Ever since I can remember, there’s never been an important event in my life where food didn’t play a big part. I grew up surrounded by spices and herbs and the unequaled cooking of my amazing mother. I watched her cook, because I was not allowed to cook or be in the kitchen when she was cooking (she was ‘and still is’ extremely jealous of the kitchen). I did watch her cook, though and I learned to be creative when food was scarce, and I learned that you can never use enough garlic, and I learned that food is best eaten when is piping hot, right off the pot.
One thing I remember and have made my own, is my mother’s custom of always cooking a little extra, just in case an unexpected visitor should come knocking at dinner time. But she always made extra food to share with family and friends, even when the pantry was slim. What an amazing role model she is! To this day, every time I call my mom and ask her what she is doing, she replies that she is cooking or baking something to take to a sick friend, or to share with the neighbors.
See, one thing I admire about island life is that people exchange favors with favors without giving it a second thought. When a friend of the family brought my family some plantains from the market for our enjoyment, my sweet mother would send him/her a portion of the meal she prepared with the plantains. This exchange is very common in the island and thankfully has been passed down to my sisters and me.[quote style=”boxed”]“If a pot is cooking, the friendship will stay warm” –Arab Proverb [/quote]
When I was a newlywed, my husband would regularly argue that I cooked too much food. He didn’t understand why I always cooked for 4 when there were only 2 of us. I honestly thought that was how every wife cooked. I didn’t make the connection with my upbringing and my new life in America. Through the years, I did eventually scale down the portions and soon leftovers became strangers to our refrigerator. Needless to say, we seldom have leftovers, but on some occasions when I feel especially creative, I like to splurge and share my new culinary creation with friends and family.
Don’t be surprised if often on the blog’s Bebalicious section, I combine recipes with stories of my dear mother. Whenever I think of food, she is so present in my mind and I feel as though she has been my inspiration on days when I feel tired and clueless as to what I should serve my family. I still call her for advice or to share a new recipe I just found. She loves to learn new ways of cooking and baking but most of all she loves to feed people. The kitchen is her throne and there, she is the Queen of the world!
I owe my creativity in the kitchen to my mother, but I also owe her my desire to serve my family. Like her, after we say grace, I watch with expectancy their reaction to what I have prepared for them. Also, like her, I love to be complemented on my cooking. I suppose the fact we seldom have leftovers means everyone is happy and satisfied.
In an era of fast food and fine restaurants, I am grateful my family still enjoys a good home cooked meal, compliments of the chef (still in training) who’s sat at the feet of an amazing mentor.
Very sweet sentiments, Beba.
Beba, you are a wonderful cook and I love that you are so creative! Your family and friends definitely enjoy benefiting from your ‘new culinary creations.’ 😉
I see myself doing the same thing at my house for my family. Cooking for 4 when we are only 2. Mamí never let us cook but we learn from watching her.
Thank you for the memories.
Love you too, Yamila.