Hello my blogies! It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? I’m still trying to figure things out, wishing there was a template or an established procedure for the grieving process. Alas! There isn’t one, I’ll just have to wing it.
Needless to say, going back home was very difficult. The only thing that helped was the knowledge that my Mami’s brave fight with cancer was finally over. She’s no longer in pain, no longer uncomfortable, she’s done putting on a brave face for us. She lived an amazing life. She loved and was deeply loved. She was caring to a fault and was cared for like a queen.
Mami was generous too. I like to think she decided this was the right time so I could be home when so many of my favorites fruits were in peak season. No mangoes, but what was available, I haven’t had in decades and I’m going to share them with you. I’m going to give you a look at what I ate while I was in Panama. Check it out.
Pixbae or Peach Palm Fruit.
How do I describe the flavor of this one??? It isn’t sweet, let’s start with that. It is dense, has the density of a potato and kinda tastes like one. Maybe a Yukon gold, it has a slight hint of sweetness in the background. It is also a bit nutty and has a pit that, when cracked, has a little edible nut.
The pixbae has to be cooked before eating. This was my first time cooking them with instructions from my Tia Lidia. The fruits need to be washed, then the bottoms are scored with an X, they’re then boiled in salted water with a bit of vegetable oil. It takes about 45 minutes to cook.
It’s then peeled and eaten just like that or made into soups, salads, puree and, more recently, tamales.
Moving on… Nance, sometimes known as wild or yellow cherry. Also a fruit, it is very tart and not generally eaten whole.
Nance has a black pit and the pulp needs to be squeezed off it–either by hand or pulsing it in a blender. It is then strained and used to make chicha. In Panama we make chichas or fruit drinks that are served with every meal. Unlike Mexican aguas frescas, our chichas are 70% fresh fruit juice, 20% water and 10% sugar. We make chichas with almost any fruit.
The other common use for nance is Pesada, a pudding-like dessert made with nance, fresh corn and sometimes coconut milk. This is then served with crumbled queso blanco (white cheese similar to queso fresco).
One of my mom’s friends made a batch just for me and it was de.li.cio.so!
Look at this spread…
Can you tell how happy I was? Here’s the whats.
This one needed to ripen a bit more. When they’re ready to be eaten, the flesh turns a beautiful coral color. This is what Guava paste is made from, of course, I don’t know why they call it guava paste…
Finally, tomate de árbol. I had not seen this one before, but it is very pretty.
Fear not, I didn’t just eat fruits.
My dad took me to one of his favorite Fondas, a road-side full-service food stand.
The 3 of us ate for a grand total of $7.50. I had fried fish with patacones, my aunt had a side of patacones and dad had the chicken soup. Oh, and 3 nance chichas.
Follow this link to see the details. That bowl of soup is filled with chicken and veggies and that fish… was pure perfection!
Good cooks run in the family. This was the spread my Aunt Bubbles (Irma) put together for us. She makes the best bacalaitos, cod fish fritters!
Hats off to the cook! Tia Irma sitting in the middle with the blue top.
I was able to spend some quality time with dad and my siblings, the aunts and cousins. We ate, laughed, cried and remembered my mom.