My dad always loved to buy watercress when we would go to the Plaza del Mercado in Río Piedras. We would go almost every Sunday, right after mass. I hated and loved going to the Plaza, all at the same time. I hated the smells around where we would park our car… the smell of rotten produce. But I also loved we would get a lot of fruits that I loved, like Platanitos Manzanos, my favorite type of banana BY FAR.
I guess my dad loved to take us there because my grandfather was a farmer. My Cuban grandfather was a potato farmer and my dad looked up to him a lot, being the oldest son and the heir apparent to the family business. However all that changed when a certain rebel named Fidel decided to take over the country my father’s side of the family loved so much.
As part of the Sunday morning ritual at the Plaza del Mercado, we would search for the freshest salad greens – lettuces, tomatoes, carrots, “viandas” and among them was the watercress, which we call “berro” in Spanish. When I was little I did not like the taste very much, finding it a bit bitter. That’s why my mom always mixed it up with regular lettuce to cut down on the bitterness. But now, my palate has certainly changed and now I crave bitter greens all on their own, like arugula.
In Spanish there’s a saying, that may lose somewhat in translation, which says “What you inherit, you don’t need to steal” (El que lo hereda, no lo hurta.) So in true Cuban farmer fashion and true to my family heritage, now I love to go to Farmers Markets, not only in PR, but I particularly love them when I travel abroad – here I am in NYC, Guadalajara, and even searched many street markets in Paris… – but I also love to taste those bitter flavors of watercress which take me directly to my childhood and to those Sunday mornings after mass… Gracias papi.
WATERCRESS SALAD WITH CREAMY HORSERADISH DRESSING
1 tbs eggless mayonnaise 2 tbs plain yogurt 2 tbs prepared horseradish – try to find a brand without eggs A drizzle of Olive Oil Salt and Pepper to Taste A handful of watercress – well washed, because they can contain small insects 2-4 sun-dried tomatoes – cut into slivers (optional, but highly recommended)
- Mix the first 5 ingredients in a measuring cup.
- Place watercress and sun-dried tomatoes in a salad bowl and drizzle the dressing on top. Toss to coat.