As a child, I spent many days with mi Abuela y Abuelo. Like any starry-eyed child time with my grandparents was a blessing. Dialing in the memory allows my recollections vibrancy because to me, their lives were a real adventure and their life was a part of my story.
I loved listening to their chronicles. Whether sad or joyous, my intrigue had so much to do with the idea that their life was in Cuba one day and then, another day it was not. What would life have been like if they chose to stay? Or if I were born there? Along with the many stories about their life experiences I have on index cards and in journals and notebooks the recipes they passed down have always stood out to me in a significant way.
I learned so much from watching my grandmother cook; they are some of my most magical memories for me. Seeing my grandfather ask my grandmother what she needed from the grocery store, followed by the natural flow of prepping what she had to make un adobo. The chopping, slicing and mincing of ingredients to enrapture the menu of the day. A main dish chosen through the art of nourishment, craving and love which presumes my philosophical belief that food is love.
Many people cook because they have to. It can be treated as just an obligation, which can be, for many who are raising their family, caring for elders or even as a source of income. But for me putting the energy into the whole process of what cooking entails is an offering of love.
The recipes I learned by watching my grandmother were Cuban staples, like arroz con frijoles, ropa vieja, garbanzos, pierna asada, tamales y asopao de camarones. Sides like croquetas, frituras and tostones o maduros. Deserts and comforts of arroz con leche, flan, polvorónes y pudín de chocolate.
These foods and many others were an act of love, something shared, passed down if you will that transcends the rituals from one generation to the next. It shaped my strong connection to heritage. And while the individuals that helped nurture that bond are no longer on this planet, they will always be in my heart.