Hola Reynas! Spring has sprung! May is such an incredible time of year. The sun is shining, the flowers bloom, and we gather to celebrate las Madres. Whether you are a mother or not, motherhood is something that connects us all because without mothers, none of us exist.
I am lucky to be surrounded by many amazing women in my life. These women have inspired me in many ways and have allowed me to grow into the woman I am today. Amigas, to be a mother is such a blessing and to have a mother is a gift. As we celebrate our mothers, I’d like to share with you the women that have helped shape me into the passionate cocinera and aventurera that writes to you today.
The first: my abuelita. My abuelita was a beautiful woman. She never left the house without her makeup or her hair perfectly coiffed. She was graceful and always tactful with her words. At Christmastime, she used to teach me how to make tamales y galletitas de Boda Mexicanas con nuez. “No mijita. Así no se hace. Mira, hazlo así,” she used to say. My abuelita instilled in me a love for being in the kitchen from the time I was a little girl. To this day, I love cooking for people and am happy when I see people enjoying a meal I’ve prepared lovingly for them. When I was younger, she used to make chiles rellenos for my Abuelo even though she was allergic to the chile! “Todo se hace con amor, mi reyna,” she’d remind me. Everything done with love is worth doing. Whether she was making tamales, galletitas or just a regular Sunday morning breakfast of huevos con chorizo y frijoles refritos, my abuelita infused love into everything she made. Watching her work in the kitchen was like watching a master paint their greatest masterpiece. She was beautiful. She was artful. She was graceful. To me, one of the biggest lessons she taught me was to infuse everything with love. When she passed away, the most significant legacy she left behind was precisely that: pure love. Everyone who knew her associated her with that word. Amor. Era puro amor.
The second woman: mi mamá. What can I say about my mother? She is a powerhouse and a queen. My mother came to the United States from Mexico at age twelve and was told she wouldn’t get very far in life.Te imaginas? Bueno pues, she showed them. Mami isn’t a mujer de la cocina. Cooking isn’t her thing. She loves books. She loves learning. She went to school to become a teacher, got her masters and eventually received her Doctorate of Education. Not bad, verdad? Mami is a hard worker, and because both she and mí papá worked a lot, she had to learn to make quick meals for all of us. Híjole! She was terrific at putting things together for us! Growing up, my mother would make what she called Mexican lasagna by using tortillas, shredded chicken, enchilada sauce and cheese in a baking dish. She would layer it instead of making rolls like enchiladas and make a lasagna type dish but with a Mexican twist! Can you imagine this dish with our chicken mole? Ay! Ya me lo puedo imaginar! Que rico! My mother made sure we always had food in our bellies to supplement the education she made sure we were getting. She’s taught me many lessons, but one of the biggest is to use your voice, no matter what and to go after what you want. Bueno, even if sometimes all I want is a little menudo with cilantro, lime and tortillas that’s ok too. And the best part? I can take my time making it as my abuelitawould or I can grab some of Juanita’s Menudo when I’m running from place to place like my mami.
Bueno, the third woman mis amigas, is my niñera. When I was a child, my niñera used to get up before the sun would even come up. She would carefully braid her hair into a glorious crown that she would design by herself and place it at the top of her head with bobby pins. My niñera was a queen in the kitchen. She would make tortillas from scratch, panqueques for breakfast and a ton of other things for us to eat. If there’s something my niñera taught me it was to be passionate about your work, regardless of what kind of work you do. She spoke with a voice that even our neighbors could hear. We always knew where she stood about something, even if you didn’t agree with her. She cooked the way she lived: passionately and with more energy than anyone else in the room.
While my niñera lived with us, our house had a variety of foods in the kitchen. My parents would bring pan dulce and barbacoa on Sundays, and she would make flour tortillas or anything traditional that we were craving. Can you imagine how much more relaxed and convenient things would be for her today? Quieren menudo? Bring Juanita’s! But I want albondigas! Let’s get Juanita’s. It’s that easy!
Looking back at these incredible women, I realize they taught me three things in and out of the kitchen: amor, ambición, y pasión. These three things are beautiful lessons for us to follow as we go about our daily lives. In the kitchen, much like the spices we use, these three things can enhance our cooking experience and allow us to bring our best meals to the table for our family. To all the mamás out there working hard to provide the best for your families, let Juanita’s do the work today and every day so you can spend more time with those you love. Les mando tanto amor, mis reynas!