Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Depths of Ponche

Happy 2011 wishes for all my friends and family!!!! Well, pictures are in the process of being downloaded...I'm not exactly a talent in that department and coupled with my nearly full computer memory it's quite the process.

So I guess my opening post of 2011 will have to be mostly there's something I can embrace! Words and I are well acquainted, if you hadn't noticed. Not always on an elite level in our relationship but boy do I like to have a LOT of them around in my life.

So here's the evolution of this post:

I have two daughters. They happen to have been born in Guatemala. I want them to grow up proud and knowledgeable of their unique conglomeration of cultures. I am an Irish-American with deep roots in American culture for which I can teach them many things. My husband is Irish with deep roots in Irish culture from which he can draw on to teach the girls. Neither of us have strong or deep roots in Guatemalan culture. The consequence being that my daughters are....well, not growing roots in their Guatemalan culture! The net result is that I have two very Irish-American daughters that to the rest of the world look Latina.

Now, like has been expressed by those still patiently waiting on Mari's guest blogging, I too surf the internet in search of information that I may be able to use to help me be prepared for possible Mothering moments in which I am woefully ignorant. I've read a great deal from adult adoptees. I have experience with siblings who are adult adoptees. I am well aware that there are no two situations that will play out exactly the same but I'd like to not have the breath knocked out of me by not being cognizant of the possibilities. One of the recurring themes in the writings of adult international adoptees is something the adoption world has come to call the "mantle of whiteness". This mantle works adequately when the children are young and sheltered within the loving confines of the adoptive family and their circles but is decidedly inadequate in preparing the children to stand alone in the world that judges first by your looks and then the content of your character!! In an effort, much resisted by my children who want to 'fit in', I have steadily acquired information on Guatemalan culture and, when possible, adopted it into our family's traditions. Sometimes it works better than others. Dia de los Muertos for example, excites their imaginations and they increasingly seek out more information on the differences between the Mexican celebrations and Guatemalan celebrations. Trips to Guatemalan dance exhibitions have unanimously been resisted and/or, in the case of ones I 'made' them attend, have been deemed 'boring' affairs. Sometimes I'm successful at sneaking the information/exposure into their live and sometimes I'm accused of  "just being obsessed with Guatemala". [Yeah, guess which one likes to throw that one at me?!?!]

So all those words above have been a way of explaining Ponche! A traditional Latin American hot drink served during the holiday season. For three years now we have 'treated' Mari's birth family to both a Christmas and New Year's Day feast of the traditional Guatemalan fare...tamales, French bread, and ponche. In their 30+ years as a couple, her parents had never had the financial resources to obtain the necessary ingredients for a traditional Christmas dinner....$35 for enough food for 10 people to sit together as a family and eat on the holiday...well it would actually be even less but part of that $35 goes to paying a local woman to make their tamales for them as Dona Josefa has NEVER in her life had enough money to make a tamale so she doesn't know how to make them!?!? But I digress...again!

Three years now we have sent this traditional meal to the birth family and NEVER once had my girls voiced any interest in even knowing how one makes such a meal or how the food would taste. I blame our love of Mexican food on their confidence in knowing what a  tamale is and how it may taste but ponche?? Now I know they have never had that before! So when it was decided that the cousins were coming over on New Year's Eve to Wii the night away ...

along with a table full of snack foods...

Okay, a bit of steak and potatoes....

...and crab legs were on the menu as well!

I looked up a ponche recipe and made it...power of peer pressure was my plan!

Oh for the invention of Smell-o-vision! That steaming pot gave off such sweet holiday smell that I managed to get many of them to sample with no arm twisting involved. The adults were bigger fans because I think we have been exposed to mulled ciders in our cultural traditions. Julia, ever my 'epicurious', was the most enthused but Mari even gave it a thumbs up!

The "mantle of whiteness" is a hard habit to break....

..midnight was toasted with the 'traditional' bubbly....sparkling cider of course!

Though, they'd all embrace the Guatemalan firecracker rolls...if firecrackers were legal in Illinois! Personally, I'm glad that they are illegal. Not only because I fear for my children's safety but mostly because of the child labor used in Guatemala to make the fire cracker rolls that results in the injury and death of too many innocents not protected by work place regulations! But again I digress...

You see, this convoluted post has a potential morale!! This morning, I decided to merge cultures. We do that a LOT in this family. I re-warmed the left-over ponche and ladled it over my bowl of oat meal. YUMMO!!! When the girls came in from their impromptu sleep-over at Auntie Peggy's [they had caught her in the warm glow of New Year's toasting and exacted permission to travel at 1am to her house to carry on the festivities!] I let them sample the new dish. Ditto on the YUMMO vote!! In the matter of a few hours, the ponche had gone from another of "Mom's Guatemalan experiments" to the beginning of another slender thread being woven into their "mantle of  whiteness"... a little Irish-American weaving with a little Guatemalan...and I have a tiny hope that someday we may end up with a beautiful 'coat of many colors'.


  1. What a great post! I really enjoyed reading it! The Ponche looked good. I have never heard of it and I bet it was fabulous on the oatmeal!

    You guys always have so much fun together. Happy New Year to you and your family!!!

  2. How strange even living there I haven't heard of ponche, I knew they typically drank hot chocolate Christmas eve and ate tamales. We send money to do food baskets for our sponsored student and then also thru Vanessa, and money to Maya's foster family. I"m hoping as Maya grows up she has more and more interest in doing some of the traditions, you know I don't want to force her to do all that "boring stuff". Right now its all coold to her but she's so young. She asked me where I was born the other day, and my husband said she asked him if he was born in Guatemala since his skin is darker (really just tanner then my pale complexion).
    Again I don't know if my comment ever wen thru on one of your posts, its when I was havign computer problems again. Even with the whiteness comes its own problems. Once I got into JR. High I was too embarassed to wear shorts or skirts to school, I was Too white, I'm ean if my legs got cold they were mottled and redish purple. I remember rubbing on the tanning lotion, then not washing it off my hands good enough (not good). My legs were actually orange, but better to me then chicken skin white. I always wished for tanner skin. MY cousin is half indian so she always looked great and could wear whatever she wanted to. So really its always something, but I guess I was "white" and not latino so I guess I wasn't made fun of for my actual nationality just my lack of color. Then since I rode in breeches all the time my legs that didn't really tan anyway really never saw much sun due to the breeches.

    Happy Happy New Year!

  3. Happy New Year. I admore your perseverance to insert Guatemalan cultural activities and foods into your Irish American lifestyle. so can you give us the recipe?? Also, I have two posts from the last couple days that show my daughter and her cousins in the beautiful dresses you made --- one of cousin in the purple princess dress (when they are eating cookies -- the post is called some of this some of that) and another post (hello 2011 ) of Flower wearing the Lightning McQuewen dress and cousin wearing Flower's TinkerBell dress. (I actually added a photo with the girls in their dresses to the post after you had already commented.)

  4. This just makes me happy...the ongoing attempts to bring in Guatemala. We do so much Ethiopia. I really need to start focusing more on Guatemala.