Orea di Pastechi
Maybe you are well acquainted with our national phenomenon, the Pastechi. A half circle shaped fried dough pocket, stuffed with gouda cheese (Pastechi di keshi), seasoned ground beef with raisins (Pastechi di carni), seasoned tuna fish with capers (Pastechi di Pisca), stir fried vegetables with pieces of chicken and/ or ham (Pastechi di ChopSoy) and the more modern versions stuffed with seafood. The Pastechi is eaten for breakfast on the road to work or school. The roadside snack trucks and huts provide the customer with all the above mentioned varieties of Pastechi from as early as 6:30 am. Even local Mac Donald’s, burger King and Wendy’s sell Pastechi during their breakfast hours. Working people and schoolchildren eat Pastechi for lunch. Many companies and schools have a pastechi lady who take order in the morning to provide their lunchers with pastechi around 12:00 at noon.
Sometimes, after a hard day’s work, people would fry ready- bought frozen Pastechi at home to serve their family for dinner. At local parties, the Pastechi is always in the snack repertoire, and during events people who didn’t bring along their own Pastechi can buy these on the spot from vendors.
For as long as the Pastechi exists, her less popular sister, the Orea di Pastechi has co-existed alongside her.
According to an old story, the wife of a Cunukero (land farmer) usually made Pastechi’s for her husband. He was fond of her specialty: Pastechi di Carni and he was a good man. He worked hard to provide for them and treated her well. She loved to wait for him to come home with his favorite treat: a plate of freshly made and fried Pastechi and a big pitcher of “awa di Tamarijn” (tamarind juice) to lift his spirits after working in the sun all day.
Of course she would make sure that she was well groomed too when he came home: her long hair shining from the coconut oil and neatly pulled together into a plaid tied with a ribbon that matched her neatly ironed cotton dress. Ever so often she would put some eau de cologne behind her ears, even though she got it from her husband to wear on Sundays with her good dress and shoes.
One day, he came home and saw the goodies waiting for him on the kitchen table. His wife was nowhere to be found so he figured she went to the neighbor’s house to have a chat. He decided to take just one Pastechi, to ease the rumble in his stomach and was sure she wouldn’t notice. The Pastechi was not filled with the usual meat stuffing but with cheese. His wife must have run out of ground beef. It tasted quite well though. Instead of easing his hunger until he was showered and ready for dinner, the stolen Pastechi tickled his taste buds and he couldn’t resist the temptation so he took another one. After that he took another one, and another one. When he finally realized that he should leave the Pastechi it was too late, there were only two left.
Through the kitchen window he saw his wife walking through the gate towards the house. He hurried back to the Cunucu, not wanting to confront his wife. He knew he was in trouble because this was the second time he did something like this. She was an angel and a very dedicated housewife but when she got mad…He thought of all the yelling and rapping she would do, while she slammed everything she could find and yelled again…Oh dear….
There it was, he heard his wife yelling and heard the pots and pans slamming and felt so guilty. He decided to go back to the house: the sooner he dealt with this, the sooner it would be over. To his surprise, as he was nearing the house he saw his wife running after the dog with a broom and slapping him on his tail. Poor dog… He tried to put on a very surprised face and asked her what was wrong. She said that she wouldn’t let the dog walk around freely anymore! She came back to find he had eaten almost all the Pastechi she had made earlier and the meat stuffing she had prepared for Pastechi di carni in the little time it took her to go over to the neighbor to ask for a handful of raisins for the meat stuffing for his favorite Pastechi and that now she was stuck with dough and raisins and not even enough Pastechi di keshi to fill his stomach after such a hard day’s work!
He wondered how she managed to say such a long sentence without breathing or blinking once…and wanted to say something to calm her down when she started rapping again that she couldn’t believe the guts on that dog, as if he didn’t get enough to eat around this house!
He tried to keep a straight face as he talked to her to calm her down, slowly taking the rolling pin from her hand and picking up some stray raisins on the floor. He served her a glass of “awa di Tamarijn” and told her to go watch her “novela” (soap opera) while he took a shower. After that they would share the leftover Pastechi and sit on the porch.
She said alright but felt too aggravated to sit down quietly. Her eye fell on the dough she had covered with a clean towel when she went over to the neighbor and the bag of raisins she slammed on the stove top when she discovered that all her meat stuffing and most of her Pastechi di keshi were gone. She thought she might as well make the best of it.
When her husband came out of the shower, she served him a bowl of leftover soup from the previous day. Next to it was his Pastechi plate, but what was on it were not quite Pastechi. They were half circle shaped, like a Pastechi, but flat and had raisins here and there. He asked his wife what they were and she explained that it was an invention due to the lack of meat stuffing.
She said she rolled out the dough as if she was making Pastechi, but sprinkled it with sugar and some raisins before folding it in half and fried them in oil like she would with the regular Pastechi. After frying them she sprinkled them with some more sugar. She thought they came out very tasty.
However, she didn’t find her husband was really excited or eager to try her new dish. He was also meddling with the soup, letting it get cold. She apologized for serving him leftovers and asked if he didn’t like the pastry. He said they looked like old man’s ears and that he wasn’t really hungry anymore. She thought that was really strange because he was always hungry like a wolf after a day’s work, following his nose to where the food was like the dog... Like the dog?
He saw her eyes getting darker and her neck getting red, the signs of one of her outburst of rage. Before she could say one word he confessed everything, because he knew she could read his mind and that he couldn’t lie anymore.
They had a good laugh and savored the pastry, which the wife promised to make ever so often to remind him to stay away from her kitchen. She was not allowed to touch his Cunucu and he was not allowed to meddle in her kitchen. Since he thought they looked like old men’s ears she named her dish “orea” (ear/ ears), and hoped he would really listen this time.
“Corda no (Remember)”, she said, “orea ta pa tende!(ears are made for listening!)”
p.s. Sometimes, when people are teased for having big ears, they would be called “orea di pastechi” (pastechi ears).
Re: Orea di Pastechi
Another great story.
Along the Pastechi di keshi line.
We flew to Curacao from Aruba in January for a couple of days to visit friends. This was on Tiara Air. It is only a 25 miniute flight but they served Pastechi di keshi and a juice box for breakfast.