Emmanuel Acevedo

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Pasteles for Christmas Time

My mother always has been a traditional woman. She likes to keep the Christmas lights until “Dia de Reyes “passes and to make pasteles for the December to January holidays. The term pasteles is used to describe a green banana, meat and potatoes dish.

It all begins with the green banana. This is taken and cut down and peeled. To cut down the banana, my dad uses a big knife called a machete. After he cuts down the bananas, my mom peels them and uses a guayo. The guayo is a tool used to scratch the peeled banana to get a paste like product. The brownish paste takes on a red pigmentation due to the added annatto juice. The annatto juice is acquired by boiling some annatto seeds in water, turning the water red like the seed. The meat is made in caldo. You take small pieces of meat, cut them into squares and boil them in water. The juice of the meat and the smell is the normal Christmas smell here. Then my mom adds potatoes and condiments to make the meat.

After the meat is ready and the banana paste is done, the process of wrapping begins. Some banana leaves, are heated to change the color to help clean the mancha off the leaves. After that, my mom takes some paste and spreads it evenly on the leaf. Meat is poured into the middle of it, then she folds and ties it with a string to hold it in place.

The distinctive smell of a Christmas dinner is awesome. There is the pork in the charcoal, the pasteles in a pot and the rice in another. Everybody turns happy and starts asking for my mother’s pasteles. After we eat we open presents and follow up with some music and family sharing.

That’s our traditional Puerto Rican Christmas.

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