I had a very special experience last night. I cooked for Ania’s parents for the first time, as part of her father’s birthday festivities. I made a point not to cook something elaborate and time-consuming, though, as one might expect of a holiday meal. Instead, I went with something simple that shows off Puerto Rican cooking techniques that is also very special to me: arroz con salchichas. I look forward to arroz con salchichas every time a visit to Miami is in the offing, and after long, tense absence, I missed it profoundly. As tensions with my parents continue to rise and fall like so many narcissist tides, bringing this dish to a family that accepts me with enthusiasm is an emotional coup. As I come to recognize my belated mastery of this dish, that I had tried to learn how to make intermittently since I moved to Ottawa, I am ebullient.
As some of you may know, Ania and I spent a long time in a very difficult financial situation. Between when she needed to stop formal employment for health reasons and very recently, we officially had only my income for our survival. Unfortunately, that income was not quite sufficient for our fixed expenses, let alone buying groceries, so we had to scramble to make the necessary extra money…every month…for over a year. We did what we could to reduce our expenses and put off a lot of eventually necessary purchases until her Ontario Disability Support Payments began, including writing expensive things like seafood almost completely out of our diets, but there was no getting around the need for more money. As I am legally prevented from taking on much employment by my visa status (and it would have been a bad idea for my schooling anyway), a lot of this fell on her, and she did her level best to sell art and food and run errands for our neighbors, all the while looking for work she would survive doing. For my part, I took on the unenviable task of collecting alcohol containers to return for deposit. And in the year and change I spent doing that, I learned a few things.