Hola! Welcome to Day 10 of the Chica Lit Blog Tour!! The winner of yesterday's story, Winter, Fire, and Snow, is KCE1976. Please go to www.tracymontoya.com to claim your prize.
There will be a question at the end of my story here. Your prize will be one autographed book which you can choose from any of my six books: The Latino Writers & Journalist Book, The Enchanted Diary, The Wicca Herbal, The Teen Spell Book, The Hispanic Baby Name Book or, The Wicca Cookbook.
For the next fun and exciting story go to http://blog.misaramirez.com/
Now, mis amigas y amigos buckle your seatbelts and get ready for a bumpy ride!
Aurora Ramirez drove her black BMW up to the curb in front of her parents’ old Victorian home. She turned off the car engine and glanced over at the twinkling Christmas lights that trimmed the covered porch and wrapped around the birch trees. Two flamingos on the front lawn donned Santa’s hats. Aurora looked through the gingerbread type windows, and saw the silhouette of her mama stirring the chile con carne at the 1930’s red antique stove. Papa came over and gave Mama a peck on the cheek.
Aurora sighed, then quickly shook her head to keep from heading into relationship territory. Aurora Ramirez didn’t allow herself think about the kind of companionship that her parents shared. Some people got that kind of love, and others, like her, didn’t. Frankly, she told herself, she couldn’t imagine settling down with one person. And why should she? She had a parade of men in her life that had caused her to alphabetize her BlackBerry by first name instead of surnames. Who needs to know the last name anyway? She kept her focus strictly on her career as Vice President of Public Relations at Westinghouse Public Relations firm.
Thinking about work reminded Aurora that she really couldn’t afford to spend more than a couple of hours making tamales tonight. She had a few press releases to edit before sending them off to the client. She never, ever missed a deadline, preferring instead to accomplish the impossible, like sending out press materials one week ahead of schedule and during holiday season.
Aurora pulled down the sun-visor and checked her reflection in the small mirror. She toyed with her dark hair that fell in waves just passed her shoulder. She had an angular, beautiful face with a beauty mark just above her mouth. Hmmm. She needed more lipstick. She dug through her Dolce & Gabbana clutch purse for her signature Chinese red lipstick. While she applied her touchup makeup, a small red mark on her neck caught Aurora’s horrified attention.
Holy shit, was that a hickie? Aurora turned her head to gain a better look. Yep, a small reddish bruise shone like Rudolph’s nose.
Images of the hot young intern whom she had cornered in the copy room at last night’s company Christmas party came in sharp focus in her mind’s eye. She had never before endangered her career by allowing anyone at work to know about her late night rendezvous. It would ruin her reputation as a ball-busting businesswoman who would stop at nothing to rise in her the top. She easily gained the most sought-after clients because they wanted to ride her coattails – like the tail of a heaven-bound comet.
But she just couldn’t resist that intern’s soft brown eyes or the cute dimple in his chin. What was his name? He had the softest lips. Recently Aurora had discovered the beauty and endurance of the twenty-something generation. At thirty-nine, they would call her a cougar. And she earned that nick name in more ways than one.
Suddenly light streamed from the house to spill down the porch, over the steps, and onto the walkway. Silvana, Aurora’s sister, had yanked open the front door. “Aurora! Get your ass in here!” she called. Mateo, Silvana’s five-year-old son, clung to her leg, like a koala bear hugs a eucalyptus tree.
Aurora rolled down the window. “Just a sec,” she said.
“She’s driving me crazy!” Silvana whispered fiercely. “Hurry up.” Silvana slammed the door shut.
Aurora burrowed through her makeup bag for her MAC pressed powder. She caked on the makeup, but the reddish bruise refused to be concealed. She popped open her glove compartment and rummaged inside. She pushed aside a mini sewing kit, bank deposit envelopes, a small flashlight, mints, a package of Trojan condoms, and a few maps. She found her slinky gold lamiae scarf and wrapped it around her neck, tying a fashionable knot on the side.
Aurora grabbed her purse, got out of the car, and headed down the walkway, which glowed slightly from the luminaries placed next to the two-foot tall plastic candy canes.
She pushed open the front door and was immediately surrounded by the scent of chile con carne and sounds of recorded Christmas carols. As she walked down the hall, pictures of Aurora and her siblings: Silvana, Esmeralda, and Theodore as kids sitting with Santa smiled out at her. Every year their mother dragged out these sentimental favorites and plastered the walls with them. In each picture, the four of them wore perfectly matched clothing because Aurora, not their mother, had insisted on it. She made sure they looked good, even if she had to use her own money to buy the matching ribbons or black patent leather shoes.
