One does not go far in Miami without encountering croquetas de jamón, or ham croquettes. These fried morsels are ubiquitous on catering trays and party platters, a hit on breakfast menus, and surprisingly absent from most home kitchens. I have encountered platters of croquetas at funeral receptions, at house parties, as treats for school classes in lieu of pizza parties, and more. To visit Miami without having at least one croqueta de jamón (alongside pastelitos de guayaba, the other party-platter staple) is to misunderstand the nature of this place and the culinary influences that define it.
All the world’s a stage, and autistic people are better actors than our detractors will ever know. The allistic majority operates by alien rules that most of us do not truly understand until we are nearing adulthood, and which seem arbitrary and pointless even then. In the meantime, our traits are unwelcome in their spaces and they respond to them with vitriol, ostracism, and violence. To exist in public and maybe even have friends, most of us learn one pivotal skill: masking. We master hiding many of the traits that define us, restraining stims, concealing enthusiasm, and imitating social niceties that do not come naturally. The mask becomes instinctive, unwanted and unnatural but nevertheless automatic.
And sometimes, that has me looking pretty sus.
Some memories demand to be remade.
One of the few culinary memories I have been completely unable to experience outside of a home kitchen is alcapurrias. This classic Puerto Rican fritter features prominently in my childhood as an occasional treat, especially around holidays, and made for exciting lunches because of their rarity. On occasion, the whole family would get together to make an especially large batch, a rustic experience wonderfully out of place in our big-city home. Posted recipes posit that the alcapurria is a variety of croquette and usually recommend the familiar croquette log or cigar shape, but the ones I knew were round, more like hand-pies or empanadas in size and presentation. Once I left Miami, those memories became more and more distant, and more and more treasured. As a matter of my Puerto Rican pride, I needed to take control of those memories and make them more firmly mine, and that meant learning how to make alcapurrias. And today, I succeeded.