Healthcare for a Puffer Fish

The day Congress voted to repeal parts of Obamacare, Mama and I had decided to prepare a dish from Abuela’s cookbook: Torrejas de camarón con salsa de pipán. Mama had to pull out the recipe book to look at the ingredients and instructions. She didn’t know this one by heart.

“How’s Dad been?” I asked her. We had just returned from a late lunch at the Chinese restaurant in town. We were about to start cooking dinner. I knew he’d had a doctor’s appointment the day before to check-up on his blood pressure, high cholesterol, and potential diabetes. He’s an active man who walks over 15 miles a day and eats a healthy diet, but his genes continue betraying him. He had gone to work after the appointment, come home, eaten a 15-minute dinner, and gone straight to bed. I’d missed my window by watching TV.

“He hasn’t told me the results yet,” she replied. “Still any good at beating egg whites?”

“You know I’m the best at cooking and baking,” I replied. The saying goes that twins have gifted hands suited for everything. This means we make the fluffiest pastries, give the most soothing massages, and pick delicate crops, like blackberries, without crushing them. It must’ve been true because people on the farm nicknamed my twin sister and me The Dynamic Duo. Mama pointed to the whisk, the carton of farm fresh eggs, shrimp powder, and a large steel mixing bowl. I started my “Cooking with Mama” playlist in the background, and put down my phone next to the sink. The playlist was RnB songs that were smooth and slow to the ear.

I separated the eggs whites like Abuela taught Mama, and Mama taught me. I broke the brown egg in half, and removed the top half so the yolk and white sat in the bottom half. I passed the yolk and white into the other egg half quickly. A blob of egg whites plopped into the mixing bowl. I tipped the yolk and white back to the other eggshell. More slime fell into the bowl. I repeated the exchange a few times, until the yolk sat alone in the eggshell. I did this again 5 more times.

“Mama, y’all are still under Obamacare, right?” I asked. The white slime was still far from being the desired white mountains. I quickened my pace with the whisk.

“Yes,” she said popping the lid off the jar of pipán sauce. “But don’t worry. I’m the mother, and it’s my job to worry. If you start worrying, you’ll put me out of a job. Are the whites ready?”

“Almost. Just missing the yolks and powder,” I replied. The egg whites had swollen to fill the entire mixing bowl. They reminded me of a puffer fish. One of those Nat Geo shows taught me that when a puffer fish is afraid, instead of fleeing, she swells to twice or thrice her size to intimidate her enemy. It’s all a delicate bluff. She’s most fragile when she’s puffed up. One good bite, and she dies. But no one bites her because poison courses through her veins. Bite her, and you get that poison too. If she’s going to die fighting, then so will you.

“Where’s your phone?” she suddenly asked. “Look up what’s happening with Obamacare.” She didn’t lift her eyes from the pipán sauce on the stove as she stirred it.

“I’ve been getting updates the entire time we’ve been here,” I replied, staring at the cold canola oil in the frying pan. I was waiting for it to sizzle.

“What happened?” she asked. She continued stirring the sauce.

I picked up my phone slowly, bracing myself to read the New York Times update. The update read, “The GOP has pulled the bill…,”. I translated the headline to Spanish in my end, and spat it immediately. Mama closed her eyes, and sighed softly.

“Good. The sauce is done,” she responded. “Excuse me.” She turned off the burner, and stepped out of the kitchen. I knew that she would go to the portrait of La Virgen de Guadalupe in the hallway, and recite a prayer of gratitude. She stepped back into the kitchen and hugged me. She’s much shorter than me, so her arms wrap around my ribcage and mine around her graying hair. I pulled out an arm, and took a Snap of the moment.

“What do you think is going to kill you in life?” I asked Mama point blank.

“Not Trump. Cancer already tried. Maybe another cancer,” she replied.