quid pro quo for having a herd of friendly foreign in-laws in exotic
climes from Flushing, Queens to Jipijapa are long, unfortunately timed
visits from selfsame in-laws, particularly the traditionally gnarly mother-in-law.
So it was with some trepidation that we have been anticipating
the arrival today of Norma Yvonne’s outlandish aunt Delfina, morbidly
brother Gualberto and her wizened, widowed mother, Annie. Our dear mom-in-law
is here for the better part of a month, the others just came along from
New York to drop her off. This is a cultural trait of Latinos, we have
noted. When any family member is leaving on a trip, or coming back from
one, the entire troupe of 27 troupe down to the airport in a rolling bon
voyage, or welcome home, as the case may be.
At any rate, due to our only partially undeserved reputation
with our in-laws as an accomplished chef, we were expected to produce
epicurean repast for tonight despite our current crushing schedule down
at the academic salt mines.
Within the constraints of time, budget and ingredients,
we kept it simple: Matza ball soup (for that exotic, ethnic Yid touch)
la Brasa (Broasted Chicken), Arroz a la Jardinero, fresh local sweet
and onion slice salad.
But the tour de force, by popular request, was trifle.
Trifle. is a category of dessert, rather than a single dish. The version
from our mother combines a base of pound cake, layers of fresh fruit,
Bird (British) dessert pudding, marmalade, canned cling peaches in heavy
syrup and whipped cream.
The cool thing about Trifle. is that it is kind of
the smorgasbord of fancy desserts. You can throw in whatever marmalades
or preserves you
have in the refrigerator, and whatever fresh fruits are available and
in season. In this version we used fresh strawberries, mandarin orange
slices, and a banana.
The other adjustment we made in this version was in
the pudding layer. Usually we use two envelopes of Bird’s, a quaint
and traditional British
pudding which brings to mind Brigadier Pudding and treacle and is oddly
available in most major American markets, but today we found ourself down
to the very last packet. At the local Star market, we searched in vain
for the magic powder, which when mixed with two cups of milk and a bit
of sugar turns into a pasty pudding that holds the whole Trifle. together
like tapioca holds together whatever those little white globules are.
They had already made, ready-to-eat Bird’s Pudding,
a new format we had never seen, at $5.99 for a small packet, but as
it was unrefrigerated
and who-knows-how-long stored and shipped from the mother country we
passed. They had a Bird Trifle. Preparation Kit, at $7.99, which included
mixes for the cake, the pudding, a sort of translucent gelatin layer
unlike anything in Mom’s version, and a white, whipped cream-like "topping".
We recoiled and retreated.
In lieu of a Bird’s refill, we noted that the directions
on a package of Jello Flan were EXACTLY the same as for a packet of
Birds – mix with
two cups of milk and a bit of sugar, heat to a full boil, stirring constantly,
and then chill. We were cooking for a Latin audience, so maybe the Flan
substitution would fly. Should we just go with the single packet of
Birds, prepare a packet of each and apply them as separate layers, or
throw them in together and how for a fortuitous blending of tastes and
consistencies? We threw caution to the wind, and threw them both into
a pot with 4 cups of milk, and crossed our fingers.
Seems to have worked find for tonight, but we can’t
hide behind trifles for the better part of a month…
for a full photo review of the process, SEE HERE