Meet my friend, Elsy, or LC, as I like to call her. Elsy is my sister from another mister. And from another mother. She’s from another country altogether. We have known each other from adolescence through adulthood, having that sisterly relationship complete with shoving matches, stand-offs and silent treatments, but also unconditional love, adoration and a heck of a lot of fun.
I first met Elsy during the summer of 1987 after my freshman year in high school, having just survived a sweltering 8-hour solo bus trip from Mexico City to Veracruz, complete with live chickens and low key juvenile harassment from young kids selling chiclets.
Elsy and her mother greeted me warmly when I ascended the stairs of the coach, my bulging suitcase in hand. This is a time before most suitcases had wheels or spinners, you know. You just had to take breaks when walking long distances, setting it down and switching hands every 10-15 steps.
Elsy was a girl of 15; she came in a small package, a tiny little thing, which was my first clue we wouldn’t be sharing clothes. She was fun-loving, always down for a good time, had a hot temper and a short fuse...kind of like a firecracker.
Elsy’s family was not new to hosting exchange students in their home and Elsy herself had recently returned from a year long study abroad in Michigan where she learned English. I spent the majority of that summer living large, getting to know Elsy’s friends and family, hanging out at the club, drinking soda out of plastic bags with straws. I immediately fell in love with the food- I was a good eater and was frequently greeted with smiling terms of endearment such as ‘gorda’ or ‘gordita’ which, frankly, didn’t translate very well. This is meant to be a light hearted compliment in Mexico, but calling any American teenaged female “chubby girl” feels like a back-handed one at best.
It’s all good….
Other than that, I spent time immersing myself in the culture...practicing all the Spanish curse words like a boss, driving without a license, learning to smoke on Marlboro reds and doing lit tequila shots. I was rocking the scene at all the discos and finding myself in the social pages of the local newspaper, celebrity style. There were few rules or laws to be broken...and if they were, it could easily be overlooked with a ten spot.
I’m expecting a call from my mother any second now.
Elsy and I have remained close friends for nearly 31 years. I have made many trips to visit her and her family since that first summer in 1987. She, in turn, has visited me a number of times, as has her brother Jorge. We have both grown up, had families of our own, been there for each other through life's trials and tribulations and recently Elsy became a grandmother to a beautiful baby boy, Jorge, a name he shares with his great-uncle and great-grandfather.
A few summers ago, Elsy and her daughter Elsy came to visit me, traveling with a friend from Michigan. (Side note: Elsy’s mother is also named Elsy, so I’m not quite sure, even after all these years, how the three of them keep this straight).
One day, presumably because she was bored, Elsy started cooking. I didn’t even know she knew how to cook. Her family always had Chavela to cook the meals in the family home (another reason I kept going back). Elsy cooked all day. She cooked and chopped and blended, fried and sautéed, showing me how to make authentic Mexican black beans, empenadas, homemade corn tortillas and salsa, the real deal. (I’m saying all this in my best Elsy impersonation).
My family spent the majority of the day and night at the kitchen table, forks in hand, ready and waiting for the next creation to be placed in front of us. We couldn't leave the table for fear of losing our seat to one of the neighbors. #FOMO
It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Ok, maybe it doesn’t outrank the days my kids were born but it’s definitely up there.
Here, I have created a healthier version of LC's recipe (there was no recipe, just lots of quick movement and I knew to keep my fingers out of the way) for authentic Mexican black beans, sans the bacon grease. I love everything about this versatile Latin American side dish. I love that black beans are served at almost every meal on the daily at the typical Mexican dining table. That would be breakfast, lunch AND dinner. They're dependable and reliable and they go with everything, really. Sometimes they're puréed, sometimes left whole in their juices and sometimes it's a combination of both. You can even substitute with pinto beans here for traditional Tex-Mex refried beans. You can put them on a tostada, use them as a taco filling or in a burrito. I hope you love them too...and what you now know of my dear friend, Elsy...as much as I do!
Jeanmare and Cristy are creators and contributors of the Living Simply Nourished Blog. Grab a cup of tea (or coffee!), find a cozy spot, scroll around, read some stories, find some inspiration, and enjoy!
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