Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cab around Miami

Unlike New York, Miami is a city where cabs are not spotted everywhere. They are only around crowded areas like Miami Beach, Downtown, Miami Airport, Brickell, certain malls and the Port of Miami, but hard to find in the rest of the city. There are around 3,000 taxis registered in Miami and 8,000 drivers. The difference between one number and the other is that many cab owners derive their income from driving but also from renting their vehicles for $65 dollars for 12 hours to other drivers.

I’m riding today with my friend Jacques, the cabdriver. He tells me the first gas powered taxicabs were imported from France to New York. Hey Jacques, give me something juicy” I said.
I’m in the backseat of his taxi which is very comfortable and soft made out of black leather. I do not perceive any hint of the small tree fresheners that are so popular in taxis. He tells me he washes and cleans it often and that he prefers real cleaning over fresheners because scents are made to slightly mask people’s different smells. “What do you mean by that?” I asked. He laughed and looked at me: “ok, you said you wanted the juicy stuff. Let me tell you about those smells”. Jacques kept driving and said:
“One day a guy in his 40s comes out of a South Beach hotel with his shirt out of his pants and crazy hair. He jumps in my backseat and asks me to drive. “Where exactly are you going, sir?” “Just drive up and down Collins avenue”, he said loud and nervously. While I go slowly due to the regular traffic, the guy pulls down the window and yells to some ladies walking on the street: “You girls wanna make a thousand bucks for some photo shoots?” They just ignored him. I kept driving up and down Collins for 20 more minutes while he was scanning all female figures. He looked and me and said in a loud tone “Help me get some chicks, man!” That was a bad way of starting my week. I told him he had the wrong driver and dropped him back at the hotel. He smelled like absence of love”.

He continued saying…

“Some other day I picked up a French elegant lady in her early forties who was staying for 15 days at a hotel in Miami Beach. She told me she was going to meet a young girl in her twenties from Florida, the surrogate mother that was going to have her baby. I dropped her at a fertility clinic in Coral Gables. She smelled like hope.
On a rainy morning I got a request to pick up a couple in their thirties at a hotel on Collins Avenue. They were fighting in the backseat because he had to get her out from some other guy’s room earlier “It was your entire fault,” she said; “you were the one who got me so drunk, in first place”. The guy was in tears. I dropped them at the airport and they smelled like broken vows.

I will never forget a man in his 60s from New York who was in a hurry to catch his flight back. I droved like a ballerina: smooth and fast on 836 to the sound of classical music on my radio. He told me that was the best drive he ever had while giving me a $40 dollar tip. He smelled like appreciation and generosity.

On a Friday night I picked up two girls in her late thirties who wanted to go from Lincoln Roadto a swingers bar. I told them I could wait outside the bar and drive them back. They agreed and one of them said “Why don’t you come inside with us”. I refused and she replied “Come on, you can wait for us at the bar instead of sitting alone in your taxi”. I sat at the bar while they went to the private rooms in the back. After 15 minutes I asked for a soda but I could not finish it. I cannot describe you what I saw but I’ll tell you it made me throw up outside of this place. I waited for them in my cab and drove them back to Miami. They left an empty scent on my backseat.

My most recent one was a local lady in her fifties who needed a ride to some neighborhood in West Miami. She told me how she battled cancer for years. Her dad recently passed away and she sold her car to pay for the funeral because none of her loaded brothers wanted to pay for it. She was going to see her boyfriend to smoke pot and get some relieve. She smelled like pain”.
Jacques stopped talking, but I know he has many stories like these. I looked at his hands on the wheel that grab him to his own reality. I never thought a backseat could have so many smells. Cabdrivers in Miami have heard and seen everything. Their lives are interrupted by people who hop into their taxis and leave a part of themselves.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Comforting Apple Pie

I had a bunch of apples and decided to make an apple pie. I am a big fan of NOT following the exact ingredients and quantities on a recipe because cooking is an individual art. However, here is a list of ingredients that I used for mine. You can follow the instructions or add more quantities if you want. It should take you less than an hour to make. Cooking = loving :)

1 cup of brown sugar
1 lemon or lime
1 glass of orange juice
1/2 glass of flour
4 or 5 apples
1 teaspoon of pumpkin spice
1 teaspoon of ginger
1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
3 tablespoons of butter
a bit of salt

For crust:
You can either buy your own pastry or store ready-crust or make it yourself. For the bottom I used a store ready-crust. For the top,  I made the pastry by mixing butter (1 bar), flour (2-3 cups), brown sugar (1/2 cup) , milk (1/4 cup) and the spices above-mentioned (a bit of each) until it had the right texture, like a dough.

I peeled the apples and sliced them thinly. I tossed them on a pan (low heat) along with all spices, flour, butter, lemon and orange.

When all ingredients were mixed and apples were soft and cooked (10-15 minutes), I placed the apple filling in the unbaked crust.

