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We Were Here

We were here. We are here.dinnerLast night we attended a one-man play performed in an intimate setting with a dozen other patrons. They served Spanish food and wine while we sat in a circle around the host’s living room in a third floor apartment making introductions and small talk. The ages ranged from eight (Miss A) to 70-something and it was an interesting cross-section of people – a theologian, a community activist, a former pastoral student turned agnostic writer, an uber driver, a retired pastor, a nurse, students, artists, and several people that have walked or are planning to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain (which incidentally is where the theater group will be taking this show in July).

The 70-minute play was masterfully performed, powerfully directed and utterly poignant. I won’t go into details, because if you ever have the chance to see this show, you should. It’s called “An Impressive Presentation of Lovely Evidences” by Glen Berger. It is a fast-paced and entertaining mystery of sorts that will mean many different things to many different people. It’s one of those stories that will seep its way into your psyche, revealing deep emotions and provoking catalytic thoughts. It was exactly what I needed at that exact moment. I didn’t want to go. It was a long week. I was tired and I have another busy week ahead, but as we sat there, Miss A snuggled into my lap and Mr. N leaning over into me from his folding chair, I knew it was exactly where I was supposed to be.

You see there was a brief moment where I saw Miss A reach over and touch Mr. N’s arm all while fully engaged in watching the performance. Mr. N then, just as subconsciously, took Miss A’s hand into his and I saw them give a brief squeeze before resuming their separate positions. The moment only last a few seconds, and I don’t even know if they realized it even happened, but I did. The discussions were also therapeutic. Lots of talk about travel and how it opens doors and leads to life-changing self-discoveries or a serious shift in priorities, all of which reminded me of to my core of what we learned and how we felt on our sabbatical. And the play itself, of course, provoked some interesting thoughts.

In fact, I left the performance with the desire and clarity to write again, something I haven’t felt since our travels. As you know returning home from our overseas journey was emotional and as we mentioned before, we even felt a little lost – particularly as it relates to this blog. Then as we watched world events unfold over the past several months we felt saddened, confused and a bit disheartened, particularly having just explored so freely and having been so welcomed in so many communities where we were the foreigners. You see we began this blog to not only shake up our evening meal repertoire, but above all, to explore cultures, traditions and histories from around the world through something that everyone has in common – food and traditions around food.

We wanted to teach our children that there is more to this earth and this journey than the experiences and ways of life in our immediate communities in which we all so easily settle and of which are equally important. We wanted to educate them (and ourselves), open their eyes and hearts, and create an understanding that humanity comes in all colors and sizes, speaks a variety of languages, believes in (or doesn’t) in differing gods, and has unique stories, histories, economies, governments, and yes, perspectives. We also wanted a place where it will live for their posterity as we move quickly through and eventually beyond their fleeting childhoods. And quite honestly it was also a way to have some fun together while making our own family memories and traditions.

In the last few weeks, we’ve debated what to do with our blog. Where do we go from here? Do we continue? We’ve cooked from many places around the world, posted on our travels, tasted wines and shared our family’s every-day experiences. We have made amazing friends around the world, embarked on adventures we never anticipated as being possible, found career opportunities and have a treasure trove of unbelievable memories, as well as some delicious recipes. Ultimately, it came down to this….we asked ourselves what is the purpose of our blog right now? What do we need from it? Or want from it? And don’t you know, we found ourselves back at where we started.

We want to continue learning about other cultures and traditions, but now not only through food, but travel as well. We want to continue to have our family time in the kitchen (as we have the time), battling it out in our Chopped Challenges, and leaving a record – for ourselves, our children, their children. We were here.

So, on our 6th blog anniversary (the old photos mixed in are from six years ago!), we thought it appropriate to share the next stages of our adventure. We’ll continue posting recipes from around the world, hopefully once a month or so, we’ll blog our travels (beginning soon with our time in Italy this past summer), and we’re going to also add a new aspect – an exploration of local neighborhoods. We are fortunate to live in a city with 77 unique neighborhoods in which we can explore a vast number of cultures, histories, and cuisines. We’ll share our adventures, photographic expositions from Mr. N and Miss A, and we’ll continue the things most important to us – a desire to learn through exploration, education, travel, cooking, observation, listening and photography.

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The four of us recognize, Miss A and Mr. N included (they are observant beyond their years), that now more than ever, we need to stay educated. This isn’t about politics for us. We’ve voted across a variety of party lines and certainly believe there is space for open dialogue, debate and disagreement on policy issues. No, what this is about for us, is humanity. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a history. Everyone has a unique perspective. We all feel love. We all feel pain. We all share this world.

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So we’re going to do our part to stay educated, learn about things beyond our own situations and circumstances, have difficult conversations, listen to people’s stories and share what we experience. We don’t plan to sit idly by and accept the divisiveness becoming so pervasive in so many parts of the world. We’ve seen and experienced the beauty of humanity in our home town, cities across the United States, and throughout Europe. People are people. Love is love. That’s not to say we don’t see the problems, the tragedies, and the struggles of so many, but we also believe to even begin to understand them we need to understand the individual stories and the collective histories. So we’re going to continue in the way we know best – through our food and travel adventures…

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Today we want to share a recipe from Mexico (the country we first visited in our online cooking adventures six years ago). We  were taught to make this dish by our good friend and neighbor, to whom we are forever grateful for introducing us to this delicious veggie we would otherwise likely continued to have overlooked. I mean I don’t know how many times I’ve passed the cacti pads in the grocery store, not giving them much thought other than to tell the kids to not touch them as they tried to test out their spines. But as soon as we bit into our friend’s grilled nopales we were hooked.

