Did I ever tell you that Denise can make excellent tamales and carnitas? ¿No? Well, then… About the time Denise and I started getting serious, she worked at a deli and meat market, owned by Jess (Mexican) and Julianne (Polish). So, while I was off surfing every single day during the summer of 1974 (I couldn’t get a job, because I wouldn’t cut my hair — Idiot), Denise (Anglo) learned how to make carnitas, tamales, tortillas, menudo, peirogi, golumki and fresh/smoked kielbasa. Yes, she was always good in the kitchen, but this experience turned her into a serious culinarian.
Denise is not threatened by others, with more sophisticated or advanced skills. A few months ago, we dined at Las Pupusas, a Mexican/Salvadoran/Costa Rican restaurant on El Camino in Sacramento (please read the reviews). I’ve only had Mexican tamales, so theirs were a new treat for me. As one reviewer noted:
Their tamales remind me of my grandma’s cooking, had she known how to make tamales. What’s a bit strange (but it’s a good strange,) is that they put potatoes in their tamales and they wrap the whole tamale up in a banana leaf instead of a corn husk. You can definitely taste the difference and the essense of the banana leaf is in the maize.
However, it was their carnitas that really grabbed our attention. When I was paying, I asked the young woman at the register if they marinated their carnitas and told her it was the best we’ve ever had. She said “no, but my grandmother cooks it in Coca Cola before she roasts it.” Denise looked at me (like Joe Friday), nodded and knowingly remarked, “I’ve heard that before. I’ll have to try it.”
So, this weekend we looked on line and settled upon this recipe. Oh, blessed carnitas!!! It was wonderful. I would have to compare side-by-side with Las Pupusas, to determine the champion. But, really, who cares? It’s all good. Denise whipped up the salsa fresca, we rolled the pork up in corn tortillas and ate it with some rice on the side (Denise makes great rice, too).
Oh, yes. You were probably wondering what happened to Denise and the deadbeat surfer. Well, actually I had worked and saved a bunch of money up to that point. When I got home from the waves and she got off work, we went to a rock show or Dodger game or a movie almost every night of the week. I finally cut my hair and got a job in September (actually 3 part time jobs) and we got married and have been eating Mexican and Polish/Slovak food ever since.