I love going to the beach.
But growing up Cuban, we never just went to the beach. Even though I grew up in Miami, where beaches abound and it usually doesn’t take longer than 20 minutes to get to one, going to the beach was a huge production.
You see, it took a great deal of preparation to go to the beach. We couldn’t just wake up on a gorgeous day and decide to go. No.
We would first have to go in advance to Sedanos, the Cuban grocery store, and load up on all the essentials. You know, like bread crumbs and a block of meat and Cuban bread and some other little tiny buns and some orange pasty crap my husband says is deviled ham. (This is a shocker to me. I’ve never thought to find out or ask what the hell bocaditos are comprised of. Who knew??)
Anyway, we’d buy cartloads full of stuff like that. Enough rations to feed a small army. And then we’d spend the entire day before our planned outing helping my grandmother put the block of meat (ham hock, apparently) into this grinder contraption and fight over which kid got to turn the crank and churn out the wormy-looking meat.
Super gross, really. But I guess at the time we thought it was the coolest thing ever. But what really mattered was that somehow that disgusting worm meat ended up as the best fucking croquetas I’ve ever had the pleasure of inserting into my mouth.
My grandma would slave away in the kitchen making the sandwiches and the croquettes and we’d sleep over so we could get an obscenely early start the next morning. After loading up the car with all the towels and blankets and chairs and prepared foods and coolers full of Jupiña and Materva, the rest of us would try to squeeze into whatever room remained in the car.
We’d drive what seemed like hours (again, it’s not more than 20 minutes from where we lived) to El Farito, what the Cubans lovingly called the beach where the lighthouse stands on Bill Baggs State Park. We’d get super giddy when we got to the spinning sharks that signaled we were close.
We’d emerge, 20 or so Cubans, from a wood-paneled station wagon, loaded down like pack mules, for our day at the beach. We’d swim and play and stuff our faces. And when it was time to leave, my grandma always insisted on having us submerge our sandy little bodies in the freezing cold shower thingie and would force us to bathe with the soap she had brought along and then hold up towels to block us from view as we peeled off our wet (and now clean) bathings suits and put on a dry change of clothes.
Unfortunately, this set a somewhat cumbersome precedent. Because, as you can imagine, I can’t just go to the beach.
Even now, a beach outing takes preparation. And although I don’t grind my own croquettes, no trip to the beach is complete without them. Or sandwiches. Or sand toys. Or balls for varying sports. Or towels and a change of clothes. And granted, the Jupiñas have been replaced by wine and beer and Fireball. But still, it requires taking along a cooler.
We stupidly used to also take an umbrella. But after years of struggling to keep the damn thing from tipping over or flying off dangerously into the path of innocent bystander, we finally stumbled upon this. The greatest invention of all time.
This tent has made going to the beach even more awesome. As if that were possible. It weighs hardly anything and sets up in minutes. We are seriously the envy of our fellow beachgoers. It even has an additional panel that can be clipped on in a pinch when, say, it’s really windy. Or when an unexpected torrential downpour happens. As it did today.
So even though we got a little wet, we were able to weather the storm in our little tent. And wait out the traffic brought on by the mass exodus the little deluge brought about.
I can’t recommend this thing highly enough. Do yourself a favor and go out and get one. Stat. And meet me at the beach!
Do you have any traditions around going to the beach or any other place you frequent? Leave a comment below!