Wafer thin slices of potato dive from the mandolin, cascading into the hot oil with a raucous sizzle. My father brushes past my left shoulder. I’ve learned not to look, not to ricochet my head around searching for signs of him. He’s not there.
Our second day of vacation in Key West, we Yelped for restaurants not too far away (always a criterion when moody teenagers are in tow), and El Sibonéy came up. The rating was good, though not stellar, but the reviews piqued our interest. They were resoundingly good.
We headed out for a late-ish lunch, bellies rumbling, tempers just beginning to fray. Only a very few confused, hangry directions later, we found this unassuming treasure.
The building’s a brick 1970s home, gutted and converted into this bustling Cuban restaurant. From the outside, apart from the snaking line of waiting diners, there’s nothing to suggest that this is somewhere you might obtain an actual meal.
Brazen wisps of tandoori chicken snake sinously from the oven to duel with the tangy sassiness of makhani sauce on the stove. They will marry soon, overcoming the quarrels and barriers that have separated them so long, combining their finest qualities. Dressed in their wedding garb of carmine, like all good Indian brides, they will unite to the trumpet call of bubbling ghee.
“Can you guess how old I am?” she giggles, shoulders back, a few stray white hairs escaping the tight bun at the back of her head and snaking around her high cheekbones. The only lines on her face are the creases at the side of her mouth as she smiles.
“Come, tell me. Can you guess? I’m much older than you think, you know. Nobody ever guesses right.” She pats her slightly protruding stomach and rearranges her sari so it covers a little more flesh.