Early mornings at my grandparent’s house in Puerto Rico were extraordinarily beguiling and captivating. My older sister, Cynthia, and I awoke every morning in the soft, white-cloud canopy of mosquito nets hung from hooks embedded in lofty ceilings. In the drowsy world of being not quite awake, as we stirred, not yet aware of sights and sounds, we felt like brides…or princesses. As we lay in our beds savoring the last vestiges of morning coolness, we took pleasure in the cooing of doves outside our windows. The gentle swish, swish, swish of slippers against old floor tiles signaled the house was coming to life and someone, thank you God!, was making coffee. Even as little girls we always drank coffee. Everyone did. I remember my mother laughing as she told me the story of my Tio Roberto and coffee. Mama said my uncle was a young boy of maybe five or six years old when my grandfather found him somewhat wistful and down in the mouth. Tio Roberto was my grandfather’s favorite boy and couldn’t bear to see him unhappy. “Mi nene, pero que te pasa”? “My son, what’s wrong?” In a low voice my uncle answered, “Aye, Papa! I hate school!” “But why?”, asked my grandfather. Tio Roberto answered, “I miss my 10:00 cafe con leche.” That cracks me up every time I think about it. His father replied, “Well, you don’t have to go to school. Stay home and have your cafecito as long as you want.” Can you imagine saying that to your kindergartener? And so my uncle did. Everyday my mother, aunts and uncles would pile into the coach to be driven to school while my Tio Roberto stayed home…alone…with no one to play with. No brothers to go fishing or ride together. No brothers to climb trees with or sisters to tease. That had to be hell. That lasted two or three days, he gave up his mid-morning coffee and back to school he happily went.
Breakfast in Puerto Rico was always modest and light. Don’t get me wrong, it was always enjoyable but never heavy with pancakes and meat and cheesy casseroles. Breakfast typically consisted of strong Puerto Rican coffee laced with steamed whole milk and a generous spoonful of island sugar. Oh, but it was good! Alongside jugs of ice-cold water, one at each end of the table, were baskets of crackers to be eaten with a little local cheese or butter. And there was, without fail, fresh fruit. Luscious wheels of deep, coral-red papaya or sweet, golden pineapple beautifully carved and laid out on platters would complete the meal. But if we were really lucky we would be served guava paste or guava spread. Guava and cream cheese spread is sublime offered firm and cold from the refrigerator or warm and runny having been freshly made. These days it’s a beautiful addition not only at breakfast or brunch but also at cocktail hour. The addition of the cream cheese and sour cream in the recipe lends the spread the perfect balance of sweet and savory. It’s beautiful at a shower, picnic or pool party and lasts forever covered in the refrigerator. Here in Florida guava paste may be found on the bread aisle at Winn-Dixie and on the canned fruit aisle at Publix. If you can’t find it just ask. And last, I buy the guava paste cryovaced in block form made by Goya. Buen provecho!
Sweet Guava and Cream Cheese Spread
- 14 ounces guava paste
- 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- Place guava paste in a medium size bowl and on high heat soften 30 second increment until there are still lumps but you are able to stir the paste. You don’t want it to become liquid.
- Add the softened cream cheese and sour cream and stir until the mixture is smooth.
- Serve with crackers, biscotti or fruit. For a thicker, firmer consistency, cover and chill for several hours.