It is amazing how much you become like someone when you spend a significant amount of time with them. Especially if they happen to be pretty nice and you enjoy their company. I used to think of myself as a person with pretty refined taste. People in the inner city have referred to me as bourgeois. Sometimes it is a compliment, other times it is meant as an insult. For me, making a snack means slicing up some artisan bread fresh from the bakery, slathering it with pesto, and then topping it with crumbled goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes. Pop it under the broiler for one and a half minutes and voila! You have a snack to tickle every taste bud.
Before I moved to Florida, I knew there was a large Latino population but had no idea exactly how large it was. I also had no idea how little I knew about the various cultures until I had the pleasure of meeting Miriam, our department administrative assistant. She is one of the sweetest people I have ever met and as a Puerto Rican, is a complete expert on anything Puerto Rican. After spending a considerable amount of time around her, she has declared me to be “Boriqua by association”. I am pretty sure that is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a person who is not of Latino heritage. I can now say many common phrases in Spanish without so much as a hint of a foreign accent, and a good snack consists of pasto de guayaba (guava paste), galletas (thick crackers), and queso fresco (fresh cheese). I never could have imagined that food could be so tasty without having been mentioned in Bon Apetit magazine, but life in Florida has introduced me to a whole new world of culinary experiences. We may not have a great French Patisserie here, but the ensalada de aguacate (avocado salad) and pastelon (sweet plantain lasagna) makes up for it in its own way.
I am glad I had a chance to get to know Miriam and be introduced to the beauty of Latino food. I still can’t quite wrap my palate around Malta, but I have come a long way from pesto and goat cheese. Bourgeois Afsana has not gone away. I still love a good cannoli or shashimi, but I have also come to appreciate food that I never previously would have even considered trying.