Today, like many days, I woke up missing my grandmother. So I decided to make myself a Honduran style breakfast. (Sadly, the refried black beans were missing since I had no fresh beans to boil available, and I don’t fucks with canned food.)
When I think about my grandmother, food, cooking and the kitchen often come to mind. Aside from being an exceptional cook–masterful at preparing and preserving food–it was through food and her process of cooking that one got to know her more intimately. That she got to know you. Unlike my mother–whose relationship to food was that more of serviceability and functionality to ensure that her children were always fed with real and unprocessed foods–my grandmother truly enjoyed being in the kitchen.
She asked questions.
She wanted to know how you wanted your eggs scrambled–did you want one or two eggs? Wanted to know if your coffee was too black–did you want your milk warmed or cold? Why cold? Wanted to know how many tortillas did you want–one or two? What Honduran man only eats two tortillas? Wanted to know what you wanted to eat upon your arrival to Honduras and what should she gather and prepare for your departure. What did you want to take “back home” with you?
Wanted to know. Wanted to know you.
My grandmother purchased, chucked and milled corn from fresh elotes to make her own tortillas, tamales and tamalitos. Sat the milk out to her own cuajada cheese. Used pineapple skin peels to make her homemade vinegar. Sliced and diced carrots, onions and jalapeños to make her own curtido/spicy relish. Rolled her tortillas out with a used, greased glass soda bottle. She would make a bowl of refried black beans (smashed with a coffee mug, at that) taste like it was the last meal you requested on earth. (Perhaps it was the pork fat grease she fried them in that also helped.)
My grandmother often laughed–seemed amused, yet intrigued and appreciative–when I would take (more like ask) for a turn in the kitchen. When I pushed (more like nudged) her out of her territory, and out onto the back porch. To have a seat or lay on the maca/hammock while I prepared her a meal. To stay still and do nothing. Not care for anyone else but herself–even if for only a moment.
I miss her greatly. Her laughter. Her small, twinkling eyes. Her sighs, and the “oopale” sound she would make when she was too hot or tired. Now that she is no longer physically present on this earth I wonder: what were her dreams? Her aspirations? Her unfilled desires? Did she know how much we/I love(d) and appreciate(d) her? Did we ask her enough questions?
Now, more than ever, I wonder, where and how do we collect and document our abuelita funds of knowledges? Creativities? Ingenuities? Masteries? In the face of an ever shifting capitalistic, consumeristic, and technological-driven American and increasing global culture, where and how do we our abuelitas memories alive? Live on? For the next generations to come.
I’d like think my grandmother, my abuelita, was/is the source where some of my own love for food and joy of cooking derives from. (Cooking, and let’s be clear, not washing dishes).
Would I make her proud?
And I can’t help but wonder, now that she is gone, who will keep the keeper of my own dreams?