Last night the festivities started for the celebration of the Bicentennial of the start of the Mexican Independence movement. Today, the official Diesiseis de Septiembre holiday, is also my mom’s 79th birthday. I have never wished I could be home as much as I do today. Since I can’t, I am going to do the next best thing: have real Mexican food with my Mexican friends, cook real Mexican dinner for me and Will, and think about Mima.
My mother is a fantastic cook, with a reputation that has become legendary amongst our family and friends, who know her affectionately as Mima. She can cook anything, and she does it beautifully, and I am sure she is the reason why, ever since I can remember, I’ve been interested in food and cooking. I practically grew up in the kitchen, and I was going to the street markets in Mexico City with Mima for the weekly shopping trip as soon as I could walk. When I was about five years old, if family and friends asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was usually “Chemist Chef” (when I told this to Alton Brown, he smiled the widest smile I have ever seen!)
Mima always went to the same vendors, the ones she developed a sort of trust with because they had the freshest produce or the best cheeses. She knew their relatives and inquired about the state of their health, bringing them some kind of herbal tea or vitamins whenever someone was sick. She would introduce me to her vendor friends, who were amused to see me carrying my child sized shopping basket. I “shopped” for my own tiny sized vegetables, which the vendors would carefully select to make sure they had the “appropriate” size for me.
Upon our return home, I would quickly prepare to cook whatever it was that I had “shopped for”. I had my own cooking utensils and my own “recipes” which I created. Mima would patiently guide me through the process with suggestions of how best to slice each kind of vegetable and how to cook them properly, while keeping a careful eye on my safety. On days like these, my dad would come home from work and find on his place at the table a carefully written menu, enlisting the delicacies that he was about to enjoy for comida. He was very polite when I showed up at the table to “take his order”, exclaiming excited “ooohs” and “aaaahs” with every course that I presented. Whether he really liked my dishes or not I did not know, but he always ate every bite and thanked me with a tip at the end of the meal. Growing up completely encouraged to pursue my cooking interests, it is no surprise that food and cooking have been at the center of all aspects of my adult life as well. One of my favorite things in the whole world is to cook with my mom, and when not able, to talk about food and exchange recipes with her over the phone. Tomorrow I will post a few of Mima’s recipes and photos for your culinary enrichment. Today, I am thankful for everything she taught me, and hold her hand from afar. Mil gracias mami por todo lo que me has enseñado en la cocina y fuera de ella. Te quiero infinitamente y te extraño aun mas.