I have mentioned in several past posts that my grandmother, Erva Boulon, wrote a cookbook. It is filled with recipes and anecdotes from her life.
Grammy was born in 1895 in Ada, Ohio. The opening pages of her book tell the story of how, in 1904 while living in Lincoln, Nebraska, her father announced to the family that they were moving to Cuba.
Her father, Eugene Hartwell, was a weatherman who worked for the Federal Weather Bureau (now known as NOAA or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admistration) and was being transferred.
They traveled by train from Lincoln to St. Louis. From St. Louis they floated down the Mississippi on an old fashioned river boat to New Orleans. At New Orleans they got on a small freighter to Havana. The ultimate destination was the town of Cienfuegos, on the southern coast, 160 miles away. It took a day to reach by train.
As one might imagine it was a totally alien environment for Grammy's mother, Bertha. "When the question of milk arose, we discovered that the delivery was very simple: the cows were driven from door to door and milked at your door step."
"Mother was very anxious to try all of the strange new fruits and vegetables which she saw on the push carts about town, so one day she arrived from a shopping expedition with a green avocado, our first. The vendor had been reluctant to sell her the fruit as he knew it was green, but Mother had insisted. All that she had understood of his directions for using the fruit was the Spanish verb "to cook." We had green avocado cooked in syrup for dinner that evening. It tasted strangely like sweetened laundry soap and was promptly dropped from our menus."
Here's a recipe that's come a long way from green avocados cooked in syrup! Sometimes her instructions are not always clear, so I've done a little editing. My additions are in blue.
2 envelopes of Knox's gelatin
4 cups mashed avocado
1/4 cup lime or lemon juice
3 bird peppers (a small very hot pepper) or Tabasco sauce to taste
1 cup of cold water
2 cups of boiling water
1 tsp salt (to taste)
Cooked shrimp, lobster or chicken pieces marinated in a small amount of gelatin
Soak the gelatin in cold water. Melt with boiling water. Pour a little of the clear gelatin into the bottom of a ring mold. Arrange shrimp, lobster or chicken which has been marinating in this small amount of gelatin.. Set the mold into the refrigerator to harden quickly. Combine mashed avocado, lime or lemon juice, hot sauce and salt and add to the rest of the gelatin mixture and allow to cool. When the clear gelatin has set in the mold add avocado mixture, set mold back in the refrigerator until the gelatin has hardened. Unmold on a bed of crisp lettuce leaves, fill the center of the mold with chunks of peeled tomatoes, serve with tart mayonnaise.
Check out this video of Cienfuegos, Cuba. Many of the buildings pictured were there when my grandmother was little girl of nine.