There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my Grandmother Chichi; she was my source for strength and love after my mother died in 1974, when I was 15 years old. She was the wisest person I have ever met, the most compassionate and kind.
I have incredible memories of my Grandmother. When I was growing up in Panama we visited the Linda Vista finca in Arraijan every Sunday and had lunch. As a child these Sunday trips from Panama to Arraijan were always an adventure. Not only did we have deliciously wonderful lunches, we had the most fun riding horses, fishing, swimming, climbing trees, milking goats, and oh so much more.
Grandma Chichi always had a great menu for lunch; my favorites are still lomo, pierna de puerco, arroz con coco, empanadas, carimanolas, and torrejitas de maiz. Abuela Chichi would always pack a “to go box” for us and the torrejitas would always be eaten in the car on the way back to Panama. Sometime she made dishes like tamales, and arroz a la Macedonia that were incredible. Her eggplant parmigiana was a dream come true, Grandma Chichi’s chicken: chicken marianated with lemon juice and fresh garlic cooked over a real BBQ with carbon was oh so delightful.
After we moved to the USA in 1970, we had the good fortune of visiting Panama every year for 18 to 20 consecutive years. I have vivid recollections of being at the finca and sitting in my Grandma’s kitchen while many things were being cooked. She always made fresh pan de ajo for my Grandfather Rogelio, with fresh bread from the bakery of Arraijan. I can still hear her saying ….. “ Felicia machacame unos ajos” and the cooking would start. She always told us that the # 1 and most important ingredient in any recipe was love. Her second most favorite ingredient was garlic. I love garlic because of my Grandma Chichi.
When we visited Panama she would always ask us what we wanted to eat and always I would request, lomo and arroz con coco and torrejitas. These dishes although simple to make, were incredible. When I think of Panama dishes, I always think of them. Simple, basic, delicious food.
She also made other incredible dishes, she has a famous cheese cake that was delivered to many houses in Panama, a wonderful ceviche, and bocado de la reina. Once when she visited us in the States in 1976, she made a Paella dish that was awesome. I remember cooking with her for 2 days to make the Paella. And oh my it was full of love, and plentiful with chicken, pork, sausage, seafood, and vegetables. Her rice was moist yet firm, and she had a flair for decorating and presenting food that made every dish even more appealing. She also has a delicate and oh so wonderful desert called Lemon Refrigerator Cake that is a guaranteed hit whenever you make it.
My Grandmother told me many times that she loved eating good food and more important that she loved sharing the food with family and friends. For her there was no better place to enjoy life that in the kitchen and the dinner table.
At every wonderful meal that I eat and share with family and friends, she is always present in my heart and mind.