A timely tale about a family living in Brownsville, Texas and their involvement with immigration. Nina takes care of her invalid mother, for whom she gave up an independent life, her job and the house she had worked so hard to buy. It all began quite innocently when her brother, Beto, called to ask if she would do him the favor of checking in on Mom on her way home from work, which, of course, she did. And then, one day years later, when Nina found her mother on the floor in the kitchen, unable to get up to turn off the screeching kettle, Nina’s fate was sealed. She sold her home, took early retirement from her teaching job and moved into the family home to care for her mother. Beto stopped in every now and then, and tried to insert himself into her life by constantly telling her what to do. When her nephew Eduardo called to ask if his son, her godson, Orly, could spend a couple of weeks with her in the summer, she was thrilled. But things got complicated when a favor she had done for her housekeeper a few weeks before Orly’s arrival, changed and complicated her life. Suddenly she had her mother, Orly, Daniel and countless others relying on her, and noone knew her secret.
This entirely plausible story was heart-breaking on so many levels. Nina was a good woman whose kindness got her into all kinds of trouble when what she truly deserved was uncomplicated happiness. The stories of the refugees fleeing Mexico and Central America were also disturbingingly sad and their situations infuriating. I’m reading another book on immigration during WWII when America was reluctant to get involved in the European war, and the consequences that had for Jews running for their lives to the remarkably few places that would take them in. Immigration is a serious subject that should be overseen by coalitions, rather than individual countries. The real question is, why aren’t there more safe places to live in the world?
THE BEAUTY: I’ll have to look back among my blogs to see if I’ve written about this before, I suspect I have: the beauty that is family. In this story, Orly asks Nina if they can keep in touch with Daniel (Daniel is on his way north to be reunited with his father). Orly makes the case that Daniel was like his brother or cousin for a time, and Nina was like his mother. Nina, tired from daily trips to the rehab center where her mother is recuperating, says the they’ll talk about it more in the morning. But the gesture she makes before going to bed that night was truly touching. You’ll have to read the book to find out what Nina did.
Of all the dishes that Nina makes Orly’s favorite is fideo, tomato soup. Have I mentioned how much I love soup?
Traditional Mexican Sopa de Fideo Recipe
yield 4 bowls
8-ounce package of “fideo” noodles (angel hair pastas would have worked fine)
2 plum tomatoes
1 clove garlic
¼ medium white onion
1 ripe avocado (optional for garnish)
8 C chicken broth
3 T vegetable oil
Salt to taste (about 1tsp)
Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Puree the tomatoes, onion and garlic and set aside.
Preheat 3 T of vegetable oil to medium hot. Add the noodles and stir to coat with oil. Continue stirring until the noodles have started to brown. The browned noodles add depth of flavor to the soup.
Strain the pureed tomatoes, onion and garlic into the noodles.Add the chicken broth and stir. Bring the soup to a boil. Cover and reduce to low heat. Cook for 10 minutes.
Check the salt and adjust to taste before serving.
Serve with a couple of lime halves. A squirt of lime brings the flavors together. Garnish with chopped avocado.