You know what you’re making for supper. You stopped at the grocery store on your way home from work and picked up the necessary ingredients. You’ve diced your onion, your oil is a-heating. OK. Recipe calls for one sopita (a chicken broth cube). One sopita, one sopita… where in Julia Child’s name is the sopita???
You’re out of sopita, remember? You used the last square of it in that sancocho the other day. ___! (Insert your choice of swear word here).
Now, if you were in El Seybo or San Juan de la Maguana, you’d just take a few steps outside your very front door, choosing from possibly 5 or 6 different colmados (Dominican neighborhood shops), to make your purchase. (Or even better, you’d send someone else to run and get it – the chef wields a lot of authority in the Dominican kitchen.) And not only could you have your sopita almost instantaneously, but you could buy just ONE, if you so chose. No bulk mentality here, almost everything is available in the most minute quantities. 3 pesos of oil? 2 pesos of salsa? Lo que tu quieras, mi amor. Flour, sugar, and rice by the fraction of the pound? No hay ningún problema.
Although these phenomena are necessitated by the fact that electricity is iffy (and therefore refrigeration uncertain) and that most budgets don’t allow for people to plan too far in advance, it makes one realize how “convenience stores” in North America are not so aptly named. “Colmado”, on the other hand, is no misnomer; it implies abundance, heaping spoonfuls, and so much more.
I would love to see the look on the face of my corner store cashier, if I were to buy some ham, cheese and bread and assemble myself a sandwich right there on his counter, and proceed to devour it – all the while making loud conversation and crumbs everywhere. What would my grocer say if I told him to slice my cabbage for me? And I’m almost certain I couldn’t have my phone calls forwarded to the shop on the corner OR get a line of credit.
So those of you who live in close proximity to colmados, appreciate them! Tuck your metal jarro under your arm with pride! Bring back your bottles and pay your cuenta in timely fashion. In the name of convenience!
Jill, a member of our original team (where we knew her as Aunt Jane), and contributor to our book, is Canadian, mom to two Canadian-Dominican boys and resided in the Dominican Republic for several years.
A good Caldo de gallina vieja or if you cant find one, chicken, is the traditional soup given to women who have just given birth and people recovering from some illness.
- 2 lb of hen meat (or chicken)
- 1 cup of auyama (West Indian pumpkin) cut into small cubes
- 1 cup of potatoes cut into small cubes
- 1 qrt of vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoon of oil
- 1/2 cup of angel's hair noodles
- 1 sprig of parsley, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 1 celery stalk, sliced
- 1 teaspoon of oregano
- Remove skin, bone, and chop the chicken into spoon-sized pieces.
- Season the chicken with oregano and a teaspoon of salt.
- Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat, add the chicken and brown.
- Add 1 qrt of water, garlic and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
- Cook over medium heat until chicken or hen is very tender, add water when it becomes necessary to maintain the same level of liquid.
- Add the potatoes, celery and auyama.
- Five minutes later add the noodles and parsley and cook until noodles are cooked.
- Stir regularly to avoid excessive sticking.
- Season with salt to taste.
The traditional soup is supposed to be made with an old hen. Where we can find an old hen in these urban environs nowadays beats me, so use chicken if you can't get hold of an old hen.
If you do get hold of one be prepared for a long cooking time. In that case a pressure cooker will shorten the cooking time a whole lot.