After only a couple of test bake-offs for the new Cuban Bread recipe, I can now report success including garnering the approval of Wifey, a soft-sandwich bread aficionado. It is far more work than my Peasant Loaf requiring almost 8 minutes of kneading! But for the effect, it's a worthwhile effort.
As regular readers will recall I needed to acquire authentic "manteca" or lard. Not easy in today's word of Crisco and other hydrogenated fats not to mention the local taste for fried pork rinds. So I explained my case to the new neighborhood butcher, Nico, who thought it quite novel, especially from a "gringo", to have a desire to make his own lard. Promising him a sample of the new bread, he agreed to find some of the right pig fat to make my own manteca.
Yes, I wrote "the right pig fat". For the uninitiated, there are essentially three different types of fat one can get from a pig. The visceral fat from around the kidneys and inside the loin, the fatback from just under the skin, and finally the caul surrounding the digestive organs, especially the small intestines, which is most often used as a wrap rather than being rendered into lard. Nico sold me two pounds of visceral fat which I rendered in boiling water to make "leaf lard", the preferred lard for baking as it has no flavor but makes the flakiest pie crusts one could ever hope for. It works very well in bread too.
I've decided to make the Pan Cubano a regular addition to the baking schedule. One day soon I'll even get around to making an authentic Cuban Sandwich.
Shifting scenes for a moment... As many of you know Calliste is anchored just off-shore from the pier and it's not unusual to have folks come by, admire the boat, swim around it, etc. Not a problem of course unless some of the teens get the urge to climb on board and use it as a diving platform.
A few evenings ago, I'm enjoying a cold Belikin Beer at Vamp's, a friendly (and all too convenient) bar-restaurant just down the road. Wifey is at the house and, being always vigilant, notices a small group of boys swimming around the boat and standing on the anchor line. The holding is rather tenuous here so we're always concerned with the anchor and rode. Catherine warns them away for their and the boat's safety. They give her lip so she calls me to intervene.
I arrive and, rather politely, tell the boys "Look, I know you're just having fun but you have to realize what can happen when you climb on the anchor line." The obvious "leader" of the group gives me a dirty look and tells me "It's our country." Now, this isn't an unusual or even unexpected response but it certainly sets the tone when dealing with expat vs. local.
Not the first time I've dealt with a juvenile punk, I reply "You're right, it's your country but it's my boat. Mess with my boat and you mess with me." To which he responds "You don't know who you're messing with."
Though trying to stay the high road, the conversation becomes a verbal joust. He doesn't stand a chance and I leave him slightly embarrassed in front of his "gang" as I return to our house.
Soon the punk is off to a neighbor's house then quickly returns to hang out on the pier. In moments an adult arrives on the scene. "Ah, the muscle", I think to myself and return to the pier.
And so I meet Ronnie. We introduce ourselves and he volunteers that he owns the Taco business come vegetable market and butcher shop around the corner. "So Dave's your brother", I offered. Dave being the only one next to Nico, the Butcher, I see manning the shop. And the next thing you know we're talking business start-ups, marketing, and hogs. Quickly it dawns on him, "You're the guy making his own manteca!"
As the kids looked on they could see the conversation wasn't going the way they had perhaps hoped or intended and they soon left. Never once in my conversation with Ronnie were the boat or the kids mentioned but it was understood: No harm no foul.
Yesterday, Nico shared his Cuban Loaf with both Dave and Ronnie. I stopped by today for some ground beef and learned the Pan Cubano was a big hit. In fact, they'd really like more.
One loaf of homemade Cuban Bread: 80 cents US
Getting to know the neighbors: Priceless.