Thursday, February 4, 2010

cafe y pan

My nana in Mexicali (my mother's mother) was really sick recently and a lot of family came to visit. She did had what a co-worker called the Hispanic Panic where you think you're heading towards the white light and freak out and your entire family shows up. Thankfully, she bounced back and while she is still frail and much older than I remember, she is still hanging on. She is my hero and if anything were to happen to her, I'd be a ball of mush and tears for a few weeks and quite possibly never be the same again.
Nana has no income to speak of. She depends on our family coming to visit and providing so her home is humble but full of love and over 60 grand and great grandchildren. The house has three bedrooms and one bathroom and has had a lot of cousins live there in rotation over the years. We all spend the night there, crowded into the five beds the house has, two in each room and often share with a family member, we take turns taking a shower and you would not believe how many people and how quickly you can shower when you know you have a big line of people waiting. The paint on the walls changes every few months and the pictures of all the grandchildren are in constant rotation and she knows the names of every single one and even remembers birthdays and anniversaries with the ease of a 15 year old memory.
In her house, almost every morning begins the ritual of the cafe y pan. They drink instant coffee there, it's just easier and cheaper. You boil the kettle and wait for the water to be ready and when it is, there's the loud "Quien quiere cafe?!" announcement "WHO WANTS COFFEE?!" and you fill up your mug with hot water and then fill it up again and keep it going most of the day.
My Uncle Rey (pictured here with Tia Carmen, my other hero) said that the whole point of waiting for the kettle to boil, provides you with a little time for the platicadita, the little morning chat while you wait. Here secrets are revealed, memories are made, sarcastic biting jokes are told, the newspaper is read with the latest scandals of the day. Everyone's fighting to get a chance to speak, yelling over each other and then really paying attention when someone's made a good point.
The bakery up the street Panaderia Aurora, must have earned about a thousand dollars from our family over the past few decades. We send someone on a run every morning, sometimes twice a day. There's nothing particularly extraordinary about the pan, it's just the pan you eat that you have to have with the coffee and after dinner.
I love coffee and I'm a coffee snob. I gotta tell you though, the coffee at Nana's just tastes like love and joy in instant crystals. I never quite understood the ritual before and now that I'm older and wiser, its really important and special to be included in it. This time I was able to contribute and made breakfast for my family one morning and can now be that grand child that sends money to help the nana. I'll happily drink to that.
I'd like to bring this tradition home. To have some cafe y pan at the ready for family and visitors, never letting that kettle run dry.