My first solo apartment was in Los Angeles. The neighborhood was just as colorful as the building mosaic that announced the street name and number.
An obese bum lived up the road and spent most of his time at the bus stop or under a purple flower shade tree. Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic was also on my block, in addition to one school, one church, a mechanic and a smog check place (100% satisfaction guaranteed). Peppered along the street were small homes, condos and/or apartments. Street parking was a premium; a 16-point turn was necessary to get into or out of a spot. Today, a savvy realtor might call this area “Los Feliz Adjacent.” When I lived there it was on the outskirts of Little Armenia and Thai Town was just west of that.
I loved my third floor walk up on the sunny narrow street. Even though it was considered a studio apartment, the closet was nearly 10×7, and could have been used as a bedroom. I was scared of earthquakes and intruders, so I slept on my Craigslist Futon in the main room, where I could keep my eye on the door. The ceilings were high, I painted one wall sun yellow, another blue and my kitchen cabinets Barbie pink. I hate Barbie, but living in Los Angeles in my very first apartment, having brightly colored cabinets felt natural. After all, the girls on Friends had brightly colored cabinets.
Sonodoro and I had our coffee date on Earth Day (April 22, 2003). Despite my attraction, I made him wait the three dates before I cooked for him.
The local Food4Less was only a half-mile away and since I didn’t want to lose my premium parking spot (or pay for gas) I put on my favorite shorts and walked down. This was before I thought 60° was cold and my innocence was as deep as The Marianas Trench. I was excited about cooking for Sonodoro and this probably made my walk a little too flirty. Some guy, slightly older than 23, looked me in the eye and queried, “how much?” Naïve as could be, I ventured:
How much for what?
I snapped. I’m not for sale! I continued on my merry way, pissed but happy. Yeah, he wants me… I can’t wait to make dinner for Sonodoro.
Between savings and my retail job I was just making ends meet. While living away from the safety of college and home, I economized and spent $10 a week (or less) on groceries… all without eating the sodium-rich TopRamen.
Sonodoro was special and dinner needed to be special too; this meant spending money beyond my weekly $10 budget.
In hindsight what I cooked could be considered racially insensitive, but I thought I was being creative and honoring his Latino background. I did fusion pasta and thought of as many veggies that were germane to Latin American cooking as I could. Essentially relying on my fajita and taco experience, I included, cilantro, onion, tomato, various bell peppers and a couple black olives for good measure. (Again, ignorant, I know.) At this point in my life, I couldn’t afford meat, but I bought breakfast sausage to dice up and sauté.
I was anxiously anticipating Sondoro’s phone call telling me he was downstairs. (The buzzer, as with many other things in my building, building was broken. Before I knew it, there was a knock on my door. I still had on my cooking clothes and apron. Neither dinner nor I were ready. I rushed to the door in my apron and answered it.
It was Sonodoro! AND HE BROUGHT ME FLOWERS!
The big bouquet had white lilies and roses. Holy smokes! Not counting my parents, I only received flowers twice: once at camp (during our mid-summer extravaganza) and once from Cosby Sweater (college boyfriend).
While I finished cooking and setting the table, Sonodoro insisted on helping. While Sondoro scrubbed my pots, we got to know each other. We got to know each other better during dinner and conversation. (Apparently checking out a man’s housekeep skills are part of my foreplay.)
He marveled that I was unconcerned by the ghetto birds. I thought he was talking about pigeons. Again, my naïveté only served to highlight our differences.
No, he meant police helicopters.
Of course I was unconcerned; police are protecting us. (I assumed police were patrolling. I eventually learned they were looking for perps who were evading arrest.)
4 TBS Butter
½ medium white onion
1 green bell pepper
½ red bell pepper
½ yellow bell pepper
2 Roma tomatoes
½ cup black olives, pitted & cut in half
5 sprigs cilantro
salt and ground pepper to taste
If you desire 5 breakfast sausages diced.
STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS
DICE your onion. The pieces should be shouldn’t be too small. If you let them soak in rice vinegar or salt for half an hour before cooking, it will help eliminate some of their bad-breath power.
SEED & CHOP peppers into pieces that are roughly 1” by ½”. Put these in a bowl.
Chop the tomatoes….
Cook according to package instructions.
While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a heavy pan and slowly cook your onion on a low to medium heat. When it is almost translucent, add the peppers. Let them cook. I like my veggies crisp, so I don’t do too much cooking with any of it. Right before the pasta is done add ¼ cup of pasta water to veggies. Simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes, olives, cilantro and lime juice.
Cover with lid and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Drain water from pasta and toss pasta with veggies. Cook together and keep on low heat until your company arrives and/or is ready to eat.