How to Cook Cod Pil-Pil for Your Son-In-Law and His Mates

Drive sixty miles to La Sucursal in Lugo. They sell the best salt cod; it doesn’t flake and will leave your son-in-law and his mates (and, of course, yourself) satisfied. Why Lugo, in the interior, has better cod to offer than your town, on the coast, remains a mystery.

Immerse the cod in a bowl of water under a cloth so that it can free itself of the salt. Leave for forty-eight hours and change the water every twelve. Shake your head every time your grandchildren come into the kitchen to check if the cod is still under the cloth.

1882 Eva Ferry.jpg

In a clay pot coated with olive oil (generously), brown a chopped head of garlic and eight chilies. Take out and replace with the cod, skin on the outside. Grab the sides of the pot with both hands and shake firmly, in circles. Do it for twenty minutes: it is vital that you don’t stop, even after the sweat starts to pour. The grandchildren will stare at the cod as it lets out its fat to produce the thick, white sauce known as pil-pil.

Dish up with the garlic and chili. Join your son-in-law and his mates in the basement and enjoy your dinner. Your grandchildren will eat their soup in the kitchen, but make sure they eat a bit of cod too: fish is an acquired taste and it is important they start early.

 

- Originally from Galicia in Spain and a resident of Glasgow in Scotland, Eva Ferry's fiction and non-fiction work has been published or is forthcoming in Salome Lit, The Public Domain Review, The Corvus Review, The Cold Creek Review, Foliate Oak and Novelty Magazine, among others.

Always and Never: Ma's House Rules

Always cook enough for more people than you expect.

Never use the same toothbrush for more than a month.

Always turn off the lights when you leave a room.

Never let the dog on the couch.

Always refill the ice tray.

Never go to bed with a sink full of dirty dishes.

Always try a strong cup of coffee for a headache, before taking painkillers.

Never bring food or drink to the bedroom.

Always treat yourself to expensive, well-made shoes. 

Never be the guest who shows up empty-handed.

Always offer to wash the dishes.

Never let clean laundry sit in the dryer for too long.

Always rinse cans and bottles before putting them in the recycling bin.

Never be cheap with money or food.

Always rinse the rice until the water runs clear.

Never drop in on people without an invitation.

Always give the mailman $20 at Christmas.

Never forget a birthday.

Always talk to children about everything - it’s how they learn how to be in the world. 

Never add sugar to spaghetti sauce.

Always have fresh garlic in the kitchen. 

Never co-sign a loan.

Always watch the original King Kong on Thanksgiving day.

Never throw away loose buttons.

Always be respectful of old people.

Never back down when you know you’re right.

Always have you sister’s back.

Never forget where we came from.

Carmen and Lana, April, 1967

Carmen and Lana, April, 1967

 

- Lana Nieves is a Puerto Rican writer, photographer, and lunchbox enthusiast from Brooklyn, who has somehow landed in San Francisco. One of her many online projects can be found here. 

Check out Nieves' previous Dead Housekeeping entries: how to give a  toast and make cafe con leche.

Aglio e Olio (Con Cipolla)

He often cooked shirtless and I would pay attention to the muscles in his back tensing and rippling as he worked. 

He poured olive oil into a saucepan—not a frying pan as I would have done—and let it heat up while he chopped garlic cloves and then diced an onion into tiny perfect cubes. He filled another pot with water and salted it generously. 

The kitchen filled with the smell of garlic and onion sautéing in olive oil, which is in all the world the most enticing aroma when it is late and you are hungry. Sometimes I’d come and stand behind him for a moment, my arms reaching around him to touch fingertips at his belly, my cheek against his shoulder, absorbing the reverberations of his movements.

He drained the spaghetti and poured it into the saucepan with the translucent garlic and onions. Salt, pepper, grated Parmiggiano. There: a meal.

I make that simple dish of his from time to time, but I can't ever do it with my shirt off. On my arm, as I type, I can see the dark pink and brown mark, where, yesterday when I dropped a sole into the frying pan for my children’s dinner, the butter splashed out and scalded me. He was much more methodical, though, practically undistractable, even with my cheek against his back. He cooked and I observed and he never got burned.

     "I knew when I drew this twenty-something years ago—inexpertly, but it doesn’t matter—that there would be only   a handful of moments like this in the future, and I wanted to remember this perspective."

 

 "I knew when I drew this twenty-something years ago—inexpertly, but it doesn’t matter—that there would be only a handful of moments like this in the future, and I wanted to remember this perspective."

- Laurence Dumortier writes fiction and essays, and is at work on a PhD in English. You can find her at https://twitter.com/ElleDeeTweets