Friday, October 30, 2009

Listen Up

A quick lesson in language etiquette completely and unofficially and probably-with-too-many-exceptions-to-be-taken-seriously made up by me:

We have all been there. You are talking to a friend, listening to a news anchor on the TV or radio, sitting in a church sermon. Then all of the sudden, out of nowhere, the person speaking in a perfectly clear American accent blurts out a pronunciation of a word in an over-enunciated foreign accent. For example:

"Oh yeah, I love Panera Bread Company. They have really great breakfast foods. Have you ever tried their KWAH-SAHNTS?"

"In an effort to start open communications with several political groups in the country, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived today in PAHK-EE-STAHN."

Look, you do not have to pronounce words from other languages or even names of countries the way people in those countries would pronounce them if you are not actually speaking the language. People in Cuba do not drop words like "my-am-ee" in casual conversation. They say it the way it naturally comes to them: "mee-ah'-mee".

The obvious exception to this would be when pronouncing a word where the letters in the original language are pronounced differently to an unrecognizable extent. For example:

Ropa Vieja - In Spanish, the "i" makes an "ee" sound and the "j" makes an "h" sound so the name for this delicious dish would be nearly unrecognizable if you pronounced it, "Ro-pah Vee-jah" or "Ro-pah Vay-jah", the way you might be inclined to. The correct pronunciation is "Rope-ah Vee-eh-ha" and it is what is for dinner tonight!

Ropa Vieja is one of my favorite Cuban foods. It is shredded flank steak in a tomato-based sauce. It is full of flavor and easy to make. It is definitely a comfort food, especially when served piping hot with black beans, rice, and and type of fried plantains. Unfortunately, this dish does not photograph to well, but you know what they always say....

Don't Judge a Book Ropa Vieja:

(5 servings)

1 small can tomato paste (about 6 oz)
1 small can tomato sauce (6 to 8 oz)
2 bell peppers (I used one red, one green)
2 Cups chopped tomatoes
1/4 C red wine vinegar
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced (this should make about 2 tbsp)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 large onion, sliced up in 1/2 inch pieces
salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs flank steak
Bay Leaf

Mix all ingredients besides the meat together in a large bowl. Add the meat to the bowl, coating it (I mixed it around with my hands).
Transfer everything to a slow cooker and cook on low for about 7-9 hours.

Serve with rice, beans and plantains.

UPDATE 11/4/09:
I completely forgot to mention the capers. This is optional, but it makes a great addition: Use a spoon or a cup to lightly smash open some capers (about 1/4 C). Then fry them in hot oil for about 1 to 2 minutes until crispy. Put the fried capers on top of the dish right before serving.

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