Ajiaco is a Cuban/Colombian/Latin American vegetable and meat soup, choc-full-o viandas (a Spanish word for a variety of different vegetables we Cuban kids grew up eating, like yucca, boniato, potatoes. Vianda is one of those words heard as children, spoken in the background while watching re-runs of Gilligan's Island, that made us wonder, "what the heck is a vianda?")
Miami is like a big pot full of exotic vegetables; hot, spicy at times, but always full of flavor.
A few days ago, I had lunch at my new favorite Lebanese lunch spot, Shawarma. Shawarma is owned by a South American family, migrants to SA from the middle east at some point in their family history. The restaurant is run by the family, and the owner's children help cook and attend the register.
My new Latino/Lebanese friends prepare their food while listening to a group from Puerto Rico called Cultura Profetica, a roots-Reggae band. The video-album playing is a tribute concert to Bob Marley. The guy singing the lead is a Boricua who sounds, almost identically (but not in a comical or unnatural way) like Bob Marley.
So as this Cuban-American sat in a Lebanese restaurant owned by a South American family with Americanized kids, listening to a Puerto-Rican group performing in "Queen's English" excellent renditions of Marley tunes in the background, it dawned on me that Miami is a special place.
NY and Chicago are great cities, and are melting pots of many of these same cultures. LA is.... a melting pot. San Francisco is a beautiful city, also a melting pot. But I believe only Miami should have the honor of being dubbed, an Ajiaco.
Miami hasn't always been an Ajiaco. It was a flavorless place for many years, at least for me. But lately, it's been a pretty cool place to be. Flavor is coming back. Life is not as plastic and superficial as it once was; so stayed and uptight. There is color (and not those cheesy fake pastels; real color). There is vibrancy.
There is a sense of place; of culture being redefined into something of substance.
The Ajiaco has not finished cooking. It needs a little more time. But it's getting there.
"I'll have the 'mojito chicken'." - My friend Katie Kerestes,' Americana', ordering at a Cuban restaurant in Miami, pronouncing the 'j' as a 'j' instead of an 'h', and not smiling while she did it.
"I figure marriage is kind of like Miami: it's hot and stormy, and occasionally a little dangerous... but if it's really so awful, why is there still so much traffic?" - Gwynn Marcus, Miami Rhapsody