Life is moving along, happily. Hard work has gone into this happy. This happy moves subconsciously some days and fully consciously the next.
There is love.
There is life.
There is food.
There is hard work but, most importantly, there is love of life. And food; Big love of food!
Love happens and life happens and everything is better than fine… until it’s not fine!
Accident’s happen. Do they happen to us? If not to us, to whom? We are all so fragile and at risk. It is a good thing that we don’t all live life with this thought in mind… always in our minds.
It is something that does pass, ever so nonchalantly, though our thoughts when we hear about the news or come across a situation that rattles us yet leaving us unscathed.
I am a deep thinker, so I do have thoughts of mortality and immortality, somewhat often. I am thankful to be alive and yet I am most thankful when reminded, yet again, how fragile life really is.
This post is about thoughtfulness of life. Other people’s lives… who might need people to be thoughtful, of them.
It primarily has to do with two women I have met only once. One is Raquel Ruiz Diaz, the life-partner of Chef Blaine Wetzel of Willows Inn. Raquel was charismatic and delightful on the night we dined there a year ago. She brought us our food, our drink, relocated us to the perfect table for a warm Spring night, and her compassion, plus enthusiasm of all that the Willow’s Inn bestowed upon all of us lucky diners.
Unfortunately, the beginning of this dining season, she is holding court from a hospital bed in South America. Charming as I’m sure she still is, this is not the place neither she nor Blaine expected they would be on this glorious day of May.
During the winter break on a visit home to her family in Paraguay, she was struck down by a drunk driver (who fled) during a run and was left with…a long road ahead.
Raquel was uninsured due to a technicality. She luckily, survived and is now, thanks to the love and support of a vast community, mostly going to be okay. Her recovery though, will be long.
More love and support are needed (and more money is welcome)!
I know first-hand how much change a health issue bestows; it significantly alters one’s world and that of their loved ones, and I am asking those that I know or who are reading this post, to consider helping her cause. Help by sending well-wishes, getting the word out, or by donating yourself here.
Equally disturbing, and on a very familial note, my sister-in-law Irma, has had such a traumatic experience with her family as well. Quite upsettingly, her situation does not have the foreseen positive outcome as Raquel’s. Clara is living with quadriplegia after being gunned down by hoodlums on their Mexican ranch last year. Despite being transported across the country to better hospitals and with many surgeries behind her, the prognosis is eternal paralysis.
Again, I ask you to imagine, what if… ?
This could happen to any one of us in the blink of an eye!
I think of this today as Irma was sharing me photos of her making Pozole with my nephews in the background, and after reading the recent newsletter from Willow’s Inn and checking in on Raquel’s situation via the internet. The long road ahead for her coincides with an amazing award for her Blaine. He has won, yet another, James Beard award for his (their) efforts. While he might feel delight and accomplishment in the attainment, I would bet that he also feels… well, who am I to say what he feels? I just know, he would have preferred to have Raquel with him to share this achievement.
There has been a huge reach out from the community at large from all over the world; a pretty amazing thing in itself!
If for no other reason than one of sheer hedonistic desire (on my part) to see her in person, once again, sharing her charm and bringing us a wonderful experience at the Willows Inn, I ask you to donate to her cause. Or, get the word out that this is a cause worthy of donation! I have very little blog bandwidth but those of you that do can help to message her needs.
And to this, I offer a personal thought about my sister-in-law, Irma! Irma’s sister is someone that was (and still is) full of life. She always will be in my mind as I remember her during the one occasion at which we met; in Ajjijic, Mexico, at the christening of my nephew Alex, followed by a fiesta at my Dad and Linda’s bed and breakfast, Los Artistas.
The backyard on that lazy afternoon before the fiesta.
For Raquel and Blaine, and with love for my sister’s dear Cardona family, I offer Irma’s Pozole and hope you will enjoy our passion for food, friends and family.
Irma starts with fresh hominy (which I was recently lucky enough to source in Arizona while visiting my Mom). I found it to be superior over dried hominy but either will work. If using dried hominy, it will take a bit longer to cook (add 2 hours to the cooking time before adding the meat, or if using a pressure cooker, consider cooking it for 30 minutes before adding the meat).
Irma makes hers in a pot over the stove-top; long, fragrant cooking. Since pressed for time, I made mine in a pressure cooker which finishes in about an hour from start to finish.
I cooked my fresh hominy for 15 minutes on high-pressure using the whole 35oz bag plus 8 cups of water. I then added 2 lb boneless, country style pork ribs, 1 chopped onion, 6 cloves of peeled, chopped garlic, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp dry oregano and 1 cup freshly-made tomatillo salsa. I turned the pressure cooker to high heat and cooked for 20 minutes. I then added the juice of three limes and fresh pepper to taste, plus about 1/2 tsp more salt.
This concoction will thicken overnight and the quantity of liquid can be adjusted to your liking by adding more, or by simmering it down to have less. I don’t cut my pork into pieces, but rather let it cook to the point of shredding tender, which may not necessarily be best, but Tom likes it.
The condiments for this stew are as important as the stew itself. Present bowls of the stew already garnished, or set out the garnishes on a platter with bowls for guests to decorate their own.
My must-have garnishes include:
Green cabbage, cilantro, radish, green onion, lime wedges, avocado and peanuts. Sour cream is a weakness of mine as well, so mine got a big dollop of that.
Irma’s Pozole (as written by Irma Cardona Edwards)
I recommend to clean the hominy really well and boil in enough water to cover by double for an hour, at first without the meat. Cut the meat in pieces and put it together with the hominy to cook until it is tender (another 45 minutes). As you add the meat, you add peppercorns, oregano, onion cut into 1/4’s, and a whole head of garlic, plus salt (enough to make the water taste, not quite as potent, as the sea, 2 tsp). I like my pozole like soup so I add more water to cover well as it simmers.
You can make your own green or red salsa and mix it all together into the simmering pot till is cook, or just put it on the side; it is up to you, I like it both ways.
Chop some cilantro, onions, Serrano pepper, radish and some green cabbage; you can add some slices of avocado if you want, and some lime!
Personally I like red pozole, I make my salsa with some dried red chillis, roast everything in the stove, red tomatoes, garlic and onion, then blended all together add salt and oregano, after blended you fry in a pan with a little oil.
You can serve white pozole and add the red salsa on the top or you can add the whole salsa to the pot of pozole when it is cooking!
Green salsa – use tomatillos and green Hatch peppers or any other long, green chile, garlic and onion, but in this case you boil everything and blend in with the water you boil with.
Gracias mi hermana Irma!
And most dear to my heart, yet on the subject of personal sadness, well-wishes and doing good, might I be so bold as to send out to the universe, our plea to let Buddy stay with us a little (uh, a lot) longer; his little brain needs to trump his little body, his work here is not done!
We love you baby boy!