If cooking is my first passion, music is my second. So when it comes time to cook I marry the two. On my mp3 player of choice I have a lot of my music sorted into the respective cuisines they fall into.
For my aunt’s paella and sangria dinner, I play flamenco music like the Gypsy Kings. For my friend Mario’s tomato sauce and pasta, it’s Italian arias all the way! Hamburgers and fries? I think a little Motown is in order.
It is a definite way to get all of your senses involved in the food. It even helps get your imagination going when you want to create different things or go down memory lane.
Whenever I miss my mom and grandmother, I pop on some mambo from the 1940’s and 50’s, like Perez Prado, Desi Arnaz, and Celia Cruz and put the pot of black beans on the back burner. Let those beans soften up for a couple hours in a large pot with water and a bay leaf.
I put on the Buena Vista Social Club and start the sofrito: I chop an onion, a green pepper, a few cloves of garlic, and into the sizzling oil they go until they cook through. Add some tomato puree, a splash of dry white wine, cumin, salt and pepper and let that cook for about 5 minutes. Take a nice piece of bread and spread a little sofrito on it before pouring it all into the beans (you need a taste test!) Now, if you can wait, let the beans and sofrito cook for another hour or so, if not give them 20 minutes.
For a traditional Cuban serving of black beans, we just pour it into a bowl and slice up some ripe banana into it. The salty warm flavor of the beans really goes well with the sweet cool taste of the banana. As Beny Moré comes over the speakers and I hear my grandparents wedding song, I sit down to eat and feel like I am in her kitchen in Cuba, it truly is an experience.