Learning how to cook was all that’s to my grandmother. I remember spending many afternoons in her kitchen, learning traditional Spanish recipes that she has brought up from Mexico when they made their move many years ago. My mom and I were the generations born inside the US, and though we loved our place of birth, we always maintained a strong tie to where our family had come from. One of the strongest ties was through food. She would spend entire weekend afternoons cooking all of our favorite dishes, the items we grew up on, and ensure that we always felt every bit of love that went into every recipe.
It was there, in that kitchen that I learned all I know today. I don’t know why food was always such an attraction for me, and why I was so interested in learning all I could about it, but that’s the way it was for me, and my grandmother was more than willing to allow me to soak up all of the skills and tricks she had learned over many years of being the family cook. My grandfather couldn’t cook for the life of him, and I’m pretty sure he would have started a fire trying to boil a pot of water, but my grandmother could work magic with a few simple ingredients.
I especially grew to love learning all the Mexican pastries, baking and frying and learning how to use just the right amount of spices, it was my favorite part of any time we would get together and cook. It all started when I was a toddler, and just learning how to turn a spoon in a bowl, but progressed as I grew, and turned into helping add ingredients, learning to measure things out, and eventually, when I was just into high school, starting to make dishes completely on my own. I’m sure it was something that took a bit of restraint on her part, because cooking was her thing, but as the years went on, and her muscles started to grow a little weaker, she allowed me to take over the preparation of certain dishes.
I remember when I was in my final year of high school, she wasn’t feeling so well one weekend, so I took over the weeks cooking. It was the first time I had done anything of that size before, and I was worried I would mess things up. But sitting at the dinner table that night, my grandmother taking bites of the food I made, she looked at me and smiled. The kind of smile that’s born of appreciation and pride. It was one of the happiest moments in my life. She passed away the next year, and though it was heartbreaking, I took over her role as the family cook, and every time I was in that kitchen, I couldn’t help but feel her with me, the overlapping memories of so many years in that space, guiding my hands.