A Gift For Mother on Her Day: “Mas Arroz, Por Favor!”   10 comments

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I stopped eating rice when I was a preadolescent.

The truth is that I never really enjoyed it and it was such a big staple in my family that it naturally created certain tensions.  My Abuelita made rice (or arroz) several times a week and my mother did as well.  Arroz con fill-in-the-blank:  Pollo, Gandules, Salchichas, Camarones, Habichuelas– I hated them all.  The worst was Arroz Blanco– plain white rice that made me gag.  And because of their association with rice, I hated beans too.  Today I will eat them, but never many.

The tipping point for me, came at the hands of one of my least favorite uncles.  On my mother’s side there were four brothers– Juan, Angel, Manuel and Reynaldo.  My Abuelita had made a saffron-colored rice dish.  I refused to eat it.  Haughtily refused.  No way. 

Enter Manuel.  He sits across from me. 

“You’re gonna eat that rice.”

“Nope.”

“You’re gonna eat that rice, or else.”

“I am not.”

“You don’t want to eat that rice?”

Electric dialogue, huh?  (Don’t blame me, I was only 10 or so.)

“No!”

Image DetailWith that he picked up the now cold plate of rice and in Cagneyesque fashion shoved it into my face.  Thank you, Tio Manuel.  Actually, that day he stopped being my Tio (uncle)– he became just Manuel to me and remains that way to this day. 

My reaction surprised even him.  After my initial shock, I stood up and yelled out “Thank you– now I will never eat rice again!”  (“You friggin’ idiot”, I thought to myself.)  My mother, who was trying to keep the peace in the family, sat there shocked as I was and said nothing.  It is one of those regrets that she has in her life. 

One other unpleasant memory I have of Manuel is that he is the brute who accidentally shut a car door on my ring finger when I was about 3 years of age.  This was so painful that it may be my earliest memory.  And in fact, to this day, the tip of that finger is a little bit flatter than the others and the fingernail does not grow quite the same the others.  Thank you, Pendejo.

He must be punished.  But being a kid, what could I do?

Opportunity knocked and I (along with my cousin, the ever mischievous, Papo, who is 4 months older than me) engineered a comeuppance for my miscreant uncle.  I did not think of it that way at the time, but in retrospect, it all makes sense.

Enter Element of Opportunity Numero Uno:  When I was growing up, girls had dolls and boys had guns.  That’s just the way it was.  One of my favorites was an air powered pop gun that made a horrific, and for a boy, deliciously loud noise.  No projectiles– just an obnoxiously magical bang.

Enter Element of Opportunity Numero Dos:  Edwin– my cousin and Manuel’s son.  Edwin, several years junior to Papo and me, wanted to play with this rifle in the worst way.  Who could blame him?

Enter Element of Opportunity Numero Tres:  Manuel, fresh off of the night shift, sleeping on his back in the second bedroom.

It was the Perfect Storm a confluence of factors that can never be repeated.

Says Papo to Edwin: “You wanna play with this gun?”

Excitedly Edwin replies, “Yes!  Yes!”

“OK, here’s the deal.  You have to go into the bedroom and point the gun at your father’s head and shoot him, OK?”

“Yeah! Yeah!” 

We pumped the air rifle and handed it to the now giddy Edwin.  Like a commando, Edwin made his way, Air Rifle in hand, into enemy territory.  Step by tentative step, he approached his dad, who was soundly snoring on his back.  Papo and I were standing just outside the door witnessing the unfolding of the events that we had gleefully set in motion.  Like a big game hunter, Edwin stalked and approached his prey on tiptoe, lest he spook him from his restful slumber.  The rifle raised and now aimed squarely at Manuel’s ear, his hands shaking ever so slightly with excitement, but determinedly, he squeezed the trigger and

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From a prostrate position– Manuel’s body, defying all known laws of physics, literally did a vertical lift straight up in the air as if he had been spring loaded.  I am not making it up when I say that for an instant there was nothing but air between Manuel and the mattress that had to that instant provided him with restful repose.

