I have always connected food with the soul.
From a very young age I learned to appreciate food.
Sorry to mention this mom, I know you tried your best to not let us notice the struggle we were undergoing, but I'll never forget one day getting home from a long day of school and being extremely hungry. I open the pantry and I had never seen something so empty. My heart dropped in disbelief. I remember thinking, "Wow. Times are really rough right now." Well, en español of course. I even cried for a brief moment.
I open the fridge, the freezer and once again the pantry in hopes that perhaps I overlooked a possible meal. Nothing.
My only option was a can of corn.
Don't worry, though, Ama. I loved corn. Still do.
Again, my mother made miracles happen. Just like Tupac's mother made a dollar out of fifteen cents. She never let this happen. The electricity may have been cut off, the hot water may not have been running for a few days until she somehow was able to make a payment, but she always made sure there was food to fill our stomachs. Even if that meant she'd only have a bite.
She'd probably be embarrassed of me sharing this but she shouldn't be. Because although, at the time, my father was still around, he wasn't dependable or organized with money. My mother was always (and still is) stable and smart with her money. She had to be.
So no, she has no reason to be embarrassed.
Because of my mom, because of days like these where I had to conform to simplicity, I learned to truly appreciate a full meal, a hot shower, and a hardworking mother.
I became addicted to the Food Network channel.
I was fathomed by the variety of foods, the colorful combination of ingredients, the way they'd mince garlic and crack eggs with one hand.
Everybody in the house would get hungry, whoops.
But I loved it! It's like an NBA player describing the first time he picked up a basketball and fell in love. Or the first time an artist picked up a paintbrush.
Except I couldn't afford to buy all these ingredients. So I would just study all these chefs. My eyes would observe how to grip a knife and not let the blade completely escape the cutting board when chopping a vegetable. I would take note of what foods compliment each other and go on to daydream what other combinations may be delicious.
Going to the grocery store was my favorite. Like a kid in a candy store. All I saw was recipes waiting to be created, delicious foods to be made, and new flavors to be tasted. I'd go down every aisle and be happy just looking at all this possibility, just like I do today.
My best friend says I take too long when I go to the grocery store. Well this is why.
So when my mom would get home with a handful of grocery bags, she looked like Santa with a duffle bag full of gifts.
Those days were automatically great days. I would offer to cook dinner for my whole family and breakfast the next day, too. I'd attempt to somehow cook a recipe I saw on television and make substitutions where needed.
I fell in love with food.
It became my therapy. It was my escape. I thought of nothing else but what was right in front of me: my two hands, a dull knife, and a handful of ingredients waiting to be prepared however I wished. I got to decide what paired with what and how much of one ingredient I wanted instead of another. It's truly an art.
The best part was that after all this fun I got to sit down and enjoy my end result. I fed my happiness and I fed my stomach. It made everyone else happy, too. I mean, who doesn't love a home cooked meal?
I experience(d) nirvana every single time.
You know how the rat in Ratatouille closes his eyes when he takes a bite of something and all these beautiful explosions of color are going through his mind while jazz is playing? And he tries to get his brother to really savor the beauty of each ingredient coming into to one? Yeah, like that.
Such a good movie.
The pallet is my canvas and I want to paint it with delicious colors.
From the day I could pick up a spoon, I was stirring things up in the kitchen. I'd stand by whoever was cooking a meal at gatherings and at home, observing. The days I had to conform to a bowl of noodles just made that one full meal extra special. Plus, I learned how to make a bowl of ramen look like it came out of a gourmet kitchen.
Now, every meal is special. Even if I'm only cooking for myself. From cutting a potato a certain way to decorating the plate, I make the most of it.
And I love cooking for others because not only am I feeding them but I'm, also, sharing my art, sharing my passion, and (I like to think) tapping into their soul.
I'm grateful for that one can of corn because that one can of corn created my passionate relationship with food that I wouldn't have found if I had two cans.