19 (Mon) October 2020
Picadillo and Rice
-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-
with the Family
Newbery 100 Medals, 100 Meals (10)
Endeavoring to read the 99 books that have been awarded the annual Newbery Medal since 1922 – leading up to the 100th winner to be announced next year – I will also attempt to create one dish for every book, a dish that is directly referenced in or indirectly inspired by the events of the book. Food plays a strong role in many of the stories; not surprising as the characters in most of the books are faced with adversity of some sort, including poverty, so they’re often very hungry and thus grateful whenever they get a bite to eat – as we all should be at every meal, literally give us this day our daily bread. The dishes will be featured as posts on Give Me This Day.
(For additional posts relating to Newbery Medal books, see NEWBERY)
Merci Suárez Changes Gears (2019) by Med Medina. The book is about Merci Suárez and the growing pains of adapting to middle school, navigating social relationships, and dealing with family issues, including her grandfather’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. (The family is Cuban-American, so Merci calls her grandmother “Abuela” (Spanish) but her grandfather “Lolo” (Tagalog) because of Filipino ancestry.) A solid book, if a bit too straightforward for my personal tastes.
[paraphrased in part]
“Merci, have you introduced your friends?” Mami asks.
“This is Lena and Hannah,” I mumble. “They’re about to call their moms to go home.”
But Mami checks her watch. “Why don’t you girls stay for dinner?” she says. “I’m sure there’s enough. Abuela always makes plenty. Merci, can you clean up and help Lolo wash up while I tell Abuela?”
I try not to glare at her. Dinner? With our whole family?
But before I think of what to say, Lena sniffs the air and reaches for her phone. “It does smell good. My stomach has been growling.”
“Picadillo and rice,” Lolo says. “My favorite.”
Picadillo is a Latin-American dish. Ground meat (usually beef) – Spanish “picar = to mince” – braised with tomatoes, raisins, olives, and aromatics, served over rice. Popular in Spanish-speaking countries throughout the Americas, including Cuba. In the Philippines, Arroz ala Cubana is a similar dish, thought to have the same colonial origins (the Philippines was once governed by Spain through Mexico), but with the addition of fried banana and fried egg. The original Arroz a la Cubana in Cuba is simply rice mixed with tomato sauce, topped with fried banana and fried egg.
I was dreading to make this dish, primarily because I detest raisins. Moreover, I couldn’t image how raisins would taste alongside olives, which just seemed outright weird as a flavor combination; even weirder, the recipe that I chose to work with included capers. While living in the Philippines, I never even considered trying Arroz ala Cubana – fried bananas, I think not. On the internet, I looked for recipes that omitted raisins, but alas raisins would appear to be an essential ingredient.
Fortunately, the picadillo and rice turned out okay(ish). The raisins eventually broke down into the mix and provided subtle touches of sweetness here and there. Same with the olives and capers for brininess and tang. I added potatoes, which gave the dish a comforting softness, like a stew. The family actually seemed to like it. I’m sure that I’ll never make it again, but the dread leading up to the first taste was kinda fun.
(For more details about foods, see WHAT)
(For more details about venues, see WHERE IN KOREA)