I suppose my relationship with food began when I was a child sitting across my mom and dad at the dinner table. As my parents silently ate dinner, my mother would take some of her food and give it to me. I was always touched by this gesture. She was taking nourishment from her own body to give it to me. In my eyes that was the purest kind of love. I don’t recall my mom ever stating that she enjoyed cooking, it was simply a necessity. She was a great cook, having learned from her family back in the Dominican Republic back in the 40’s. Children back then were handed responsibilities such as milling the rice with a large mortar and pestle to remove the husks. My mother will tell me countless stories of how she loathed doing manual chores, which in fact were very difficult for a small child. Nonetheless, she hesitantly obeyed.
My father was a fantastic cook and he actually enjoyed it. I have recollections of him inviting our entire Cuban family to spend the weekend with us on our farm. Sure, we didn’t have beds for everyone but that was not a cause for concern, they all slept happily on the floor. It was a time when family was united and we were a large ball of joy together. Most of my aunts and uncles bared a mocha complexion, traits inherited by my Taino and Spaniard descendants. Both my grandmothers had dark features resembling Native Americans. Fierce women that embodied an iconic representation of what I thought a woman should be like. Oh, how I adored and respected their feminine fury!
Fury, goes right there with passion in my eyes. If there is one ingredient that I would say I couldn’t live without, it would be garlic. This ingredient is incredibly special to me for its ability to take me back to my childhood. One of the best examples I found was in the movie Ratatouille. There is a scene where the famous food critic takes one bite of the food and he is transported back to his childhood home, eating his mother’s food. That scene always makes me cry because that is exactly how I feel each time I put food into my mouth. Each bite brings a memory of something or somewhere I visited. Garlic, is what takes me back to a time where I watched my family use this one ingredient practically on each meal. It is the heart of our food, the foundation so to speak.
What garlic does to me….
Once my knife crushes the garlic on my bamboo cutting board and releases its aroma, I see my mom. I feel her love and compassion. I feel my loved ones right in the kitchen with me. Now this is not to say that I have this experience will all dishes. When I introduce a new spice or flavor to my palate I am creating new memories. Standing in the kitchen listening to my husband play the most hypnotic melodies on his acoustic guitar I take in every particle that is released from the stove. Each oil speck that splatters on me is accompanied by a soundwave my partner is strumming on a string. The smoke from my Jalapeño balsamic reduction will be implanted in my memory forever, along with the sweet taste of my culinary end result. All this sensory overload protruding from our kitchen.
Every day is a new journey that I willingly embrace, as I know it will bring new experiences. The magical expedition into food exploration never ends…. it is ever changing and constant. It is food ecstasy. That is my humble opinion. In the meantime don’t be afraid to taste new cuisines and create new memories out of your old experiences. Our food lineage and evolution is in your hands…
Love and light,