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The Kitchen

Most of my fondest memories in life revolve around food. Oddly, I grew up in a Hispanic household where the action in the kitchen was nonexistent. When I think Hispanic, I think of an abundance of food around the table at all times: tacos, tamales, pollo, arroz y frijoles. But with a single mom working two jobs, the closest thing we had to home cooked meals were picked up at the nearest drive-through.

As the oldest daughter, I often played the mom role. Whether or not my mom had time to cook for us, I was in charge of finding a way to feed my younger sister when she did that annoying hunger yell. Well, I quickly discovered that you only need a few ingredients to make a successful meal.

Every day after school, I always provided two options on the menu: quesadillas or Cup’O Noodle soup. I still remember the crunchy flour tortillas oozing with cheddar and jack cheese, ready in less than five minutes. And on the days when I felt lazy, Cup’O Noodles it was. Whoooo, those were the days!

That experience was my first introduction to the kitchen. Those moments with my sister also helped me realize how important the kitchen is, especially to Hispanic culture. When aunts came to visit or when I went to a friend’s house, the kitchen was the main attraction. This is where we cooked, but more importantly, where we laughed, shared gossip, reminisced on childhood memories and connected as a family.

As I grew up, I became envious of people who could just whip a couple of things together and create an amazing dish. They made it seem so easy. And when I would ask questions, the responses always started the same way: “a little bit of this, a pinch of that, a hand full of this.” Huh? What the hell is a splash, a handful and a pinch?

So I turned to other resources: TV and books. I soon realized that if I could read and follow directions, one day I would REALLY be able to cook. I mean I did go to college.

Fast-forward past a couple of bad dishes and the time I set my mom’s oven on fire on Mother’s day, and now I’ve become the acclaimed cook in my household.



*Photo: Allison

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