Carmelina was born in Las Bolas, a small town in Cuba in 1914. She was a country girl from a rural area, and always wanted to stay that way. After completing second grade she began to train as a seamstress, which became a lifelong passion and career. She became an incredibly creative and resourceful artisan, designing and fabricating garments for herself and her family. She was 20 and still living with her mother when she met her husband Abel, 17 years her senior. He was commuting back and forth to the U.S. where he worked as a waiter, and promised Carmelina that she would never have to leave Cuba –until Castro came to power in 1956.
They moved to New York where Carmelina worked in a textile factory for 32 years. She gave birth to three sons, two of whom she survived. Carmelina was fiercely loyal and incredibly proud of the success of her sons. Her eldest son, Eduardo, was a father of two and the most decorated Latino officer of his time in the NYPD. He was struck and killed by a car. When her husband died, Carmelina left New York and eventually moved to San Francisco in 1981 to be near the rest of her family. Sadly, her middle son, Edilberto (a father of four), died only three years after obtaining a medical degree, in 1987.
Everyone gathered for family dinners at Abuela’s (grandmother’s), who always did the cooking. Tamales, roast pork & tostones were staples at the table. For a time, several of Carmelina’s grandchildren were vegetarian. This caused Abuela grave concern. Later, when the family moved away and get-togethers were less frequent, Carmelina seemed to try to fit a year’s worth of cooking and fattening up into few short visits.
A story she would tell her grandson Eddie (who is one of our sous chefs here at Mother’s) was about a man back home in Cuba who had two donkeys. “One donkey he fed,” she said. “The other donkey he did not – that donkey died.” Carmelina seemed to take this very seriously and could never be accused of not feeding her brood!
Comer! Comer! (Eat! Eat!)
savory pastries filled with picadillo (ground beef with aromatic vegetables), served with tomato, cucumber & red onion salad
Cuban Vegetarian Platter
black beans simmered with onions, garlic & green peppers, served with rice & tostones (fried plantains)
slow-cooked ground beef with onions, green olives, tomatoes, onion, garlic & spices, served with rice & tostones
cornmeal, pork, bacon, olives, green chilies, corn & spices, wrapped & cooked in foil, served with rice, black beans & tostones
Cuban Ice Cream Sundae
three scoops of vanilla bean ice cream, topped with dulce de leche (caramelized milk sauce) & whipped cream
light rum, fresh lime juice & mint