The following day, Julie and I made a final shopping trip for the feast at the Plaza del Mercado in Santurce, a 19th-century market building in a residential part of the capital, which houses a dozen or so of the city's best produce vendors. We hauled out our bounty, stopping to order a couple of mango batidas (shakes) from a fruit stand outside the Mercado, then drove to my mother-in-law's home, where Julie, Ronnie, and I cooked late into the night, serenaded by a chorus of chirping coquis, the musical tree frogs of the island. We knocked holes into coconuts, extracted the water, and opened a stubborn few by slamming them on the ground. We scooped out the meat, then grated and strained it to make coconut milk. We set some of the milk in the fridge to thicken into tembleque, the dessert, and mixed the rest with condensed milk, eggs, and rum for coquito. Next, we peeled and boiled green bananas until they had the perfect al dente texture and marinated them with red onion, olives, and sherry vinegar for guineos. We made an enormous amount of sofrito--the base to practically every rice, soup, and stew in Puerto Rican cuisine—which is an essential component in many of our holiday dishes. Ours was a slow-cooked blend of onion, sweet and hot aji peppers, garlic, oil, and plenty of culantro, a robust herb with a deeper flavor than its cousin, cilantro. As the sofrito cooked down, taking on a deeply sweet aroma, I reflected on how these ingredients, which I once considered so foreign, were now as familiar to me as Ronnie and his family.