I don't believe in sandwiches
Light foods are not a Latino staple. We love our rice and beans.
The first time I took my gringo husband to Puerto Rico my parents planned a field trip for him to experience the island’s countryside beauty. They rented the church’s 17-passenger van and loaded it bright and early a Saturday morning with more than a dozen aunts, uncles and cousins. Neatly tucked under the back seat was a huge aluminum pot of arroz con pollo and an olla of red beans with pig feet.
As the bus went up and down hills nailing every pothole, my husband’s lungs –and head, and stomach- were overtaken by the sticky aroma of heavily seasoned foods. The sweet smells of home, those that brought me to a place of comfort and joy when they entered my nostrils, actually made him sick. On the verge of vomiting, he asked a question that made me think: “Don’t you people believe in sandwiches?”
The fact is we don’t. Of course any Latino with taste buds enjoys a cubano, a medianoche, a torta or a tripleta as much as the next guy. But those delicacies are more in the category of, how should I put this, heavy appetizers. They could never stand to our beloved rice and beans as a serious main course. Nope. We need our R&B (not to be mistaken by rhythm and blues), or something equally filling, heavy and rib-sticking good. I was reminded of that last week as I vacationed at the beach with my husband and sons. Families all around us were having their “dinner” seaside (white bread with ham and cheese, a bag of Tostitos), while we would head back to our rented condo for lasagna one night, a pot roast another time and, yes, also rice and beans.
Food is more than fuel to us. It is how we pass down culture and traditions. It’s the oracle through which we call our ancestors to the table to celebrate the rich heritage they've given us. Putting meats between two slices of bread just doesn't rise to the occasion. Moreover, the process of preparing food is a ritual of love to mark another day together with those that matter most to us. How could Wonder Bread ever do that?
We can definitively overdo it too. It isn’t by chance that obesity and diabetes are rampant in our community. Too much of a good thing becomes just too much; I am very mindful of that when I feed my family. Nevertheless, I’ll take my R&B over a lame sandwich any day and twice on Sunday.
As for my husband, he ate the arroz con pollo later that day (after the nausea subsided) and says it is the best he’s ever had. That’s a good thing because with me he has no choice. I don’t believe in sandwiches.