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Nopales are cacti pads, also commonly known as prickly pears. They are full of fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. They have the consistency of a grilled bell pepper, but more of a fruit-like flavor. They are very easy to prepare (once you carefully cut off the prickly spines). Ouch! Rinse, score, brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and grill (indoors or out) for about 3 to 4 minutes per side, until slightly yellowed and softened. You can use a spatula to keep the pads flat on the grill if they begin to curl  up. We served ours whole, simply cutting into them as we ate.

Click here for recipe: Grilled Nopales

The catci are savory and sour, have a hint of bitterness, are soft in the center, but still provide a nice crunch on first bite. One to two pads per person is a good serving – they will fill you up! As for our spoon ratings, Mr. N came in with 2.5 spoons, Miss A at 4 spoons and Mike and I at 3 spoons. We were pleasantly surprised at how much we all really enjoyed eating cacti! I mean you know it’s good veggie when everyone asks for seconds.

As always, thank you for following along on our journeys – some of you for a full six years! It’s been everything we hoped and so much more. We look forward to many more amazing and unexpected years. Next up…the sun drenched vineyards and rolling hills of Italy. Cheers!

13 thoughts on “We Were Here

  1. tragoncito says:

    You can also grate nopales with Chihuahua Menonite cheese, chester or what is called manchego in Mexico. Or any cheese not too strong which melts. Maybe what is called mozarella in the US (the authentic mozarella is made with buffala milk and comes in it’s wet whey.

    You can also prepare ensalada de nopalitos. cutting tender nopales in small rectangles (about 1cm x 2.5cm) boiled with few water like other vegetables almost just done by the steam (do not over cook), then drain in a colander the savia is viscous is called baba (a synonym of saliva). Let cool.
    Then cut tomatos in slices with their juicy seeds, avocado in dices, onion, fresh cilantro and some serrano or jalapeño chile (just the peel without seeds) in finely chopped (about 1mmX3mm) salt at your taste, also some dry oregano, mix everything eat with hot maize tortillas. If you can find green tomatoes you should find good tortillas, or at least white maize flour to make them. You can also add some fresh cheese, one that is grinded during its fabrication and you can break in pieces with your fingers.
    English is not my native language, I hope it is well explained.
    Bon apetit!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kristy says:

      Thank you so much! We actually have a great market where I can get everything you mentioned. It all sounds delicious and I’m all for more ways to eat these. Much appreciated. 🙂

      Like

  2. Debra says:

    How wonderful it is to hear that you are going to continue to share your unique experiences and points of view with us, Kristy. Not only are your children learning some valuable perspectives from other cultures, both locally and internationally, but you’re bringing them to us as well. I’m delighted!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. thecompletebook says:

    What a beautiful read Kristy. Congratulations to you all on a wonderful 6 years. Can’t believe how grown up Mr N and Miss A look all of a sudden. Fabulous observation of your little ones love for each other – very special. What a fantastic idea for your new adventures. I am looking forward to them all.
    Have a beautiful day.
    🙂 Mandy xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Eva Taylor says:

    I must say, Kristy (apart from your beautiful story telling abilities and that magical moment between the kids) I held my breath as you were detailing the future of the blog, and boy did I breathe a sigh of relief when you said you would continue. Welcome back! I’ll give you an extra hug next time we meet.
    How fortunate that your lovely neighbour help you prepare the cacti, I’ve been fearful of it since the first time I saw it at the store. You may even inspire me to try this exotic dish.
    Looking forward to reading about Italy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. sallybr says:

    I am having a tough time to comment. First, the thing that hit me particularly deep was that moment you caught between your kids. I just felt it as if I was there, in a strange way, as if I was a mother observing a magical moment

    then of course, this thing. The being a foreigner and being accepted. And the revolution I am feeling right now because of the political situation we face.

    it’s a bit much to process. I am having a real real tough time

    but it is a warming feeling, that of having met you virtually, then personally, and be able to connect on many levels. Distance is a relative concept. And as to the world, the pendulum will always go back

    we wait. and we hope.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eha says:

      Sally – I DO appreciate you are THERE!! But methinks most of the world is sharing a very ‘tough time’ we in no way expected! Or in no way thought possible! I awake each morning thinking that something must have changed thru’ our night!! I look at the date: 16th here and I feel like screaming . . . .but you put it well when you mention the pendulum . . . what swings one way will always swing back . . . we hope ere too many people are hurt . . .

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Cecilia Mary Gunther says:

    YES! You found it! Chicago is a smorgasbord waiting to be explored fully – I am so excited about this ! Mexican and Dalmatian and China town and the Polish areas and the Italian and the black neighbourhoods with all that fantastic food steeped in bloody torn american history – what a brilliant idea. I am impressed! c

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Eha says:

    Kristi – I had cold shivers getting to the half-way point in your post. My very selfish thought was: do you understand what, we, your readers, get from your writing, your photos, your ongoing family story ? What each and every one of us would ‘lose’ if what you sent was no longer part of ‘our lives’ . . . ? How much we cherish everything from your travel descriptions to Miss & Mr visibly growing up and maturing in our sight to you making us think . . . for me that has been such an integral part of clicking on your blog . . . . this has been a good feeling at the beginning of a new week of a new year . . . that, even if just sometimes, we could sit together around the kitchen table and hear and share the news around your way . . .

    Liked by 1 person

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