Saturday, September 09, 2006

...and that was just lunch

Our abuela (Guillermo's maternal grandmother) suffered a stroke earlier this year. She was hospitalised for weeks and was eventually operated on. Since then she has been very careful with her diet which is having a knock-on effect on abuelo (grandfather) and abuelita (Guillermo's paternal grandmother). And more recently, the entire family seems to be eating health consciously.

On Dia del Niño (Child's Day) last month, we had a family lunch at my parents-in-law's. All the really unhealthy foods were reserved for the kids; they lunched on bright orange cordial, chesitos (cheese puffs ) and Bon-o-Bons (a local chocolate look-alike confection packed with partially hydrogenated fats, sugar and other nasties).

To start, the adults had roast beef, jamon crudo (cured ham), cheese and bread rolls, some of them even wholemeal. Then came some hot vegetarian pastries from a Middle Eastern deli and the meal was wrapped with my fudgy chocolate cupcakes topped with Chai spiced cream. Water and wines were served, no coke in sight.

However, abuela couldn't enjoy herself that day. She said she almost tripped while walking along the corridor leading to the apartment. She was not hurt at all but was obviously shaken when we greeted her at the front door. She was in tears telling us that if abuelo and my father-in-law hadn't both held onto her the whole time, she would have died.

In fact, she was still shaken by the end of lunch. Her eldest daughter, my mother-in-law, asked if she needed to go to the hospital. She declined but launched into a speech about her "sufferings" such as her youngest daughter (age 39) and her young grandchildren (age 4 and 8) are living almost 500km from Capital Federal (BA city) and she would only see them once a month; blah, blah, blah. The speech was delivered with wobbly lips and tears in the making.

It upset my mother-in-law because she felt her mother was being insensitive since her own daughter (age 31) was even further away in Mexico with her even younger grandchildren (age 1 and 3). Well, not too far for not too long as they are all back here in BA for 3 weeks' break and are then moving back here permanently before Christmas. Not to be outdone, my mouthy sister-in law also chimed in about her family being in Santa Lucia a few hours' drive from Buenos Aires, obviously the centre of Universe for these women.

At that point, my husband became a little irritated by this gaggle of whingers because his wife whose first, second, and third languages are not Spanish is living here in Buenos Aires, more than 10,000km from any of her family. His wife, moi, remained very quiet and unconcerned the whole time.

All I thought at that point was: what a bunch of spoiled brats!! I only wished that right from the beginning we had been able to check and reassure abuela that she wasn't going to have another stroke because of the earlier incident. It would have been a tranquilo (calm) lunch if it wasn't for the domino-effect of petty self-pity which ended with a few red faces when Guillermo pointed out the White Elephant in the room.

In order to avoid the reoccurrence of this episode, I am thinking of distributing to La Familia some helpful tips on early detection of a stroke.

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer brain damage or worse, death, when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms and seek help promptly.

Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:
1. Ask the individual to SMILE.
2. Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.
3. Ask the person to SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE coherently.

If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call an ambulance immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

If we had done that with abuela as soon as she came through the door, I think we would have enjoyed the afternoon a lot more, especially when there were those intensely dark and melting chocolate cupcakes to be had.

Fudgey chocolate cupcakes (make 12):
200g butter
200g dark chocolate
150g sugar
4 eggs
a rounded tablespoon of flour

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C. Line each muffin-hole with a paper cupcake liner. Melt together the butter with the chocolate (in a double-boiler or in the microwave slowly and for just a few seconds at a time, blending with a spoon between each pass). Transfer into a medium mixing-bowl. Add in the sugar, stir with a wooden spoon and let cool a little. Add in the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. Finally, add in the flour and mix well.

Pour the dough into the paper cups, and put into the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes. Turn the oven off but leave the cupcakes inside for another ten minutes, then put the pan on a cooling rack on the counter to cool completely.

Chai Spiced Cream:
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1-2 tsp of Chai spice mix*
Whip cream until soft peaks are formed, it takes about 5 minutes. Add sugar and spice mix to taste. Continue to whip until stiff peaks form, but remember not to over beat

*Chai spice mix:
1 tsp fennel, whole
1 tsp cloves, whole
2 tsp cardamom, ground
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 tsp ginger, ground

With a small food processor, grind up the whole fennel and cloves. Transfer to a small bowl and add remaining spices. Mix to combine.

To assemble, pipe or spoon a small dollop of cream on top of each cupcake. Take a big bite and enjoy the wonderful melting moment.

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