Somehow, the guilt ingrained in you persuades you to call your cousin. She sends for the family’s friend and taxi driver, Seleni.
Your last memory of Seleni was quite adventurous. You remember that you admired her for all she did for her family. Taxi driving at all hours in Lima, Peru, a city of about 9 million people. You either had to be crazy or desperate to work in that industry. She is neither. She lost her husband in a car accident and was left with three kids to raise. She gets up, drives around sometimes with her kids as she might need to drop them off at school or pick them up from a relative’s house and still manages to feed them somehow. This woman is fearless, determined and full of joy. She has the qualities you envy, just not the exact life you would desire. The last time you saw her, she was arguing with a big, ugly man that she had the right of way. You timidly planted yourself in your seat and waited for her to win this battle of the roads. She did and you made it to the airport on time. As you wait, you wonder if she will still be that slender, loud and full of questions woman you remembered.
To your surprise, she was still driving her VW Van and looked as if she had not aged a day. You on the other hand, she did not hesitate to let you know how noticeable your weight gain was since she last saw you, as she squeezed you into a loving embrace. You felt pleasantly surprised at her welcoming hug and kiss on the cheek which made you feel more at home then you expected. In that moment, a memory flashed before you and time stood still. You see yourself, but you are a child holding your grandmother’s hand. The memory fades, but your hand still feels warm as if you were still holding her hand.
“How have you been? What brings you to Peru? How long will you be here? How is everyone in the States,” Seleni spit fires question after question for the hour drive to your grandmother’s almost empty house. Exhausted from having to translate your thoughts from English to Spanish in order to make small talk, you start to wish you had just called a taxi and rented a place on the beach for the week. Then you look at Seleni and try to draw from some of her enthusiastic energy and tell yourself, “This will still be a great week of rejuvenation.”
With that thought, you start to notice a ache in your belly and you try to remember when was the last time you ate. It’s been over 10 hours. With a quiver in your voice you ask if you could make a quick stop to grab a bite to eat. Seleni says there is no need, and hands you a Tupperware bowl filled with her Arroz Chaufa. The familiar smell tickles your nose as you widen your nostrils and breath in a deeper whiff. “MMM… que rico,” you tell her how delicious her food is and how it’s been so long since you last ate a good Chaufa. As you quickly devour the whole bowl, Seleni shares her recipe with you so that when you return home, you’ll be able to make it yourself.
Seleni apologizes for having to drop you off and run home to her kids whom she left sleeping at home. You look at your watch and realize its well past midnight there. As you wave good by you watch her drive off in the darkness. Before turning back towards the house, a shimmer catches your eye. It is a sticker on the back of Seleni’s van that reflected from the streetlamp. You noticed that the sticker has the same symbol that you saw on the woman’s wrist, from the flight.
Feeling a chill run down your spine, you quickly ring the bell at the front gate. For a second you start to worry that Gloria, the ex-nun who watches over your grandmother’s house would not hear the bell since she is getting older, too. Then, there she was scurrying towards you. Her slippers scuffing the ground at a quick pace. Your eyes widen with astonishment at how young she looked. Almost younger than when you last saw her, 15 years ago… puzzled you just smile and let her walk you in. As you step into the front garden towards the glass front door you see a disheveled dog sitting in the doorway. The dog barks, startling you and you trip, hitting your head on the concrete step. The world now upside down disappears, slowly slipping into darkness as Gloria’s startled voice fades away.
Three days later you wake up with a pounding headache. You are in your grandmother, Elena’s upstairs guest room. You slowly sit up and looks towards the doorway to see if you see Gloria. All you see is the dog from the other night, sitting quietly in the doorway staring at you. As you move your legs to dangle on the side of the bed, you raise your sight to a mirror on the blue grey wall. Staring back at you, eyes wider than an owls, is you, but a much younger you. You scream and shut your eyes tightly. Talking to yourself as to make sense of what you saw, you decide to lie back down. You know that you are not 18 anymore. You are a grown woman, with a family and a career. You must have hit your head harder than you thought. Grasping your hands together, still with eyes shut, you feel your wedding ring, to which you breathe a sigh of relief.
To be Continued… Let me know in the comments if you would like to keep reading and make your way through this choose your own adventure story. Until then, enjoy this recipe below. If you make it please share either in the comments or on our social media with the #culinarianbookscook
Quick and Easy Arroz Chaufa
- 1 Wok Optional
- 1 Large Frying Pan
- Cutting Board & knife
- Medium Bowl
- 1 Store-Bought Rotisserie Chicken
- 1 1/2 Cups White, long-grained Rice you may substitute with preferred rice
- 2 cloves garlic whole
- 1/2 bunch Green Onion sliced on diagonal
- 1 each Red Bell Pepper diced
- 4 each Large Eggs
- 1/2 Cup Soy Sauce add more or less to taste; aim to coat all ingredients
- 1 tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
- 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil or preferred frying oil (high heat)
- Pick and shred all of the chicken and place in a bowl-set aside
- Wash your rice until water comes out clean-set aside
- Dice or rough chop Bell Pepper-set aside
- Slice thin green onion on the diagonal-set aside
- Peel garlic -set aside
- Whisk eggs in a bowl until well combined-set aside
- Measure out soy sauce set aside
- Measure out oils, combine-set aside
- Add washed rice to a pot with 2 1/2 Cups of water, the garlic. Bring to a boil, stir then cover and reduce heat to lowest setting to simmer. Let cook for about 20 minutes. Do not remove the lid. Once cooked remove from heat, stir and remove the garlic (toss to compost) – set aside rice until ready to stir-fry.
- Heat a non-stick frying pan or use a fry pan with a smidge of oil. Once warm, add eggs. Swirl your pan to make a flat omelet. Once cooked through place it on a cutting board. Once it has cool to the touch, cut it into stripes one way and then turn your cutting board 90° and slice it again in long stripes making small bite size squares. Set aside until ready to Stir-Fry.
Ready to Stir-Fry
- Add oil to wok or large frying pan. Turn heat on high. Once oil is hot lower in (do not drop ingredients into pan causing spatting oil) chicken, bell peppers and eggs into the wok stir to mix and add 1/2 of the soy sauce. Stir and reduce heat to medium high.
- Add rice to wok and stir to combine. Add remaining soy sauce, and green onion. Stir to combine. All the rice should be brown from soy sauce. Taste and add more soy sauce if desired in small quantities until desired flavors are reached.