In all fairness to my older sister, we really do have a great relationship. There are only two years between us, so as little girls, we were best of friends for the longest time. All our relatives in Puerto Rico were extremely over protective, so in our grandparents house we only had each other. There were no play dates. No little girls were coming over. We weren’t often allowed to play outside. We could get kidnapped or, maybe worse, we could get sun. We didn’t care. We had each other. When we were about six and eight the day fianlly came when we were allowed to walk unescorted the one block to one of our favorite haunts…”la farmacia”, the pharmacy. Hand in hand we slowly walked on the sidewalk away from our house knowing there were six to seven sets of eyes fixed on us from the second floor front balcony. It’s pretty safe to say there were probably lots of prayers flying about and maybe a novena or two. Our grandparents lived on a beautiful street named “Avenida Flamboyanes”, Royal Poinciana Avenue. The street was lined on both sides with lovely, graceful royal poinciana trees, their tiny leaves constantly fluttering in a downward spiral. The tree has a gorgeous, fiery red flower, but, even better, was when it produced its dark brown, foot-long seed pods. We’d gather them up, they were all over the ground, and then carefully split open each pod to find a great big seed, larger than a big watermelon seed. All the seeds went into our pockets and then the two little girls played a rousing game of “War”. How we hurled those seeds at each other, shrieking and laughing, they’d sting when they made contact but that just made it better. And for all that racket we made, day after day, summer after summer, year after year no one came out of their homes to scold us, tell us to quiet down or take it somewhere else. It was great. Our favorite “flamboyan” tree was at the front of a house where the family living there had an exotic green parrot by the name of Paco. Paco lived in a black, wrought iron cage hanging in a demi-lune tiled balcony. Nice. Really nice. Over 50 years later it remains our favorite house. Right around the corner from it is “la farmacia”. It was as though we had entered another world. Oh, the treasures to be had inside the drugstore. Perhaps today would be the day the new Archie comic books would arrive. If we weren’t allowed comic books at home, how the heck could it be allowable here, we wondered. And the candy. Oh, the candy! Easter egg colored, candy covered almonds sat along side pastel, melt-in-your-mouth sugar dots. There were rock hard, pyramid-shaped all day suckers in the flavors of the island, guava, and mango as well as the soft sweet potato, sesame and coconut candies typical of the island. And Barbie coloring books. Another taboo figure in our stateside home. Mama was NOT a big fan of Barbie. At home, Cynthia and I each had one Barbie and a few outfits but that’s it. No trunks of fashions nor Barbie Dreamhouse were part of our childhood. We held dance contests with our Barbies dancing to Van Cliburn albums playing on the family stereo, known back then as the “hi-fi”. Back at the farmacia, we slowly walked back home with our purchases in hand, or not, if we had already blown our bank on previous excursions. It was a wonderful world for the two little girls. Come what may we had our constants, unconditional love, unending heat, 4:oo p.m. cartoons and rice and beans…every single day.
Perfect rice is truly easy. First, let’s talk grains. I use certain grains for certain dishes. My favorite is a medium grain. Soft, like a short grain, but holds its shape like a long grain. I use medium grain rice for mostly all dishes except the following. Dolmades, Greek stuffed grape leaves, require a short grain rice, arborio or valencia. Rice pilaf is best with a long grain. But other than that, I’m a medium grain girl. I use the same measuring method for rice to water ratio for white rice or brown rice. I use two large beverage glasses identical in size and shape. Each glass holds exactly two cups. My ratio for medium grain white is 1 1/2 glasses of water for every one glass of rice. Brown rice, and I like short grain organic, is 1 2/3 glasses of water to one glass of rice. I buy large bags of rice and always have it on hand. I salt my water well because, like grits, if you salt them after they’re cooked they never have any flavor. Grits and rice will stay tasting flat and disappointing. After cooking, rice freezes really well. For a good stir fry you want dry, day old rice, not freshly made, otherwise it will stick together and clump up. So pay attention to measurements and your rice will turn out great. You’ll be all over it like white on rice!
- 2 identical iced tea or water glasses, one filled to the rim with medium grain white rice
- Fill the other glass with room temperature water and pour into a medium size heavy pot. Add half a glass more water and pour into pot.
- Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to pot.
- Add 1 teaspoon salt to pot and bring to a rolling boil.
- Add rice, stir well, cover tightly and drop heat to low.
- Simmer 30-45 minutes and taste for doneness. If not quite done and dry, add 2 tablespoons water, cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Serve warm.