This is the story of the last Thanksgiving I shared with my father, Arsenio Gonzalez, who was born in Oriente, Cuba and immigrated to the United States in 1939.
When the Second World War broke out he was drafted, and instead of going back to Cuba, went to fight for his newly adopted country.
He was shipped out and fought throughout Europe and North Africa. On the day of the Normandy invasion, he was marching into Rome liberating it from the Nazis.
Thanksgiving has always been my family’s favorite holiday, no gifts, no cards, just the four Fs — family, fun, food and football. When an acquaintance of mine wound up incarcerated, I ended up with his caja China, a Cuban-Chinese roasting box for a pig. I thought it would be a great thing to have, besides turkey, a Cuban-style roasted pig for Thanksgiving.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
My father and I were told of a farm out behind the airport where we could find a pig to roast. To our surprise, the pigs were alive and we had to pick one to be slaughtered. We did not want to get too acquainted with the pig so we picked one and went to lunch.
After lunch we came back and loaded that whole, huge pink pig in the back seat of the car.
When we arrived at the house we tied the pig’s legs together, hung it from a tree and hosed it off. My wife then rubbed it with naranja agria — sour orange — and spices.
I set the alarm for 5 a.m. I went outside to fire up the charcoal, since roasting the pig takes a long time when you’re hungry.
The moon was full and there were a million stars that were as bright as can be. I lit up a cigar and waited for the caja China to heat up.
We had a fine feast. My dad and I were proud of our escapade. It was the last Thanksgiving I would share with him. So on this Thanksgiving, enjoy your family to the max.