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Pardon my "French" (Laurel Anne Hill Reflects Upon Hispanic Heritage Month)

This was Hispanic Heritage Month? Already? Well, that’s what the TV news guy claimed.   I sipped my claret.  The guy kept on talking.  Oh, yeah. September 15 to October 15.   Man, but this past year had sailed by fast.  My brain grew too old to keep up with my calendar.

I’d done nothing to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month.  I could almost hear my Mexican ancestors grumble about my negligence.  Hey, I’d written stories about ancestral Hispanic ghosts.  Didn’t that count?  Still, no sense in upsetting my deceased family members.   I’d add a south-of-the-border touch to tonight’s dinner.

I removed the jar of Pace Chunky Salsa and a brick of pepper jack cheese from my refrigerator.  That tasty combination ought to spice up the kokanee salmon I’d poached in lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and water.  Probably not authentic Hispanic cuisine. Quick didn’t equate to correct.

I skinned and boned the fish, the size of a trout.   Kokanee were landlocked fresh-water sockeye salmon.   My living family—me included—had caught Kokanee at Odell Lake in Oregon every summer for over twenty years.   Three-quarters of a fish tonight for my husband, David.  One quarter for me.   I nuked fresh corn in the microwave and pulled the leftover haricot vert (long thin green beans of the French variety) out of my refrigerator.  I covered the fish with a layer of spicy salsa and sliced pepper jack.  Looked delicious.

Then I remembered.  My father’s paternal grandmother and great-grandmother had protested the French invasion of Mexico in the 1800′s.  Those two women had helped raise money and recruit Mexican soldiers to defend their homeland.  Dared I place French green beans on the same plate as my salmon ala salsa?   And what about the French bread and cheese from Normandy, already on my dinner table?   And the bottle of red Rhone wine?   I groaned.

Okay, I would be more dutiful during the coming week.   Maybe even cook chili verde from scratch.  A nagging inner voice reminded me I hadn’t prepared my own homemade tortillas and tamales for thirty-five years.   And I still hadn’t gotten around to learning how to make those fancy sugar skulls for Day of the Dead.

But wait, I was more than Mexican.   I was English, Scotch-Irish and Swedish, too.  And according to my autosomal DNA test report, some of my ancestors had been black and others Jewish.  None of those deceased relatives complained about me not preparing overboiled beef, haggis, pickled herring, soul food and potato pancakes. At least, not yet.

“This is Hispanic Heritage month,” the grumbling voice in my head said. “That’s where your focus should be.”

I served David dinner, even as the ghostly voice receded into the background.

“This fish is delicious,” David said. “And the corn is so sweet.”

My brain may be too old to keep up with the calendar but my hands could still put together a great meal. The ancestors would just have to forgive my non-traditional combinations.