Aurora’s heels clicked against the tile floor as she entered the kitchen. “Feliz Navidad.”
“Feliz Navidad,” sang out Silvana and Mama in chorus.
Esmeralda, dressed in a bright pink pant outfit and dripping with gold and pearls, turned and gave Aurora the once over. “You look like you’re going to a funeral. Don’t you wear any other color than black?”
“I need to go back to the office,” Aurora said kissing her mother on the cheek.
“It’s Christmas eve!” Esmeralda said. “If you didn’t work so hard, you’d be able to find a man. Like me.”
“Esmeralda has a new boyfriend,” Silvana said as she swooped up Bobby, her youngest son, and plunked him in the high chair their mother had purchased when Aurora graduated college, in hopes of grandkids. Instead, Aurora had enrolled in the masters program at UCLA in addition to her forty-hour a week job. She and her mother had always argued over their different versions of success.
“There’s a really important deal.” Aurora picked up a black apron from inside a kitchen cupboard and wrapped it around her thin waist.
“Tom, my boyfriend, loves the bright colors I wear,” Esmeralda said.
Aurora looked imperialistically down at her shorter sister. She pursed her lips. “I like black. It impresses.”
“Stop picking on her,” Theo interrupted as he sauntered into the kitchen sporting a red and white Chapman College sweatshirt. “Hey, sis, I got all A’s this semester.”
“Excellent,” Aurora commented.
Papa smiled as he followed behind his son. “How’s my girl?” He held out his arms and Aurora quickly crossed the room and melted into them. “You okay, baby?”
“Yeah,” Aurora said breathing in his scent of mint due to the leaves he was forever chewing.
Papa nodded towards the collection of hard liquor on the wooden sideboard.
“Good idea.” Aurora smiled and released herself from her papa’s embrace. She lifted the heavy bottle of Early Times and poured herself a glass of whiskey. Ahh, a bit of the hair of the dog. All day, she had tried drinking water, Gatorade, and even a Sausage McMuffin loaded with grease, to get rid of the queasy stomach and taste of stale alcohol. Nothing ever worked as good as a stiff drink. As she filled her glass again, Aurora had a momentary flashback that involved licking Cristal champagne off of a young man’s neck. It gave her the shivers, both from delight and fear that she had played it way too close to her own backyard.
Aurora sat her purse next to the chair in front of the large rectangular pan in which several dozen corn husks were soaking. The husks’ pale yellow opaque coloring was fading fast into a translucent, flesh-tone.
“You’re not going to wrap again?” Esmeralda said.
“You know the tamales I wrap never leak,” Aurora said pompously.
“It’s true,” Silvana offered. “Aurora’s tamales never ooze chili sauce, like yours. I should know. I had to clean the pot last year.”
“Whatever,” Esmeralda said, placing a few plates on to the table for the wrapped tamales to rest before they were arranged in the huge silver pots.
“Enough, girls,” Papa said as he put on his apron that read “I’m not aging I’m marinating.” He set down several spoons for scooping the chili con carne onto their kitchen table that had once been a door from a Cathedral in Guadalajara, Mexico. When the city decided to build a more modern church in its stead, the old church was crumbling and had become a hazard, he went berserk. He insisted he needed that door and had sucked the family savings dry to obtain it. He said it would bring peace to his rowdy family. Papa rubbed his hand wistfully over the large crack in the door.
“What has Esmeralda in such a twist?” Aurora whispered in Silvana’s ear as she walked to the stove to ladle the chile con carne into a bowl.
Silvana shrugged. “Dunno, but she’s been at it since she got here.” She whispered back. “Maybe since the new boyfriend is meeting you.”
“Why would that bother her? No, wait.” Aurora held her finger up and carried the bowl to the table. She returned and edged up next to Silvana.
“She’s always measuring herself against you and even though she would deny it if you brought it up, she still wants the approval of her big sister.” Silvana took out a new roll of paper towels to clean up the inevitable mess of tamale making.
Aurora peeked into the bowl of masa streaked with chile sauce that hadn’t been quite stirred in properly. “Why doesn’t she do that with you? You’re older than her, too.” Aurora grabbed a large wooden spoon and pushed it through the masa.
“It’s different with you,” Silvana whispered. “We all want your approval, Aurora.” At that moment, Bobby cried out, and Silvana rushed to soothe her baby.
Aurora looked around suspiciously at her siblings as she put the bowl of masa on the table. She had never noticed any desire for her praise.
“I bet Tom will be a natural at this,” Esmeralda crooned, while ripping thin strips of corn husks to tie the tamales.
