out because he felt a little homesick. I could relate to that feeling because just like him, I didn’t have any friendships from Mexico living nearby that I could relate to. Anyway, one day it occurred to us to take a trip to NYC.
To be continued...