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Advice to Clemson: Have a Puerto Rican food day!

October 9th, 2015 | No Comments

Clemson U. is apologizing over its Mexican food day (emphasis added):

Everything was going great. Students were loving the food and festivities. Except for two students, who took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with the school’s decision to host such a “#CUlturallyInsensitive” event.

Two students.

Following which, a school bureaucrat in need of justifying his job

 apologized for the event’s “flattened cultural view of Mexican culture.”

Hey, let’s flatten some more food culture! I’ve had some excellent biscuits and pork gravy in South Carolina, Clemson’s home state, but I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where fried pork meat, fried plantains, fried pork rinds, and much anything else that can be fried gets fried in lard [oooh babeee!] real honest-to-piggy-godness lard (if you can find it), the stuff that makes stomachs churn and arteries clog just from thinking about it.

Not that frying in lard is exclusive to Puerto Rico; it’s prevalent throughout the mainland Southern states, and the Caribbean. Dizzy Gillespie even played his own 1947 ode to Manteca (Lard) in association with Gil Fuller and Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo.

The good thing about Puerto Rican food is that you can start with a modest menu, the everyday basic Puerto Rican dinner, with maybe some fried plantains on the side,

  1. bib lettuce, avocado and tomato salad with oil and vinegar
  2. white rice
  3. red beans
  4. fried meat (pork, beef, chicken, breaded fish).

And you can build up from there, with rice and gandules, rice and chicken, rice and Vienna sausage, stewed chickpeas, stewed white beans – yes, lots of rice, lots of grains cooked with chorizo (did I mention pork?) and tomato – mofongo, pastelillos, salted codfish with a variety root vegetables marinated in oil, pit-roasted pig, and the crown jewel of Puerto Rican food, pasteles de yuca. Of course, you better stock up on garlic for all of those.

You’re going to want dessert, so there’s the ever-present flan in its many varieties, but also tembleque, rice pudding (more rice), coconut ice cream, pineapple ice cream, meringues, coconut macaroons, and surprisingly, pineapple upside-down cake, a Southern favorite.

I know you’ll be playing salsa music, but if you really want to work the multi-culti groove, here’s the Orquesta de la Luz, Japan’s own. Gran Combo purists may not like it, but they’ll probably dance to it anyway.

As for funny hats (no food festival is complete without funny hats), back when my parents were growing up the straw pava was still around but it later was appropriated by a political party, so I suggest instead an assortment of baseball caps from the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League. Better yet, bring in some of the players for photo-ops with the students and the Clemson football team. I can see the cultural headlines: “Football culture meets baseball culture.”

An important side effect from the Puerto Rican menu I’m proposing: The ensuing carbo load ought to fuel the track and field teams to new heights.

A win-win all around!

So Clemson, have a Puerto Rican food day. You may even promote it as “Puerto Rican food: Half the gas with all the calories!”

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news, and culture at Fausta’s Blog. She’s looking for some Alka-Seltzer right now.

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