“He’s coming?” Aurora asked, rearranging the bowls of masa and chili to a position she thought more organized.
“We’re breaking tradition,” Mama broke in.
“And he’s white,” Steve, Silvana’s husband, piped in. “Now I won’t be the only gringo in the crowd.”
“You’re an honorary Latino,” Silvana said with a kiss on top of his blond head. She smiled contentedly as she opened a can of olives and poured them into a green bowl.
“Now, I only want one olive per tamale,” Mama said, holding up one finger.
“So what if he’s white?” Esmeralda said. “I just know he’s the one.” She actually looked towards the heaven.
Aurora almost gagged but forced to herself to ask politely, “How long have you been dating?” Mateo pushed the olives onto his chubby fingertips and sucked them off one at a time. He reached into the bowl for more olives.
“Six months.” Esmeralda pulled Mateo’s hand out from the bowl of olives. “There won’t be any left,” she scolded.
“I bought two extra cans,” Silvana said exasperated.
“And I’ve never met him?” Aurora said bewildered.
“I met him.” Mateo said brightly. “He’s nice.”
Aurora gave her nephew a quizzical look.
“I invited Tom to Mateo’s fifth birthday,” Esmeralda said. “Remember you were working late and never made it, even though you promised to come.”
Silvana bit her lip and looked away. They had never discussed that.
“Oh,” Aurora said defeated. Just in time, her BlackBerry buzzed she had a text message. “It’s probably work,” she said, grateful for the interruption. Esmeralda groaned. Aurora picked up her purse and put it on her lap. She pulled out her BlackBerry, looked down, and read the message: How’s the hickie?
Shit. Did she give him her number? Aurora couldn’t remember. She stuffed the BlackBerry back into purse. “It’s nothing.” She said to no one in particular.
Mateo slapped down a chuck of masa on a corn husk and began to spread the masa with the back of the spoon.
“Don’t spread the masa too thick” Mama said prudently.
“Not yet, we’re waiting for Tom.” Esmeralda protested. “Did I tell you that Tom just got a new job? I can’t wait to hear all the details.”
Aurora’s BlackBerry buzzed again. Aurora fished out the electronic device and glanced down to read: I miss you. She would just ignore it. Pure sap was in love.
“You know, honey, you might be working too hard,” Papa said. “Uncle Hank’s biodynamic winery is going great in Sebastopol. He’s added on to their ranch, so there’s a guest house now. It would be good for you to get away, Aurora. Get off this wild ride you call a life and take a break.”
“We all know how much Aurora likes to drink,” Esmeralda said.
Aurora scowled at her and took a drink of her Early Times to be spiteful.
“They have horses,” Papa continued. “You could ride like you used to when you were a little girl.”
“No,” Aurora shook her head. She had never taken a real vacation since she started with Westinghouse five years ago. Her BlackBerry buzzed again. Aurora grabbed the BlackBerry, fumbled it and finally grasped it. She peeked into her purse to avoid pulling it out where anyone could see the message that read: Maybe you’d like to forget me, but I’ve been thinking that you could put in a good word for me at the office.
She dropped the BlackBerry as if it were toxic. Before she could put the purse down, the BlackBerry buzzed again. She couldn’t resist reading the message: Aren’t you going to answer me?
“You should probably answer it.” Silvana said.
“Work can wait,” Aurora said.
Silvana looked at her puzzled and Theo gaped at her. Aurora had never said anything like that before.
“I’ll just turn it off,” Aurora said, but before she could silence the BlackBerry it buzzed again. I know you don’t want Mr. Westinghouse to know you’ve been banging the new kid on the block.
“I’m going to take this.” Aurora got up and walked to the bathroom. Stop bothering me, Aurora typed in, punching the letters hard as both fear and rage pulsed through her veins in equal measure.
Sorry babe, gotta go, why don’t you just think about what I’ve said.
Aurora stared at the last words. She could feel steam rising under her Fendi silk blouse, only to be trapped by the scarf. She straightened up and headed back to the kitchen. She smiled falsely at her family and sat back down. “It’s all worked out,” she said in a tremulous voice.
The doorbell rang. Esmeralda jumped up, knocking the chair over. She ran down the hall and pulled open the door. “Hey there,” she breathed. “Come in.”
“Hope I’m not too late,” a male’s voice said.
Chills raced up Aurora’s arms. Where had she heard that voice before?
“We’ve waited for you,” Esmeralda tittered. A moment later she and Tom walked into the kitchen, their arms linked together. Esmeralda was beaming. Tom smiled at the Ramirezes sitting around the table.
