Coordinates: 18°09′46″N 66°43′20″W
My expectations were based only on eating divine. Only that: a gastronomic experience. However, what I lived in La Hacienda Luz de Luna transcended, not only my culinary perspective, but there were seven hours of pure illustration of what life really means, and more than everything, being Puerto Rican.
Pumpkin, Citron and Charlie
We were four people. We arrived to Adjuntas just before one o' clock in the afternoon. La Hacienda was really easy to find, first because it’s located on the same road 135 and also because the dazzling yellow of the main house makes it unmistakable. We passed the main house and found the parking lot afterwards.
The pumpkin vines and the citron fruit plant, which bordered the driveway, became a sign that, in effect, the gastronomic experience would be more than satisfactory. When we arrived at the huge terrace with a wooden rooftop and zinc, Luis received us warmly letting us know that they were getting ready. There were other couples, and one of them brought Charlie, their Golden Retriever. The dog was the first sign that our time in that place would include much more that cooking.
Old San Juan, Adjuntas, and life
Luis invited us to pass through another terrace, the one in the main house. On our way we met the owner of the farm, Don Edrick Vivoni, preceded by his great enthusiasm. A second sign: Blanco, a black Labrador, accompanied the owner.
Comfortable on the terrace, along with the other attendees (including Charlie, because Blanco was somewhere in the Hacienda) we chatted with Don Vivoni. We were twelve at the time; other people came in a little bit later. With great eloquence and familiarity, the host began the transforming oratory. More than a signal, in this moment I realized that the time would transcend. I’m not going to explain in detail what he said, because that would be like telling you the ending of a book you haven’t read. What I can say, in a nutshell, is that his speech was based on the importance of the family dinner: without cellphones, tablets or TV. He narrated to us, as if he was talking to his best friend, about his family of how he began the idea of the concept of gastronomy, harvesting the farm and the fresh fish. Between sips of sangria and morsels of ceviche this gentleman with a white beard and deep gaze continued the chronicle: seven sons, seven years, Old San Juan and Adjuntas. Listening to this master of rhetoric philosophize about this story was like being in a concert of Joan Manuel Serrat or Pablo Milanés.
Annona, Hens and Charlie again
The tour of the farm was the next step before moving on to the terrace of the dining room. Between the iIán Ilán, the Star Fruit and the Annona, Don Vivoni showed us a Mother Earth swollen with fruits. The Cocoa and the Ambarella of India trees overtook us some clues of which could include in the daily menu. Charlie, very attentive to his surroundings, followed us; his master had him leashed so that he wouldn’t run off and chase the hens and chickens.
A Sack of Oranges, a Sunday and a Friend
A native canary in the Capulin Cherry tree marked the territory with his singing. Don Vivoni told us that the Capulin is also called the "snoring tree", because when the fruit is ripe the tree attracts not only the native canary, but also a cricket that makes a very distinctive sound. We continued our journey through the farm spotting bananas, citron and gigantic lemons. Completed the tour, we stopped in front of the tree with a swing where our guide told us the history of that Chinese Flame tree; a story that is well worth listening from Vivoni’s himself. I’ll just say, that the story has to do with a friendship of sixteen years, many sacks of oranges and breakfast on Sundays at six thirty in the morning.
Appetizer, Dinner and Dessert
Already in the dining terrace, decorated with a wooden wall that is all an enigma, we met Ventura Vivoni. After the presentation by the unique style of his father, the chef told us about how to do "homeland with food" (patria con comida). The menu, which you have to try out, it is always different depending on the harvest. What I can bring forward is that most products of the menu were from the farm. The pumpkin was present on the soup, in addition to cassava and coriander leaves. An appetizer had citron fruit as an ingredient. One of the main dishes included malanga (a root vegetable) and celery; the other was made with cassava. From this second main dish, the chef revealed the secret of the onion. The first dessert was made with cocoa and jobo fruit jam, among others. The last dessert had lemon and celery, yes, celery. Then the chef confessed why he used this root in a dessert. Tasty inventiveness. Between dish and dish, the chef came out to present the delights that we were going to taste. Like his father, Ventura spoke with the same familiarity that only great friends show. Between the cod dish and the lamb, we heard a small revolt. It was the noble Charlie, who had escaped the belt and ran in search of the hens.
Arrimao's, Hawkers and almud
After dinner, we had another talk with Mr. Vivoni, the chef's father, on the terrace of the main house. There he reminded us the history of the coffee industry on the island, the arrimaos (those who lived and worked in the plantation property) and the Corsican Spaniards. This journey in time, took us until hawkers, the coins of brass and the almud (arabic origin measure). He also revealed his hypothesis of why currently in Puerto Rico coffee is not produced as in the 1950’s.
One-Way Ticket, Integrity and Future
While the cycads announced that the night was approaching, Mr. Vivoni told us the secret of the search for the spirit of the guaraguao (Red Tailed Hawk); is about this lawyer who lived in the Old San Juan but wanted to be from the countryside, and that’s why he moved to Adjuntas. This man continued his deep reflection until connecting its story with any other Puerto Rican: The future of Puerto Rico... the present of our island... the importance of integrity and excellence... reinventing our country... how not to buy a one-way ticket. With the same force of expression that Vivoni spoke to us at the beginning, he ended his speech with the revelation of what he understands is the solution for our country. But the secret of success you have to hear it for yourselves, it is not the same when is told by me. We had the privilege of listening to what the patriarch of the family shared with those who came to this experience of flavors, introspection and nature. Even Charlie had fun chasing a bit with the hens. I hope I can go back, and when I do, try the natural spring water. Another secret to discover...
Conscious Travel Practices:
1. Connect with the people.
2. Encourage the local business.
3. Reflect on the environment.
4. Contact with nature.
5. Learn about the flora and wildlife.