A Taste of Childhood

If anything, this pandemic has made us more creative in other areas. For some, having time to kill (not trying to be insensitive here) has sparked creativity without limits. For me, it has made me reflect and ponder many areas of my life, and revisit many childhood memories. One of my favorites is when my grandmother used to set aside a day to make “frituras” (fritters), a type of Puerto Rican cuisine. It did not happen all the time, but when it did, we were filled with anticipation, taste anticipation that is, because these fritters were delicious. Having lived most of my life here, my exposure to these authentic fritters was limited. The closest in flavor was at a restaurant in Connecticut many decades ago. Over the weekend, I decided to try and recreate that feeling at least, because I wasn’t sure I would be able to recreate my grandmother’s fritters flavor just how she used to make them, heavenly and close to perfection. Of course, I would never beat my grandmother in the kitchen, but the sentiment was there and all I wanted to do was to capture the memories in a tangible and delicious form.

It took me three days to capture the feeling, and I don’t think I will be recapturing it anytime soon. These fritters take time to make, especially because everything is made from scratch. It also requires frying, and I don’t like to fry because it is a bit messy. I divided the task in three days, one kind of fritter per day. For my husband, who loves these, they were three days of pure bliss. It was a good feeling accompanied by the sweetest memories of my grandmother and childhood.

Day One

On day one, I started with the easiest kind to make – Rellenos de Papa, translated to Potato Balls filled with meat, usually ground beef, but you can fill these with any kind of meat, or chicken/turkey. I have to say that these came out pretty close in flavor and appearance. I am not going to include recipes on this blog post, but if anyone is interested in the recipe, you can leave a comment below and I will answer it. Here is what they looked like.

Rellenos de Papa (Potato Balls filled with ground beef)

Day Two

On the second day, I decided to make Pastelillos, roughly translated to a type of Beef Pattie. Again, you can use any type of meat or chicken/turkey filling, however the traditional way is to use ground beef with tiny pieces of potatoes mixed in as the filling. These took a bit longer to make because I made the round shells from scratch. If I want to be technical, these would be called Empanadillas, which is the same except that the color is white instead of yellow, and the shell is a bit thicker and dense. These came out delicious but nothing like my grandmother’s. Here is what they looked like.

A bit of the process. The key is the shell, which is round.
Pastelillos (Beef Patties).

Day Three

On the third day, I made Bacalaitos, translated to Codfish fritters. However, I have made these before because these are easy to make, and something that my grandmother made more often than the other two kinds for the same reason. I did not have codfish, so I used canned ham, just because I wanted to do these. If you get the seasonings right, you will not miss the codfish. These turned out very good and the seasoning was right. My grandmother used to serve these with bread, and so did I.

Bacalaitos (fritters)

And what does all this has to do with writing? Nothing and everything. Inspiration is fueled by letting your spirit delight in other things not related to writing. It is fueled by enjoyment, by taking the time to step out of the routine and clear your mind and heart. To pursue that which recharges the soul so later on you can recharge the pen, and to delight one’s mind in the pursue of happiness, which undeniably would make a better writer. On my second novel, Ramblings of the Spirit, one of the key characters (Olga Gartier) makes a very delicious meal (cornbread crab cakes and squash casserole), which Jeremy Sandbeck, an Anarth, loves and cannot have enough of it. Sometimes, food has its place in writing.

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