• elise

Chapter 36 - I knew very early I was falling in love...


#Spillthebeansonlove - Chapter 36 Overall the birthday trip was a raving success. I got to meet some of Guapo’s friends, we had a ‘memorable’ experience that we can laugh about for years to come, I was able to surprise Guapo with an American Dream experience and watch as he lived out the true essence of American freedom. Quite frankly, the birthday weekend exceeded my expectations, and at the same time made me fall more deeply in love with this amazing man. I knew very early on that I was falling in love with Guapo. One afternoon I shared this information with one of my best friends and she said, ‘well, don’t do what I did.’ I couldn’t imagine what she was going to say. My friend is happily married to a wonderful man and they had a beautiful courtship. ‘Don’t do what?’ I asked. ‘Whatever you do, don’t have one too many margaritas and look across the table at a Mexican restaurant on date 3 and tell him that you love him.’ We laughed and laughed. I love that this was her story and I love that she married that man. I assured her that I would hold it together and steer clear of the margaritas until he professes his undying love for me. After which, I could make no guarantees of my margarita love confessions. After a very busy few days, we were fortunate to have one quiet night left together before Guapo was to head back to Miami. We decided that we would stay in, relax, make dinner, and enjoy the simplicity of each other's good company. As much as I love going to bars, restaurants, and concerts, there’s something so beautiful about a quiet night in. In fact, oftentimes, it ends up being my favorite type of date night. Tonight, I was excited to have the smell of a home-cooked meal in my kitchen. I love the look and feel of my house when delicious spices fill the air, the lights are dimmed, candles are lit, and music reverberates throughout the space. These are the nights when I look around my home and can’t believe I’ve been able to create such a beautiful life. The irony is that the beauty and simplicity of this night was anything but simple to achieve. It may seem simple to someone else, but for me, it took years of heartache and growth, patience, and a little bit of Grandma’s divine intervention to be able to have these moments. Perhaps that’s why I don’t take nights like this for granted. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved Latin food. Give me Mexican street food, Spanish tapas, Costa Rican Arroz con pollo any day of the week and my taste buds and tummy are bursting with gratitude. I’m obsessed with rice dishes. In fact, I’ve been talking about a Spanish seafood paella for decades, and I’ve even shown Guapo pictures of the arroz con pollo that my friend’s Costa Rican mom made as the main dish at her wedding shower. I suppose you could call it a mild obsession. Guapo being the attentive man that he is, obviously caught on to this obsession. Once we decided to stay in and cook, Guapo’s wheels starting turning. It was obvious he had some sort of idea brewing. He said, ‘I have to make a phone call.’ I wondered if he was having more wine delivered, or perhaps he knew of some amazing takeout that he was going to order for us, instead of cooking, or maybe he was going to organize a grocery delivery? I really had no idea, but I love a man with a plan. ‘Hola, que vola?’ I hear on the other end of the line. I soon realize that Guapo has called his sister and although I don’t understand everything they are talking about, I can tell that they are discussing a family recipe. The ingredients sound divine. Arroz, cebolla, ajo,- rice, onion, garlic, right up my alley. Pollo y papas - chicken and potatoes. He gets off the phone and says 'let’s walk to the grocery store, I’m going to make you my family specialty - pollo a la barbacoa.' Being from Texas, I assumed this meant that he wanted to fire up the grill and BBQ some chicken, then cover it in a sweet and tangy sauce, but I was in fact way off. Pollo a la barbacoa is a savory chicken dish, similar to arroz con pollo, but full-on Cuban style! He didn't find this recipe online, we were going to do our best to follow his Mom and sister’s recipe from years and years of cooking with limited ingredients in Cuba. As we wind in and out of the grocery store aisles, we call his sister 3 times. Her patience is evident as she continues to repeat the ingredients, and walk us through her process of how to choose the best chicken, spices, and produce. At last, we get back to the house and I eagerly set up all of the ingredients as well as all the kitchen items we’ll need in order to make Pollo a la barbacoa. I’m excited to try his family recipe and I’m honored that he is going to make it for me. Truth be told, I didn’t expect