Those of us brought up in two cultures feel a visceral nostalgia for key elements of the culture we don’t live in. Such is my case with tastes and smells.
I miss walking along my neighborhood at lunch time and smelling the aromas of rice made with onions and garlic; sauces spiced with Peruvian chiles – ají – in all its varieties.
As a child, I loved going to my friend Marcela’s house after school because her Mom made the best camote frito – french-fried sweet potato. As we got older and went out at night, one of our favorite hang-outs, on the cliff overlooking the ocean – ah, the smell of sea air at night -- were french fries at a food truck with a Baskin Robbins-like assortment of sauces. My favorite was a mayonnaise made with ají amarillo – a spicy, savory yellow sauce perfect on hot, creamy french fries.
I always said I would love to grow ají because I love to cook and I miss the flavors of my childhood. Now that I live in San Diego and have the space to garden, I didn’t know where to find seeds for the chiles. Imagine my delight when I got an email from a wonderful Peruvian restaurant in Encinitas – Q’ero Restaurant http://www.qerorestaurant.com – asking us to take an ají amarillo seedling to grow and share!!!! I am so excited! Now I can make my own paste, cure my own peppers (escabeche) and make salsa criolla as much as my husband can stand!
It is, alfter all, what won his heart. Well, that and flan, and pollo asado and lomo saltado and …