CRASH! The tea hangs suspended above the cup for a few seconds before slopping all over the pillows and mattress. If the dog’s muzzle could form the perfect “O” in surprise, it would’ve. I let out a little yelp. Our bed just broke. Oh well. Let’s have breakfast, go for a power walk and deal with the mess when we get back. By the time we get back, the power is out, there is no AC in this heat and no hot water, so I can’t clean up the mess and can’t have a warm shower after the sweaty walk. The little alarm box beeps incessantly, warning us that there is a power failure and when husband tries to take the battery out to make it stop, the box dropped to the floor and cracked. It became a Sunday of a comedy of errors and to stick it to this day, I decide to have a cold shower and enjoy it. While doing so, a memory of Aruba ripples through my mind. We lived in a pretty little rental house close to the beach. It was brand new, but it had no hot water. Since we lived hand to mouth and depended on Stan’s tips for our daily food, we couldn’t afford to install the small heater that would give us hot water. There was no bathtub in the house as the climate required showering. I love to bath and could do so in any climate, so I missed hot water and a tub terribly. Then I became innovative. Anyone who knows boats, knows that after being out on the ocean, you hook it up to a fresh water tap to flush the system to ensure the engine doesn’t rust. The engine gets turned on while the fresh water runs through the system and boiling hot water comes out on the other end. We had two boats with two engines each. I acquired two buckets and after a day out on the ocean, caught this hot water from the running engines in each bucket and took them into the shower. There I lathered up in the one bucket of hot water and rinsed off with the other bucket. I sort of had a bath tub, but I definitely had hot water. Most of the time, there was the faint smell of metal and gasoline that clung to me like a desperate infant, but I was clean otherwise and had a tremendous amount of fun. This scenario makes me appreciate the simplicity of a hot shower and a tub every time I get into one. Sometimes, tough times can teach you to turn a negative situation into something positive and to be grateful for what you have. It taught me to never despise the day of small beginnings and that Aruba was just another place that introduced me to a new culture of food.
At first glance, the food of Aruba is not really unique. The island’s main source of income is tourism and they cater heavily for North American tourists. Only towards the end of our stay did I discover some dishes that I could faintly call Aruban. I fell in love with Pastechi, the Aruban take on an empanada, but they baked it instead of frying it. Then there was the Dutch influence. I’m a sucker for a crepe and here in a small coffee shop in Oranjestad, I discovered the Dutch pancake. It is an enormous, plate sized crepe filled with ham, pineapple, cheese and dusted with powdered sugar. This I ate until I felt nauseous.
The recipe for the Pastechi can be found in my book, along with a recipe for Keshi Yena (a delish dish born in Curacao) and a pretty dessert called Sunchi. The book is currently for sale at: