It’s interesting, the way food and stories seem to intertwine, as if the threads of memory are somehow anchored to the scent, the sight, the taste of something old and familiar. Recipes travel from generation to generation, binding us with the mooring lines of who we are and where we come from. In new places, in uncertain times, we turn to them for comfort, as is evident in this sweet tale that arrived, quite appropriately, with a recipe attached. — Story Guru
Contributed by: Miriam Lozano
When we came from Cuba, we were very poor. My Dad did not work for over a year.
We received $100 a month from the Refugee Relief Program and also food rations similar to what the military had at the time. (Processed meat in a can, peanut butter, powdered milk and eggs, block cheese, rice and beans and flour- sometimes Vienna sausage and deviled ham) My mother did not know what peanut butter was, so she used it as frosting on cakes that she would make with the flour we got in our rations, that is until she found out we could put it on bread (we did not like this very much).
Anyway, she was very creative with the processed meat and made dishes like picadillo (ground beef in sauce) by grinding it all up, or fried it by slicing it into thin slices. She would cube it and make stew with potatoes, etc. She did not know what deviled ham or Vienna sausages were but she would make a paste out of the deviled ham with mayonnaise and ketchup, (which we didn’t use either); she watered it down to use as tomato sauce. She would spread this paste on bread to make sandwiches.
She tasted the Vienna sausage and decided they could be used to make arroz con salchichas [rice with vienna sausage]). We loved it when she made this because it was special treat that we did not get all the time. Of course, at the time, we did not put corn in it, because we didn’t have any. I added that later. As my Dad and Mom got jobs and income started coming in, we stopped getting the rations and were able to go to the grocery store and buy food, so Vienna Sausage was not something my Mom would buy regularly. However, when money got tight, this was the most inexpensive meat she could buy and so it was time to pull out the recipe once again.
I use this recipe in the same way now. Whenever my pantry is running low on supplies, I always have Vienna Sausage because a buy a can or two every time I do the groceries. So, when pantry is low or when I need a quick meal (Wednesday nights) I make this recipe. Hector loves it and I don’t mind it either. We usually eat this with fried Spam to remind us of the processed meat we used to eat …in the beginning.
Arroz con salchichas – Yellow rice with Vienna sausage
3 cans of Vienna sausages – cut into ½ inch slices
A scoop of sofrito (this is chopped onions, green peppers, garlic, cilantro and olives)
1 can of tomato sauce
½ cup of cooking wine
½ a can of corn
Saute in a tablespoon of olive oil all the above for about five minutes
Add 3 cups of rice and stir it all up. You will have to add more water or chicken stock; enough to cover the rice and another inch of liquid. Add salt, pepper, complete seasoning, one bay leaf, a handful of green olives (optional) and paprika for coloring or bijol (this is what I use. Bought at World or Global Market in the seasoning section)
Cook –uncovered on high until the liquids start to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook for another 20 minutes. Rice is done when it is fluffy and all the liquids have been absorbed.
Hope you enjoy a little bit of Cuba the American way.
There you have it — food and a fine tale. Some of the best dishes are the ones that come about by accident. Is there anything more satisfying than a meal that speaks of love and family unity? That, my story friends, is the ultimate comfort food — Story Guru
Author Bio: Miriam is a story lover, an avid reader, a church volunteer, a library volunteer, and a proud descendant of Cuban parents who traveled from the shores of their homeland in search of a new life for their family.