"Come Bien" in Abuela's Kitchen
“Hija, sirvete un poquito mas. Come bien!” is something that I hear after every meal when I finish what is on my plate. If only my abuela knew how amazingly I was eating in Mexico compared to what I would eat living in my apartment. Some days I would get home after work and just scramble a couple of eggs and call it dinner. Here a couple of scrambled eggs is a feast with a side of beans, fresh cheese, homemade salsa, and endless amount of fresh tortillas and a cup of hot canela for breakast.
In the week that I have been here I have learned so much about food, just taking my abuelas direction on how to cook. What is interesting is that back at my place there were only a few Mexican dishes that I could cook- albondigas, frijoles, arroz, papas con chorizo, and lentejas. I tried making caldo de pollo and enchiladas from scratch but they were a work-in-progress, at the very least they were edible. Here in Mexico it seems like my abuela has a new meal everyday, and I learn something new along with it.
What is fascinating is that I always understood how Mexican mother’s express their love through cooking. I remember being off in college and coming back home to a feast. Often times it was pozole or enchiladas. Growing up pozole was a once a year feast during the holidays. Who new that it took us going off to college to get it more often throughout the year. I see the same thing with my abuela. She is practically cooking all of my dad’s favorite dishes and then some because he is home for a visit. And what is even more amazing is that I am learning a lot of this in the process.
In my first week in Mexico I learned how to make espinazo, uchepos, caldo de pollo, caldo de res, arroz like my abuelo does it, revanada de bistec, salsas of every kind, and ponche. Not only that, but I’m learning the tricks of the trade. If you put too many peppers in the salsa, add more tomatoes. Don’t put too much cabbage in the caldo because it absorbs too much of the natural flavor of the soup. Use the molcajete to grind the garlic to season the meat. Use bones in all of the soups to add flavor to the broth. Use this pepper for the beans and this other one for the salsas. Not too much of that pepper because it’s too acidic and it’s guaranteed heartburn but make sure to add it because it gives it color. If you have the spice of the pepper in your fingers, wash it off with lime and then sugar. So much that mothers learn from feeding their families.
It’s been a learning process for me, and it has also challenged my comfort level. Just the other day I was making caldo de pollo. The last time I was here my sister washed the chicken because I was vegan at the time. This time I had to do it myself. The horror! There were chicken feet, a liver, a heart. My squeamishness got the best of me! Once I put everything into the pot I realized that I added too much tomato. I scooped some of it out with my hand not realizing that in between my fingers I had grabbed one of the chicken toes pulling out the entire chicken foot along with a handful of tomato. I jumped in horror, but I held in my yelp because I didn’t want to scare my abuela over a chicken leg I didn’t want to touch. Come to find out that the chicken leg is my abuela’s favorite part of the caldo. I do it for you grandma, I do it for you.
Now I find myself doing the same for my abuelos. Going shopping for fruit and cutting it up and serving it to them in between meals making sure they get enough fiber and nutrients through out the day. As we go through the weeks I’m going to be stepping up my game from fruit to full on meals.