Cuban Cooking and Pajamas

by Cate on April 7, 2007

Two early morning appointments, and the rest of the day was spent out running errands. It was a welcome offer when The Husband said he’d cook dinner tonight. I reminded him that it was “no meat Friday,” and he was still up for the challenge. Good enough for me.He turned to his favorite go-to cookbook, Memories of a Cuban Kitchen, and made Camarones al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp), with my favorite yellow rice with green olives. We even had the shrimp on hand already, so it was the perfect pantry meal. With six gloves of garlic in the dish, the deliciously heavy scent was wafting up the stairs in no time. An easy recipe full of flavor from the hot sauce, lime juice, oregano and the garlic, it was simple to make and a definite repeater. In the immortal words of Rachael Ray, yum-o!

And now for a slight departure… The Husband thinks it’s amusing that I didn’t cry when he proposed to me so many years ago, but that an episode of ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover will have me dissolving in tears in no time flat. This week it was an episode of Oprah that did me in. The topic was people who followed their calling. One guy gave up a million dollar salary at Microsoft to deliver books and build libraries in Nepal. The one that moved me the most was the woman behind the Pajama Program, Genevieve Piturro.

The story goes like this. Genevieve decided she wanted to do something with children, so she called up a local shelter and asked if she could bring a book and read the kids bedtime stories. One day on the way home from work, killing time on the subway, she had an inspiration. Pajama Program. She asked the shelter if she could bring pajamas for the kids, and they readily agreed (“Nobody ever thinks of pajamas,” they said), and the next time she read to the kids, she brought brand new pajamas for them.

She took the kids in a room and one by one, gave them their own pair of pajamas. The children said thank you, and eventually one girl asked, “What are these?” Genevieve said, “They’re pajamas.” The shelter explained that the kids didn’t really know what pajamas were. What did they sleep in, she asked? Their clothes. They have never experienced something simple like pajamas… something we all take for granted. That, of course, spurred her on to create the program to make sure all the kids have pajamas.

In five years, Genevieve’s program has brought 85,000 pairs of pajamas to the kids in shelters. As Oprah went to a commercial break, Genevieve said quietly, “But it’s not enough…,” knowing that she could never outfit all the kids in their very own pair, especially taking into account that the kids grow, some have been traumatized and still have accidents, etc.

When the show came back on, Oprah explained that she did something a little different. Her staff called the audience members attending the show that day and asked them to bring as many pairs of new pajamas as they could. But there was one catch. They could only BUY one pair themselves. If they wanted to bring more than that, they had to get creative. And that they did. All told, the audience brought 32,046 pairs of pajamas to the show that day!! (All completely unbeknownest to Genevieve.) Amazing.

Some brought just a few … some really took hold of the idea and sent out mass e-mails to their friends and families and even started calling up local businesses. One woman got BJ’s Wholesale Club to donate 10,000 pairs of pajamas. It truly is awe inspiring what the concept of “pay it forward” really can do. Genevieve was speechless, and the whole segment totally touched me.

Nicholas really wants for nothing, and has plenty of pairs of pajamas. As smart as he is, at age four, he doesn’t know how lucky he is. But I do, and this weekend, I’m sending a box full of brand-new pajamas to the Pajama Program. It’s really the least we can do. In case you’re moved by the program, as I was, you can get more information on helping out right here.

Until tomorrow…

A year ago today… Nicholas falls in love with salmon.
Two years ago today… Spring finally arrived and must-have kitchen gadgets.

Camarones al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)
Recipe courtesy of Memories of a Cuban Kitchen

1/2 cup pure Spanish olive oil
4-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2-1/2 to 3 pounds prawns or extra-large shrimp, shells and heads left on (we de-shelled)
juice of 2 limes
salt to taste
pinch of dried oregano
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
dash of Tabasco sauce, optional (we added more)

In a large skillet over low heat, heat the oil until it is fragrant, then cook the garlic, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes. Raise the heat to medium, add the shrimp, and cook, stirring, until they turn pink, 5 minutes. (If you prefer extra oil, add it along with the shrimp.) Add the lime juice, salt, oregano and parsley, and stir well. Adjust seasonings to taste and add Tabasco. Transfer to a heated serving platter and serve immediately, accompanied by crunchy bread to soak up the garlic-flavored oil.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Caron April 7, 2007 at 2:11 pm

Yea, as if I needed to cry on a Saturday morning …

That is such a great program. I think I am going to pick up a few pairs when I am out today to send too.

(BTW – the link doesn’t work)


Cate April 7, 2007 at 2:15 pm

Yay!! Thanks, Sarah. :) (Fixed the link)


Heather April 7, 2007 at 3:32 pm

Thank you Cate, for sharing that story. I think everyone that reads will be inspired to pick up some pj’s today and send them.


Claire April 7, 2007 at 10:26 pm

I saw that while I was working out Thursday. So many different ways to help that we don’t realize.


Cate April 9, 2007 at 2:19 pm

Heather – perfect! That’s exactly what I was hoping for.

Claire – I totally agree, and something like picking up a pair of pajamas and popping it in the mail makes it a very easy way for people to participate.


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