I don’t know if you folks who are not from the American Southwest know what a quesadilla is, so I’ll give a brief explanation. I was taught by a friend from Mexico how to make them modern style. Take a round wheat flour tortilla and fold in half to make a crease. Open it and put enough American cheese in it to cover one-half of the tortilla. Put it in the microwave for about a minute then carefully remove it to avoid burning your hand. That’s the basic quesadilla.
Subsequently, I’ve learned to put a slice of lunch meat in it to add to the flavor. When it comes out of the oven, I’ll slather some salsa picante on the outer surface and roll it so the salsa is now “inside” the quesadilla and it’s now easy to pick it up and eat it. The name quesadilla comes from the Spanish queso, cheese.
Salvadoran quesadilla is more of a pan dulce, a sweet bread and is nothing like what I have just described. So it’s taken Adriana a while to get used to the food I occasionally prepare for a snack. In the past she’s been reluctant to try “my” food preferring to stick to what her mother has been cooking for her all her life. Namely, beans, rice, and tortillas.
Margarita frequently makes what Taco Bell or Del Taco call a breakfast burrito for my supper. (Don’t ask. It’s different here.) I taught her how to use the soft tortillas and roll them around eggs, cheese, chicken dogs or bacon (when available), peppers, tomato, whatever is handy. Recently, Adriana has asked if she could have what I’m having when I’m having burritos. That makes me happy on two fronts. One, I know she’s getting a variety of nutritional foods into her diet. And two, as her relationship with me grows, so does her confidence and willingness to try something different. I have said often that she is much more daring than her older brother.
The other night, I was nearly knocked over when I saw a simple quesadilla on her supper dish. She was cutting slivers off with a knife and eating them. I asked who made the quesadilla and she responded that it was she. Now learn another Spanish word, bayunca. It’s what you call a silly person, a joker. That fits my 7-year old daughter, which is good because I’m a bayunco. I didn’t believe her until she finished and wanted another one. She went to the fridge and took out another tortilla, a slice of cheese, and ketchup. The ketchup is part of another story.
Earlier in the day, we shopped in Chalchuapa and I bought the last large jar of salsa picante for $2.53. I knew it was the last jar because I searched the top shelf looking for a backup jar and there was none. While she was preparing the first quesadilla, I was in my room at the computer. She came in with the jar and asked me to open it for her. I did and she turned to go. Just as she was exiting, she dropped the glass jar and it shattered on the ceramic tile floor. Refusing to get angry with my princess, I sat at my desk while Margarita came running. I asked her to clean it up and not try to salvage anything that might have glass in it. I don’t know what her experience is with glass food containers. There aren’t many things here that come in glass. Being Salvadoran, I was afraid she’d try to save the salsa/money. I’m proud of myself for not mentioning it at all afterward.
My clever little girl decided to substitute ketchup (in a plastic bottle from Heinz) for salsa. It’s not like solving pi in second grade, but she is quick to find alternatives to everyday problems that her 10-year old brother will just stare at as if waiting for the comic strip light bulb to appear over his head. Adriana watches things that I do and picks up on them. Little things like putting water in your dirty dishes in the sink. I gently exhorted Luís to do so yesterday with the explanation that it keeps food from drying up and making it more difficult to wash the dishes. (We have no hot water here.) It was as if I had explained why the sun is hot judging by the look on his face. Adriana has been putting water in her dirty dishes since she’s been able to reach the water in the cistern. They’re different kids and I love them both.
I’m enjoying watching Adriana grow and mature. It seems to be happening all too quickly, especially now that her older sister has moved out. She has all her mother’s attention when it comes to the female role in the family and society. It’s more than being mommy’s little helper. Since she has no younger siblings to care for as María did and Juan does, that’s one area she has to go outside the immediate family to learn about. Fortunately, she’s got her 3-year old cousin Nahomy who now attends CDI and Adriana can dote on her. She also has 1-year old Michel across the street whom everyone adores.
It’s been decades since I’ve had a little daughter to nurture and enjoy. I often think of my four American daughters trying to recall after so many years what stages they went through and where they were at seven. It was a different world. A different culture. Different expectations and needs. They all brought me joy and made me proud of their different accomplishments. They each had their individual life challenges. Some were overcome easily, some with difficulty, and some have not yet been conquered. But that’s the human condition.
Now, I’m watching my last daughter grow up. I’m glad I’m retired and home to be with her for every step of her development. We pray that her adoption will be approved quickly and I’ll have the most important title, honor, or degree, that of papá.