Before baking it, I made the top crust as mentioned above. I dusted the surface of the kitchen with flour. Then made lines of dough by rolling it and then I cut them with my fingers to fit the pie plate. Here’s how it looked:

I baked the pie at 375 degrees F for 30-35 minutes and then broiled for 3 minutes (keep an eye on it)

The pie is ready to eat immediately. However, I noticed that it is better a couple of hours later when the pie and fruit is set. When you wait for a while, the fruit is juicy but the juices will not run. Now is ready to eat! It is perfect with ice cream and whipped cream on top.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Being a Miami Hurricane

Rushed by my boyfriend and friends from the MBA, last Saturday I ended up at Sunlife Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL. “What’s going on?”, I asked. “The Canes vs. The Noles” they replied. My boyfriend, who is desperately trying to brief me on American matters including football, told me our University’s team -the Miami Hurricanes- were playing against one of their biggest rivals: the Florida State University Seminoles.

When we arrived at the stadium thousands of cars were parked outside. “What is this?” I asked. “This is tailgating”, they replied. Tailgating… tailgating… I’m trying to figure out this word on my own…like a tail on a gate? Like a gate on a tail? What is this jungle of cars, hot dogs, college students, beach chairs, TVs, beers, stuffed animals, plastic cups and plates, beer pong games, potato chips, music, tents, burgers, flags, ketchup, footballs, aluminum foil, bottle openers, grills and coolers? Seconds after one of my friends proceeded to present a formal definition for tailgating: “a tailgate party is a social event held on and around the open tailgate of a vehicle and it involves consuming beverages and grilling food”. “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”. It sounded and looked weird to me but we kept walking as we entered the venue.


Inside the stadium people were walking in all directions. Rivers of mostly college students but also moms and dads and children too. They were all wearing orange or green or white UM T-shirts, the colors of which represent the fruit, leaves and blossoms of Florida trees. Occasionally I saw some red wine color and gold FSU T-shirts. Later on I learned it's called garnet, which means dark red or crimson combined with purple. We had to find our seats before kickoff –that’s when the game starts. Pipi break first, then beer in one hand, ticket in the other, we went looking for our seats right in the middle of student section. Orange was prevalent as the students decided in advance which color to wear. The stadium is huge. On the football field a guy with a duck costume jumps up and down. “It's Sebastian, the Ibis, our mascot” someone said when they noticed my "is-it-Halloween-yet?" face. Since I should probably know more about my school’s mascot, I googled it. The Ibis is a symbol of knowledge and it is also the last sign of wildlife to take shelter before a hurricane and the first to reappear after the storm. Beautiful, what a great idea for a mascot, I thought.


The game started. My troubled expression said everything. My boyfriend tried to describe what was going on. An intensive lesson in Cantonese would have been clearer than his futile efforts to explain the game’s rules. After a while, I managed to follow the ball flipping between 22 guys wearing helmets, and huge shoulder pads. Ball flies and falls and players land on top of each other like a 10-layer club sandwich with extra butts, arms and legs. It’s all part of a rough game filled with testosterone, despite the flashy skin-tight pants. The game still manages to be a show with music, the fan-cam, cheerleaders and band appearances during half time.


Miami struggled the whole game and it was an FSU show. At the beginning of the fourth quarter the crowd was holding up four fingers. The sign indicated their belief that the game could be won in that crucial final period. Didn’t come out good and we were crushed in our own home. Our team lost 45-17 and my friends and BF were boiling mad. The name Hurricanes creates the idea of a team sweeping away opponents just like a devastating storm. Maybe it reflects our reputation as a weather-beaten community living constantly under the threat of destruction.


Nonetheless, I had fun at the stadium. I learned to sing against the Noles, I ate cotton candy and took funny pictures of a guy sitting above the student section who looked just like Bernie Madoff. “Give me my money back!!!” I yelled at him while leaving. Although I will always be faithful to my beloved futbol –or soccer-, I’m planning on buying a book about American football and returning to the stadium because…… it’s all about the U!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Morning hunger

The Daily

Your case: Fridge: empty. Stomach: roaring. Chef qualities: nonexistent. Looking for some good breakfast? Go to The Daily Creative Food Company.
Where: It is located in 2001 Biscayne Boulevard, between Midtown and Downtown Miami.
Cost: Drinks (coffee, juices and smoothies) under $5. Omelets around $10.
What to eat: Breakfast is served until 11 am (weekdays) and until 1pm Sat and Sun. Craving bagels? Grab a warm cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese and butter. Caffeine dependency? Get the Café con Leche with a guava pastelito. Want a healthy option? Go for the ironman wrap with egg whites, spinach, turkey and tomatoes in a wheat wrap. Strong appetite? Get the Mexican huevos rancheros. My favorite: orange juice and French toast stuffed with bananas and cinnamon.
Ambience: busy, young, fast.