Thursday, December 12, 2013

Guadalupe para Mi

Growing up in South Texas a short way from San Antonio, I've always had a lot of exposure to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Unfortunately since I wasn't raised Catholic, most of it was in the context of racial pride and cholo style which I couldn't relate to. Not my ethnicity, not my culture. I had heard the story of Juan Diego but never thought it was the tale of a real apparition of Mary. I thought the story was made up to explain the image of the "Mexican Virgin Mary". I thought she was just an artistic rendering for the purpose of expressing a nationalistic or ethnic pride.

When I became Catholic and started reading about different apparitions, I was pleased and astounded to discover how wrong I was! I now love this particular apparition of the Blessed Mother. I am Catholic, she is my culture. And she is beautiful. The colors, the stars. Ah. I digress.

What most resonates with me is the way that her image is so gentle. It does not give the impression that she is attempting to toss out every vestige of Aztec culture. It celebrates it with the flowers on her robe, a tan complexion, the vibrant colors. She came to the people in a way that they would understand, a way that did not revile them with its unapproachable foreignness. Her humility gently called them forward. That's how I imagine the Blessed Mother still calling us forward in love and trust.

There is a special place in my heart for this apparition for another reason. The Mexican culture is my husband's culture (he says he's half Mexican and half hillbilly). I can imagine the Blessed Mother looking on him so tenderly: the son of a cradle Catholic; he never had the opportunity to know about the true Christ, Mary or the saints because my mother-in-law converted to Jehovah's Witness when she got married. Jehovah's Witnesses teach a created Christ, not the Eternal Word become flesh. None of that was his doing. I always imagine that Our Lady of Guadalupe would look on him with compassion, sadness and hope. It sounds a little silly typing it out, but I hope that she would some day draw him close to her gently like she did with the Aztec people so long ago. I told Oliver that I was going to make some crispy tacos and beans for the feast day today. He eyed me funny and then wondered if I would make some carne guisada, tortillas and guacamole instead. I am only too happy to oblige!

Here is the recipe for carne guisada that I use. This is from one of Oliver's co-workers. It's supposed to have won an award. I modify it a little because the original recipe calls for 10 lbs of meat. Here goes.

Carne Guisada

2 lbs roast cut into 1/2" cubes 
1/2 of a green pepper (minced)
1/4 of an onion ( minced)
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 TBSP Knorr tomato 
1/4-1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cumin
a little less than 1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 TBSP flour (optional to thicken the gravy)
1/2 c. water

Cook the meat and water covered on low-med heat for about 45 minutes. Add rest of ingredients, stir and cook on the same heat for another hour. Simmer covered for another 45 minutes to an hour. In the past I have eaten the carne guisada without the third simmering session and it tastes just fine. It turns out that I am just too impatient when it comes to carne guisada!

We make tortillas from a recipe that my husband made up after trying to approximate his mom's recipe. In the interest of full disclosure, my mother in law makes THE BEST tortillas imaginable. The best. No contest. Unfortunately she measures by eyeball, so he had to do some trial an error to come up with a recipe. Hers would still win in a fight, but we make do with these :)

Flour Tortillas

1 cup flour
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
more or less 1/3 cup hot water

Mix the dry ingredients together. Stir in the oil. Stir in enough hot water to get soft but not sticky texture in the dough. Let it sit for a few minutes. Divide the dough into balls the size of golf balls or so. Roll out in flour. My MIL uses the rolling pin one direction, turns the dough 1/4 turn and repeats this motion until the tortilla is circular and as big as she wants it. Cook on each side on a hot griddle over medium high heat. Put finished tortillas on a plate under a towel and they will soften in the moist heat.

Guacamole is self explanatory I would hope (though I have heard of people putting mayonnaise in guacamole...ew). Mash up some ripe avocados, add some chopped tomato, salt or garlic salt, a squirt of lime and there ya go.

I will be starting a novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe today. It may be a good day also to watch Our Greater Glory on the ol' Netflix to follow our Mexican theme and pick up a Guadalupe candle from the grocery store! If I had the right colors I would totally paint myself a little peg doll just like this.

Anyway, happy feast day!

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