You Can't Make This Stuff Up

So, we have our dinner last night and then my MIL tells us that she wants to introduce us to a very special dessert that she remembers from her childhood in Cuba. It was her very favorite dessert as a child. She is so excited to introduce us to it.

She wants to tell us the whole story but my husband keeps interrupting her because yesterday was a very exciting stage on the Tour de France and we are really wanting to WATCH the last ten minutes of it and not hear the story of the dessert. Not that the dessert story isn't fascinating or anything. (Although, I will tell you that we are a little suspect of the Cuban desserts we have had up until now. Neither one of us likes custardy, fruity kinds of desserts -- and there seem to be a lot of those in the Cuban lexicon.)

But then, finally, my spouse relents and goes into the kitchen just in time to watch his mom open a can and scoop out this dessert substance.

He says, "This was your very favorite dessert as a child? And there's a big story behind it? And the story is... that you opened up a can?"

He starts riffing on the idea that she is going to tell us this incredibly complicated story about NOTHING. "This is a very complicated dessert. To make this dessert, first, you must get into your car. Then you drive to the store. You ask for help. 'Where is the canned dessert from my childhood?'"

At this point, I am laughing so hard, I am crying. I don't know why this struck me as so funny but I was pretty punchy.

My MIL says, "No, that's not the story."

Husband, putting words in her mouth: "'You forgot about the MONEY. You didn't say that I had to pay with MONEY.'"

I am snorting (very glamorous).

Husband: "You can understand how it might be a bit confusing when you tell me that you MADE this dessert and then I walk in just in time to see you open a can..."

Now she's a bit crabby--just a bit --and she's not telling the story. So, we all taste the dessert. It's pretty good--she serves it to us on spoons. Just a tiny bit to lick.

I say, "This is really good." It is --it takes like a good caramel. (My spouse suggests we break out the apples.)

My MIL says, "And I MADE this!"

I say, "You canned this yourself??? That's AMAZING!"

'Finally,' I think, 'we've gotten to the bottom of the dessert story.'

Now we feel bad for laughing. We have all new respect for my MIL for canning her own version of her childhood dessert.

But no, that's not it.

She can't get to the point, though. Because there is a STORY behind this and she will not be denied. So first she tells us that she's researched it on the Internet and she still needs to work on her timing for how long she has to cook it.

So, it turns out that the way you make this dessert is to buy a can of sweetened condensed milk and then boil it for two hours in a pot covered with water. (Very important to cover it all the way because otherwise, the can will explode. She offers THIS bit of advice as something of a throw-away line. Her delivery sets me off giggling again --clearly, I have been cooped up with small children for way too many days this summer.) Then you turn off the heat and let it sit all night and in the morning you put it in the fridge. Then you open the can and you have dessert.

My husband and I are a bit speechless.

He says, "It's pretty damn amazing what bored people stuck on an island will come up with."

Images from the beach, day 3. (And a gratuitous sock picture since I finished Ana's socks.)

Both girls were closely supervised by some birds while making their sand castles.

This is my husband's brother's college cat, who lives with my MIL now. His name is Gary. (Get it? Gary Cooper?) Naturally, he really like OUR bed, because we have an orange tabby vibe.

I finished these while it was, of COURSE, raining in the morning.


Anonymous said…
You know, when I read this, I can hear you laughing, and I WANNA COME OVER!!
Anonymous said…
I love that canned stuff! I'm glad you mentioned the water over the can part, because I've been wondering how to do it for a long time. Goodbye, diet...
Amanda said…
One of the restaurants I cooked in in Australia had as a signature dish, their Banana Caramel Pie. Basically, a crumb base, with that caramelised condensed milk as the centre, then topped with whipped cream and sliced bananas.

We used to fill 20 litre pots with about 30 or more cans, so we could do the whole cooking thing in one go. One night I called off sick, which left my co-chef in charge of the upstairs service kitchen and downstairs kitchen where the pot was boiling.

Turns out, if you forget to keep the water covering, and to turn off the heat, the cans do explode. All 30 of them, all over the kitchen. He said by the time he went down to check, it was like being in a war zone, if the grenades were filled with molten sugar.

Nestle strongly recommends you don't cook it that way (their lawyers even more strongly recommend they strongly recommend)and they have a way to do it in the microwave. I suspect dulce de leche doesn't taste nearly as good that way.
Sarah said…
That's....hysterical. But I also kind of want to try it.
Barb Matijevich said…
Okay, so my friend Donna has a friend who is going to try to make it this week. I'll ask for a full report. The Wikipedia link shows a VERY dark brown colored substance, which is not the case with the substance my MIL made. It was more beige.

I think I have to make some, too, but gosh, could there be a more caloric substance on the planet than sweetened condensed milk? I mean, it's the reason Pooh got stuck in Rabbit's house for a full week.

I must also confess that now I'm all worried that I'm going to be the one responsible for blowing up people's kitchens. Remember you have to keep the cans covered all the way over the top in water. Or maybe we should just leave this to the professionals. I could put in an order with my MIL...
N. Maria said…
YOU were snorting! So was I!
I was laughing with you. My face hurts from smiling so much!
Thank you!
Anonymous said…
When we lived briefly in Massachusetts, we had a neighbor from Mexico City who made this dessert. Unfortunately, her English was very limited, and our Spanish was non-existant, so we never learned how exactly she made it, but it was dee-licious! Now I know how to make it-thank you! The way she made it may have involved a pressure-cooker, but that sounds doubly dangerous, so I'll just use the pot of boiling water. Do you have the name of the dessert? I'd love to look it up on the internet.
I just finished my first pair of socks!
Barb Matijevich said…
Okay, you're going to have to e-mail me so that I can know who you are. ( I'm so proud of you for your socks!! The dessert name is dulce le leche and there's a few links above in the comments. E-mail me--I MUST know a fellow sock knitter! --Barb
hokgardner said…
I'm ratting out my mom. She's the annonymous sock knitter. She sent me the first pair she made, and they're gorgeous!