It was the same soft brown eyes, same pouting lips, same damn dimple in his chin that had so enthralled Aurora last night. The same virile sexuality that had caused her to break all her rules. The hair stood on end at the back of Aurora’s neck. Her toes turned to blocks of ice. “Meet my big sister Aurora,” Esmeralda said with pride in her voice. “I think she’s the only one here you haven’t met.”
Aurora stood up and automatically shook Tom’s hand. She could feel the entire family’s attention on the two of them. But all she could do was stare at Tom’s cleft chin. Dimple in the chin, devil within, she thought dryly.
Tom smiled gleefully at Aurora. “Nice to meet you.”
Aurora forced a plastic smile on her face. “Mucho gusto.”
“Okay, let’s get this started,” Esmeralda said cheerfully. “I don’t want it to go on all night, like last year.” She smiled lovingly at Tom. “You can sit between me and Aurora.”
Aurora groped for her chair and sat down. She leaned closer to her Papa. “Papa, do you have Hank’s number? I think I will take that vacation after all.”
TAMALES DE LOS MARTINEZ
From The Wicca Cookbook: Recipes, Ritual, and Lore, by Jamie (Martinez) Wood and Tara Seefeldt
10 lbs (4.5 k) of pork roast, cut into medium-sized chunks
3 garlic cloves, whole
1 to 2 dried chili pods
1 large cup chili powder (Gerbharts is the best)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 3/4 cups (680 ml) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 ml) lard or canola oil
2 28-ounce (840 g) of Las Palmas chili sauce
2 8-ounce (225 g) bags dried corn husks
10 lbs (4.5 k) of masa, pre-made
5 6-ounce (170 g) cans of olives, black, pitted and whole
To prepare the chili con carne, fill a large pot with 1” (2.5 cm) of water. Add meat, onions, garlic, chili pods and 1 tablespoon of chili powder. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low heat for 2 1/2 hours. Drain the ingredients. Shred the pork and cut out any fat.
In a medium saucepan and over low heat, mix together the oil and flour. Brown flour, stirring continually until dark beige. Turn off the heat. Slowly stir in 1 cup (250 ml) chili powder. Mix together until you reach an even consistency. Add the Las Palmas chili sauce and 1 can of water, use the 28-ounce (840 ml) can. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Use the back of a spatula to mash until the gravy mixture thickens. Mix in the pork. Reduce to heat and simmer for 1 hour.
Bring water to boil. Put corn husks in a large casserole, cake or lasagna pan. Pour the boiling water over the corn husks. Cover with a wet cloth or other light towel. Soak for 20 minutes, or until pliable.
Pour the pre-made masa into a large bowl, leaving the center open. Add 3/4 cup (180 ml) of the sauce, no meat, from the chili con carne. Mix together with your hands until fluffy.
Lay a corn husk flat with the pointy end away from you. The bottom or longest width of the husk should be approximately 6 to 7” (15-18 cm) wide. You can combine two smaller husks, making sure they overlap. Scoop 2 heaping tablespoons of the masa. Beginning about 1 1/2-inches (3.75 cm) from the pointy end, spread the masa evenly on the corn husk. The masa should extend to the bottom and be thick enough so that none of the husk shows through. Place 2 tablespoons of chili con carne in the center of the husk in an oval shape. Put 1 to 2 olives in the tamale. Roll the tamale lengthwise. Pinch the bottom close. Fold the pointy end back over the tamale on top of the seam made from rolling the tamale. Seal closed with excess masa.
Put 2 inches (5 cm) of water in a steamer pot. Stack tamales, seam down, in the steamer pot in a circle pressed against the side. Leave the center free. Stack the tamales anywhere from 2 to 4-inches (5-10 cm) from the top, depending on the size pot you use. Place a wet cheesecloth on top of the tamales to keep them from moving. Cover. Cook over medium heat. Cooking time varies depending on the pot your use. If you are using: a 2 to 3 gallon pot, cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, a 4 to 5 gallon pot, cook for 1 to 1/2 hours, a 6 to 7 gallon pot, cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
When the tamales are done, the masa will fall freely from the corn husk.
Note: Some tamale steamer pots are long and rectangular instead of being circular and tall. If you use the rectangular version, you will need to stack your tamales standing up against the side. Again leave the center open. Makes 6 dozen tamales.
Question for Ride the Wild Pony. What is the common thread between Aurora, Silvana, and Esmeralda's names? Answer here and win a free autographed book.
Moving right along on this Chica Lit Blog Tour. For the next story, go to www.blog.misaramirez.com