By: Elizabeth Tepetitla
Not only was she forced to drop out of school by her parents to work in the fields, she was also taught at a young age to learn how to cook. Although my family didn’t have enough money to buy such expensive food, they lived off of eggs, ham, milk and hand made tortillas. Most of these products were easy to get because they had animals like cows, chickens, and pigs. After hard work, my mother soon followed after my uncle and immigrated to the U.S.
After years and years of hard work my family settled in what is now called Historic Central Avenue. In a small house with one room our family only grew as the years passed. In 2010, my mother got pregnant and as I’m writing this today, my little sister just turned 9 years old. Just like me, her favorite dish is also Mole being done on a special occasion. Mole is a dish that consists of a dark red sauce, made to be sweet but also spicy. Every time my mother makes her well known dish, the kitchen is left a mess. Spanish music shakes the walls of our home as my mother works to make her famous dish. Every five minutes she will use a new dish which will eventually cover the sink with dirty ones. My sister and I are scrambling in the background trying to help her but in the process we are also arguing about who should ultimately wash the dishes. Even if one of us did end up washing the dishes, we would never finish. There were too many to count. My mother scolds us for arguing, claiming, “Laven esos trastes y póngase ayudarme!” Wash those dishes and help me finish the food! While I’m washing the dishes, because it’s always me that ends up washing them, my sister waits for me to finish for her to wash and clean the chicken. In the meantime, my sister is helping my mom prepare the sauce. In a blender, my mom picks her spicy red chiles, enough to make it spicy but not that much so my little sister can enjoy it. She puts water in the blender, the sauce of the Mole because it’s already prepared and all my mother needs to do is add some chiles. Since it was a last minute thing my mother didn’t go all out to prepare it how she always does. When we plan a party, it gives her time to prepare it how my grandma taught her. With roasted almonds, fried plantains, dark chocolate the sauce will come out much darker.
When the food is ready, my mother scolds my sister and I for not paying close attention to her whenever she’s cooking. “Es importante que ya sepan cómo cocinar.” “Cuando tengan su esposo les van a gritar porque no saben como cocinar.” “Que van hacer cuando me muera?” It’s important that you know how to cook already. When you have your husband, he’ll scream at you for not knowing how to cook. What are you going to do when I die? Claims that are suppose to teach us a lesson go through one ear and out the other. All my mother wants is for her famous recipes from where she comes from are passed down but, it's complicated when we are only focused on school. My mother is glad that we are not living a life like she did. She had to wake up early to go work in the fields and in order to do that, she didn’t get to finish her education. However, she wished that we knew more about her plates and how much it means to her. Much like my favorite dish, Pipian is also a similar plate that is exactly like Mole. Pipian is a dish of green spicy sauce, made out of green chiles and green tomatoes. It only consists of the chiles, tomatoes and green powder that my mom usually gets all the way from Puebla from my grandma. Once the sauce is ready and is already boiled, chicken that has already been boiled will be dipped in.
There will be a time when one day my sisters and I will no longer be able to depend on my mom -- when that time comes I hope I can master the recipes that my mother and grandma have passed down. A generation of five women should not stop with my mother, it should continue to live and these dishes should be tasted from all over the world. The new generation will forget what it’s like to taste such rich and spicy food if no one continues to do these dishes but in order for that not to happen, I have to master the cooking technique first. After learning how to become a proper cook, I aspire to become just like my mother. Forcing my own children into learning how to cook our famous dishes that come from my roots. Other people and restaurants no doubt will prepare these dishes but none will come out like the one my mother learned to cook. Each plate has its own spices made by that person and I hope mine will come out exactly like my moms.
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