Posted by: Lydia | July 18, 2010

Overactive fantasy life

Leaving behind the comforts of home and a familiar culture is the best and surest way to divine what one truly values in life. So, what is it that I most pine for here in the land of irregular electricity and unpotable water? No, not air conditioning, nor my car/the privilege of terror (i.e. motoconcho)-free transportation, nor even the limitless, faustian font of knowledge that is the internet… What truly le extraño are the culinary traditions and implements I left at home. While others may harbor dark desires of a fleshier and more puerile nature, my daydreams are filled with dancing images of immersion blenders, dough hooks, and canning equipment. My gifted alchemist of a husband has already managed to brew a successful (and potent) mead down here in the subtropics, however I have yet to attempt a marmalade despite our embarrassing wealth of citrus. The cost of the gas it would take to make preserves far outweighs any benefits, especially considering the fact that here we enjoy perpetual harvests throughout the year. There is no tradition of food preservation (nor the delicious taste of fermentation that comes with it) here because there simply is no need for it.

My culinary instincts, I’ve found, are unfortunately rooted more deeply in the frozen plains and long periods of famine of my ethnic background than I expected. It is not by sheer willpower and enforced Sunday merengue dancing alone that I have shed over 30 pounds in my four months here in country.. no amount of tropical fruit or even fried platano can fill the caloric hole left by my quest to live almost purely farm-to-table in Wisconsin. Only the daughter of such hardy and stubborn eastern- and northern-european stock would long for pickled herring and prunes and schmaltz in the land of mango and coconut. I know perfectly well how to preserve cabbage so that it is edible for half a year (despite the fact that this knowledge is completely unnecessary in our modern age of refrigeration), and how to make a passable and according to my palate delicious meal from beets and a bovine femur, but playing pioneer woman of the steppes in a hot climate is both an unnecessary and thankless task.

So, my overactive fantasy life consists of imaginings of my powerful red hand-mixer ravishing a bowl of babka batter… of the earthy and unreplicatable smell of morel mushrooms simmering in butter.. of the aroma of beef tongue in its sixth hour interred in the crockpot… Such pleasures will have to wait until the end of my two years of enforced recovery for our arteries.

However, I may be able to satiate my desire for disgustingly rich Ashkenazi dairy products before my term is up here in the DR… Apparently our dear Dictator Trujillo arranged to ship a sizeable quantity of Jews here during WWII to “mejorar la raza” (EXTREME IRONY ALERT: Trujillo was a huge fan of Aryan race theory… however welcomed in European Jews to “whiten” the Dominican nation. Oh, how fickle are the tenets of racism)… and these lucky(?), Caribbeanized Jews settled mainly in the town of Sosua, now a major tourist mecca. Our semitic compatriots started a very successful dairy industry in the region that continues producing legendary cheese and yogurt to this day.. so I’m hoping I can play the tribal card and score myself an invitation to some kind of springtime lactic orgy this coming year.



  1. Lydia! I echo the yearning for culinary delight, although what I wish for is less midwestern frozen steppes and more Asian. I’m about 45 minutes from Sosua, and one of these days I’ll make my way over there and hopefully figure out where you can find delicious and delectable milky treats.

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