An awesome kickoff for the 50th anniversary celebration of St. Raphael Parish. St. Raphael students and youth ministry members got together to present a parade of the coming attractions over the next six months.
Editor's note: This article was published last year to introduce the Gruban booth at the St. Raphael Festival. We republish it this year for anyone who missed it and might like to try the delicious Greek and Cuban food available at the booth. Enjoy!
By Lisette Crespo Shields
When you are Latin most every big event is surrounded by food. My Cuban family is no different.
dad, Dr. Artagnan Crespo, was the cook in our family. Exiled from Cuba
in 1960, he went to live with my mom’s ailing dad who had a house on Key
Biscayne in Miami.
My grandfather was quite the cook, but when
he lived in Miami he was so ill he was not able to cook, so he taught my
dad all the family recipes. My dad learned to love to cook and went on
to add to that great pile of family recipes.
of my dad’s most famous dishes was his black beans. Christmas Eve we
would always have the traditional Noche Buena meal consisting of pork,
black beans, rice and yucca. My dad did all the cooking for this meal
and it was always amazing. He never followed a recipe, adding a little
here or there until he liked the way it tasted.
He would often
have his nurses and staff over and cook for them. I am so glad they
encouraged him to put a few of his recipes in a cook book the clinic had
After my father passed away in 1986 from lung
cancer, family dinners were not the same. My mom, Beatriz, had to step
up and start cooking all the major holiday foods. She did not enjoy it
as my dad did, but she would follow the recipes my dad left and it was
like he was back cooking. The meals were a great.
My mom was more
than willing to pass the torch of the holiday dinners to her children.
I got Christmas Eve and Noche Buena. Following my dad’s recipes to the
letter, my first Christmas Eve dinner was a hit. I enjoy making the
beans, and I would often make them for family parties or for friends. As
my dad always said, “the flavor is all in the paste you grind together
in the mortar."
When I met my husband, he bragged “wait to you taste my mom’s cooking.” Boy, was he right. His mom, Yiota, could cook!
had a lot of the same traditions as my family. Holiday and family
parties were celebrated around the dinner table with one of Yiota’s
amazing meals. Lamb, tzatziki sauce, Greek dolmades and avgolemono soup
became part of my kids' normal dinners.
I found out that my
mother-in-law's start with food was similar to my dad’s in that she was
not a cook or had not always wanted to be a cook.
She married a
U.S. Air Force lieutenant general and lived in a new place every few
years. She tried to make American food, fried chicken to be exact, and
it was disastrous.
Yiota learned how to make fried chicken from
her North Carolina husband Woody. Yiota’s fried chicken is made so well
now that my husband often requests it as one of his birthday dishes.
tradition continues. I am passing my dad’s recipes on to my daughter,
Kalista, who loves to cook. She often cooks with Yiota, learning all the
Greek recipes as well.
The last 15 years of my life have been
such a combination of Greek and Cuban food that when I heard we were
going to have specialty booths at the St. Raphael Festival I suggested
the Gruban booth.
Of course, I had to explain what a Gruban was.
Recently we added on an addition to the back of the house. It was a
room for the kids and we wanted to name it to make it their own.
husband, Frank, said that since the kids were part Greek and Cuban how
about naming it the Gruban room. The name Gruban took birth and it now a
part of our regular vernacular.
I hope everyone gets a chance to
come out and enjoy this wonderful festival and don’t forget to stop by
the Gruban booth for some amazing food.
Photo: From left, Beatriz Crespo, Lisette Crespo Shields, Woody Shields, Yiota Shields, Frank Shields.