Guapo to have any culinary talent. As I thought about all of the improvements he made in my house, the way he can salsa dance, the sweetness with which he can comfort a child, or connect with my little Yorkie, I thought to myself - how many talents can one man realistically have? It was time to fire up the kitchen and time to see his cooking skills in action! The neighbors could hear the celebratory uncorking of a fresh bottle of Malbec and the sounds of Celia Cruz streaming through the speakers. They were about to get the glorious aroma of onion, garlic, and butter floating down the hallway, delighting their senses and tickling their noses. We had every pan I own on the stovetop, Guapo’s sister on speakerphone and the cooking had officially begun. The warmth of rice simmering was filling the air with comfort and love, the onion and garlic were caramelizing and infusing their savory goodness into the chicken. The potatoes were frying in a pan of dancing olive oil, boasting perfect crispy edges with just the right amount of allover browning. The house felt warm, inviting, cozy, and downright delicious. As we let the Pollo a la barbacoa simmer on the stovetop, we cheersed to our first night staying in and cooking dinner. We thanked his sister for her guidance and now we waited. We watched over the simmering dishes as we were enrobed by the scent of the spices, fully embraced by the aroma taking over the kitchen. Time to wait patiently for the ingredients to blend, to merge, to marry one another. The music shifted from upbeat salsa to a romantic Latin ballad. Guapo was busy tidying up the whirlwind of dishes, plates, bowls, and measuring spoons on the countertops. I watched as he leaned over the sink with his hands full. This man had just poured his heart, soul and family love into my home and into our dinner. I handed him a few items to put in the sink and then I stood behind him, observing him with a sense of disbelief and awe. I wondered how one man could be so sweet, so selfless, so loving? Right then and there I started to feel a bubbling up of immense love. It started at the soles of my feet and began to rise up through my body like a bright white bubbling mercury type liquid. It warmed me as it rose from my feet to my legs past my stomach until it reached my heart center. Before I even understood what was happening, my arms were involuntarily thrown around his waist and my head was snuggled into his mid-back. Fully ignoring the Yogic gates of speech, I blurt out, ‘Ohhhhhhhh, I just love you so much’ in a tone similar to how I speak to Milo, my 6 lb. Yorkie. He stood upright. I jumped back. He turned to face me. I threw both of my hands over my mouth. I started to take imaginary words out of the air and shove them back into my mouth. ‘Go back in, go back in!’ I said. He took a purposeful step towards me and took my hands away from my mouth. He held them in his and lowered them to our hearts...paused... and said, ‘I love you too mi princesa.’ My knees melted like the butter in the saucepan. With the crackle of the actual butter as my background noise, I let out a big sigh of relief. ‘Oops.’ I said. He flashed his perfectly imperfect smile. I returned the gesture with a smile and said under my breath, ‘one of my friends warned me about moments like this.’ ‘Huh?’ Asks Guapo. ‘Nothing, never mind. I’ll tell you over margaritas someday.’ ‘Ok mi amor. Let’s eat.’ Guapo’s Family Pollo A La Barbacoa Chicken and Potato: Season 6 chicken drumsticks with salt, pepper, and if you like a little oregano (optional) Sautee 1 big Onion and a bunch of Garlic cloves in butter or olive oil Add the onions and garlic to the 6 Seasoned Chicken Drumsticks in a deep sauté pan Pan-fry the chicken in 1/2 stick of butter with the sautéed onions and garlic until it’s browned on both sides. Once they are cooked - add the other 1/2 stick of butter and a cup of soy sauce and 1/2 a cup of white wine and maybe a bit of water. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add thick-cut potatoes slices (peeled) to the chicken continue to simmer for 15 more minutes until potatoes have crispy brown edges and are covered in yummy blacked onion and garlic. If you need more liquid for simmering add a little more water, and possibly a bit of wine and soy sauce - your call. Rice (Optional step especially since you have the potato) Choose any rice you love. We used Jasmati (a jasmine and basmati blend) b/c that’s what we could find. We cooked it as directed and then added some butter for flavor. Personally, I enjoy mixing the rice with the leftover browned onion and garlic There are a lot of different versions of Pollo a la barbacoa, but this is the recipe we followed that has been passed down in his family. Enjoy!!

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