Recipe for Plátanos

I miss Los Angeles. One of my favorite things was going to Grand Central Market in Downtown, hitting up Sarita’s Pupuseria, and getting a plate of plátanos, frijoles and crema. They would deep fry whole plátanos, the oil heating the sugars in the fruit until they created a beautiful caramel all around. It was both dynamic and static, the liveliness of the marketplace, there were always people there, music playing, something new to find. Dynamic, because it was ever-changing, static because, it never wasn’t that, it was a guarantee, there would always be people there. I guess it wasn’t so static after all. 


I think of the wonder I had at discovery exploring the market, something new to eat, something new to bring home and cook with, someone new to meet, or share glances as we wonder, “what did they order”, excited to get our own food soon enough. It felt good there. Now I stand 6 feet or more away from people as I wait in line to go inside the grocery store, and find myself upset when people don’t follow protocol inside the store. I both miss human connection and live in fear of it. 


Inevitably, my first attempt at frying plátanos at home, I burned them. I only looked away for a minute, maybe a few seconds, but in that time they were ruined. It takes a lot of care and attention, frying plátanos, it can all go wrong in a glance. I feel like I looked away for one second and came back to realize, the world had gone wrong. I don’t long for the past, I am not romanticizing it, we’ve been in need of a drastic change, and I hope this moment is moving us there. But I long for my loved ones, and the time we could have together right now.


I made this meal tonight because I have been missing my loved ones, my friends, David who taught me to cook plátanos, who is in Los Angeles, his family struggling to keep a pupuseria running in South Central, him balancing that and being a grad student who has lost his will to participate in class since we all go to Zoom University now. Our conversations, more often than ever before, circle a general disdain, boredom, feeling of being over it. I’m isolating alone. Which has been difficult to adjust to. I spend a lot of time doing a lot of nothing, except this, which is cook meals which make me feel closer to people I love. Before we sheltered in place, Alexi, Eleanor, and I had a similar meal to this one at a pupuseria in Berkeley. I want to go back to that day, actually a few days before that, and stay there, painting in Wurster 180, listening to god knows what pop music or German death metal B plays.


I have reignited, by pandemic force, my relationship with cooking, and I wish I had that same sense of discovery I used to have. I bought some Za’tar and Aleppo pepper, that brings me some joy, I add the Aleppo to gnocchi I cook in a butter and olive oil emulsion until they(the gnocchi) get crispy. It used to bring me a lot of joy to cook for others, in that space I was excited to discover, to expand. I broke up with my partner of almost 4 years this last fall and have been living alone since then, before our relationship I was engaged, to someone who is now one of my good friends(we didn’t talk for four years, so I guess that is an unexpected take on distance and what positivity it can bring), and before then I slept with everyone within a 3 mile radius. I am trying to say I don’t do well alone. I have gotten much better at it, and I guess for that I am grateful, that I have the space to get this relationship with myself better, not right, but better. 


Either way, I do wish that I had a friend here to make this picture have two plates instead of one. Someone to share this moment with, its historical, don’t you know?