Saturday, May 28, 2016

Still Cookin'...


While we wait for Baby, (who at this point really could come any day now) we've both thought about many different hopes we have for our family. One important element for us is tradition. For Luis, tradition, at it's core, is in the kitchen. While family was visiting for our baby celebrations last month, Luis took advantage of this time to re-connect with his grandparents and followed them around for a couple of days.


For as long as I can remember I have loved to cook. I like the idea of instant gratification. I like the idea that each meal is never the same. I’m not a creative person, but for some reason cooking gets me to be resourceful. 

 Growing up I spent most of my afternoons like any kid, running around outside looking for trouble. It was at dinnertime however that I made sure I was in the kitchen looking to see what my mom was cooking for my dad, who has had an 8-5 job to this day. Not knowing it then, my desire to cook came from these afternoon moments with my mom. 

I would say I do most of the cooking in our house. After work on my short drive home I go through the list of items I need to buy and come up with combinations I want to make for dinner. I would call it an obsession at times. 

My grandma Margarita has been my unicorn in the cooking world. Mysterious in her methods and without a recipe book, she cooked in the traditional way of feel and taste.  When she cooks, all my uncles and aunts gather like school children, waiting to get a full plate of a homemade meal. When we all get together, food is always at the center of our gatherings and everyone is a part of it. We get food from my mom, grandma, aunts, and all of it is always delicious.

For the last couple of years, I'd been thinking about getting my video camera out and recording my grandma cook as a way to document some of the meals she makes. This year I was able to finally do this. So the game plan was to make several salsas, tamales, pork with red chilies and mole.
Grandpa leading the way in search of the pork fat

Hand mixer

Boiling Chicken has no chance on these finger tips 

I did happen to learn a few things.
Numero 1: Taste often. For example, when she was making the tamales several times she would get in on the masa, which was uncooked, raw and highly unsanitary to taste for consistency and flavor.
Numero 2: Don’t measure. I cannot tell you how many times I had to keep asking her “how much did you put in?” She would tell me 4-10 chilies, 3-7 garlic cloves, however many dried this or that.  I can tell you what’s in my grandma’s mole but not how much of it.
Most Importantly: USE YOUR HANDS. This woman must not have any nerves on her fingers. I saw her tear apart a fully steaming just out of the boil chicken like nothing. Making the masa for the tamales, she would “spank the masa” to get a feel for the right consistency. This was very funny to watch. 

From this whole experience, as much as food was the focus, our conversations were even more special. I learned so much about my grandparents that I never knew. The stories of my grandma almost giving child birth to my aunt on a bus, and even better how my grandpa was lucky not to have been killed by my grandma’s father for stealing her away. It was nice to see them by myself. How they interact, make fun of each other, and reminisce on times passed.

All of these years wanting to record my grandma cooking, I’m happy to say I’ve finally done it. Like her, I want my little one to be creative, touch and work with ingredients, and taste every step. More importantly I want them to cook knowing that the people they love will be eating it. My hope is to continue this tradition, making food more than just a meal, but letting it be something that brings the family together, allowing it to pass on from generation to generation, and making it a gesture of love. 


I will just add that his grandmother's food really has brought people together, and more recently in a very unexpected way. At our shower, I sat at the table with Tina and her sister-in-laws. I have loved getting to know her family and it's great to see so much support coming from everywhere.

Everyone had started eating and I think I'd started walking around talking to guests. When I got back to the table, one of her sister-in-laws asked, "Who made the food?" I told them that Luis' grandmother did. She'd made barbacoa and frijoles puercos, a favorite among many. The sisters seemed almost at a loss for words, and I wasn't sure why. Finally one of them told me that they had not had tasted this dish in quite a few years. The flavors, the smells, all of it, was exactly how their mother (who has since passed) used to make it. "We haven't eaten like this since our mother was alive."

We all sat there, in awe of her food and how it made people feel, how it made them remember, and the way it made a new connection for all of us. 

"While you keep on baking we keep getting more and more excited, more and more ready for you to arrive. Every day people call or text me to ask how you are and if you'll be showing up soon. Each time I hear my phone, my heart stops a little and my stomach does a flip. You could be here at ANY MOMENT! We are closer than ever to meeting you and our life is about to begin."
---excerpt from a letter to our baby

1 comment:

  1. So that's where your experience come from Luis!I did not know she made the food! It was sooooo BOMB!! I had to help myself to seconds!


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