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Papo and I turned heel and sought refuge under one of the other beds in the three bedroom apartment as the following words chased after us:  “What the ….!!!!  Where are you, I’m going to kill both of you!”  We must have stayed under that bed crapping in our pants for over an hour.

The only thing that saved us, I think, is that Edwin realizing that he had been duped and had perhaps not thought too clearly about the events that would unfold after he pulled the trigger must have broken down, crapped his own pants and cried like a little girl. 

I do not believe that I am Edwin’s favorite cousin– and I can’t say that I blame him. 

I suppose I should feel bad about the events that unfolded that day, but truth be told, it’s pretty much the exact opposite.  Ah sweet, sweet revenge.  A dish best served cold– just like the rice that was pushed into my face. 

Do I still avoid arroz?

Over ten years later, in my junior year in college, I befriended a classmate, an older woman  (she was about 40 and divorced) who introduced me to two cuisines that I had never tasted before and that would impact my future, though I knew that not at that time: Kosher food and Chinese food.

“You have never had Chinese food?”, she queried incredulously.

“My parents never took me– they thought all of the Chinese restaurants were unsanitary.”  (We were also piss poor in the early years and had gotten into the habit of taking every meal at home.)

That’s all the encouragement this classmate needed.  She took me out to dinner at a local Chinese place.  We, I should say she, ordered moo shu pork– loved that, veggies, plum sauce and pancakes.  Then came the chicken with garlic sauce– with a side of gag-reflex inducing WHITE RICE

I thought to myself– How the heck am I going to eat this?  How can I not?

“I don’t eat rice.”

“Try just a little bit,” she implored.

Tentatively I lifted the white pearly grains to my mouth which was already burning from the spiciness of the garlic sauce. 

Holy s**t!  This is good! 

“Can I get another bowl?”

The rest is history with one epilogue– when I went home for Thanksgiving later that year, and asked my mother for a helping of rice.  She fell off her chair.  OK, at the very least, she must have dropped her silverware.  She must have thought I was kidding because she cautiously only gave me one helping.

I do not believe that she has gotten over the regrets resulting from her inaction that day so very long ago, but when I told her the story of Manuel’s comeuppance, I think it made her laugh and lightened her burden.  But I know that each time I eat her rice, it brings her back to that day.  And I usually try to remind her of the moment when the universe was put back in balance with a single shot from an air rifle and a single spoonful of her delicious rice.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

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Posted May 13, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

10 responses to “A Gift For Mother on Her Day: “Mas Arroz, Por Favor!”

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  1. I don’t know for sure if this is for your mother or for you!
    http://www.ricekrispies.com/en_US/default.html#/en_US/default

  2. This is the most visCeral of your posties, but words like @ssh*l, one-bath a week poor, and “holy bird-shot” Batman come to mind.
    i can’t wait to see your Father’s day post! /-)

  3. Is this like tweeting, hermano?
    Though I have an account with them, I never use it.

  4. NIce story. I actually never ate rice as a kid despite my Father’s obsession with Chinese food. Funny how we are..
    Avvinare

  5. From my POV, it’s the Adults that are the funny ones. As kids we have to deal with all their fears, expectations, hopes and dreams. Parents have a difficult job balancing those ingrained considerations and behaviors with their Child’s need to be a Child. One of those needs to is to eat what you want when you want (within reason). That parenthetical is the Adult in me saying you can’t give the child free reign. But there are nicer ways of providing guidance than my Mother’s brother chose. In the end that less than 2 minute exchange between him and me permanently soured my feelings toward him (I think that comes across rather nicely, don’t you?). Yes, no question, it’s the Adults that are the funny ones…

    Susannah, I also appreciate your checking in on my ramblings. BTW, on your recommendation, I tried the Ferrari (Trento Doc) which is now a staple in our house. Thank you for that!

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