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Growing up in a home where both parents worked from dawn till dusk, I didn’t get to see much of them.  Our family days were Sundays.  We would get up and have a full on Mexican breakfast that consisted of coffee, eggs, beans, tortillas and pan dulce.  I wasn’t in favor of the beans in the morning, but I ate them anyway.  While my mom cooked, I would make my way to the local panaderia, Arreola’s Bakery in Lennox, CA to buy any ingredient we needed, fresh pan dulce, my dad’s paper (La Opinion), saladitos (for later) and a Mazapan to eat on the way home.  We would take our time eating.  My dad would read his paper, we would all sip on our coffee (yes, we drank coffee as kids) and then all of a sudden the dreaded moment…family talk.  My dad was so strict I had to be careful with my words.  I was a good kid for the most part, but I still was scared to say any word that would insinuate any sinful nature.  But once that part of the day was over, we would enjoy a nice trip.

We would all get dressed nicely and gather our stuff to be out all day.  We never knew where we would end up.  All of us would hop in his old, beat up beach bum Volkswagon van and head on out.  We would drive to San Pedro and visit the aquarium, or to Palos Verdes, park and enjoy the coastal view.  Sometimes we would go to Redondo Beach and visit every family member in town.  Those were the long days for us kids.  What was a kid to do in those days of no ipod, ipads or a DS?  We sat there bored as could be wishing we could at least blink.  The family visits were fine but what we didn’t like (not even my mom), was when my dad wanted to visit his friends.  OH MAN!!!!!  WWlll would break out….  Let’s just leave it at that.

My parents were hard working and I know it was all for us, the kids.  My dad made sure we had a roof over our head and all the bills were payed.  My mom made sure we always had food waiting for us when we got home even when she knew she wouldn’t be around.  She owned her own beauty salon in El Segundo, CA and it was thriving and it became very demanding.  Even then she would wake up extra early before work and cook a full on meal so we could eat after school or just in case she didn’t make it home by dinner time.  But one question I’ve always had was, why wasn’t there ever any chile or salsa available Y el Chile?  Come to think of it, my dad didn’t eat chile.  There was no medical reason or indigestion problems LOL!  I think he just didn’t like it for some.  Maybe it was something he didn’t grow up with.

Since we didn’t have salsa or chile regularly at home, my siblings and I never really were fond of it.  More like we couldn’t handle the heat.  Till this day, my brother isn’t a huge fan of the things that are too spicy.  But through the years I have grown to love and enjoy salsa.  I have even experimented with making different types and I love it!  I don’t even know how I lived without it!  Now my food needs it and can’t enjoy a good traditional Mexican dish without it.

Y el chile?  Let me make some!

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Diary Entry

Friday, Sept. 25, 2015

It’s been a very exhilarating morning to say the least. My little family ventured out on our own from Guadalajara to Purepero, Michoacan. I can’t say I was scared but I was a little cautious as we drove to the little pueblo. I had driven through Mexico so many times as a kid and never feeling afraid.  My dad was with us all the time and trusted he would take care of us.  This time it was different.  I was now a mother.  I had little ones I needed to protect if anything went wrong.  I was now their protector and my husband and myself had taken the role my parents had at one time traveling through the land.  Once we exited the city, the scenery began to change.  It became greener. There were corn fields for miles. It was such an awesome sight. Every so often the green land fields would be sun kissed with a variety of colors. Sometimes you could see burnt-orange specks that would flow like waves over the tall grass.  Other times there were hints of purple peeking through the brush as the rays from the sun peeked through the thick brush. Such a beautiful sight that only my eyes could capture.IMG_4762

Our ride to Purepero was so fun.  I would turn back to look at my kids and my heart would warm up.  We stopped at a little store to buy some “chatarra” for the road. They went crazy buying bread, chips, and drinks.  Our bellies were full the entire way.  I was able to tell stories I had from my visits as a child. They asked questions about the area.  They were wide-eyed until the sweet sound of music, the warmth of the sun and the beauty of the landscape cradled them to sleep.

2 hours later we had reached the outskirts of Purepero. The surrounding became familiar. The sporadic clouds began to get bigger, crisp and low. The sky was getting bluer and the smell of a distant fire had reached my nostrils. I closed my eyes, breathed deeply as the lost memory of the land rekindled the love of this place long forgotten. The town’s entry was no longer the same and we were confused how to enter. But soon enough we saw the old familiar road that led right to the center of town, the plaza. Driving in I remembered how I thought there might be a small chance I would never return because of the rumors of the craziness going on in Mexico. But there I was, driving through the narrow streets just big enough for one car. The familiar adobe walls of the plaza stores I frequently visited on my stays, were all still there. But I’ve been told that it no longer looks the same once I walk into the inner courts. That’s my mission for tomorrow, to check out the area and the changes time has made.

IMG_1344Once I drove past the plaza area I finally headed up to my Great-Uncle’s house.   The street and the outside of the houses still looked the same. I was happy about that. We parked and the kids and I looked around to take it in.  We began to walk up the street. I was feeling it. It felt good and normal. And just like old times, a head peeked out of the house I had always stayed at. Except this time it wasn’t my Great-Aunt greeting us with a big smile, it was her youngest sister.  It felt a bit strange at first but she was so warm in her welcome that the strange feelings quickly faded. It was the new generation greeting us now. But the old generation’s warmth was still there.   I walked in and everything looked like it did every time I visited. Everything appeared to be the same but deep inside I knew it wouldn’t be.  Then I stepped into the back and was a bit in shock to see that a lot of the property was knocked down and a new edification had taken place. The old room, bathroom and part of the kitchen had been replaced with brick walls. The same or not, I was where I wanted to be.  I headed to the back in hopes to see the familiar. I was on a mission to reconnect to an old tree that had been in the back since I could remember.  It always brought back  so many wonderful memories.  I knew that it would be the perfect place to do some writing and soul searching…

 

 

It’s been 12 years this month that my Abuelo passed away.  He was such a funny man and always made lite out of any situation.  He was a character all by himself.  He had a way of giving everyone he met a nickname.  Much like my Abuela, he was great in the kitchen. My Abuelo was a man’s man – “A Mexican Man” who prided himself in being dapper, and grooming himself to the tea.  I can still smell the Tres Flores (hair grease) he would add to his super straight hair to make sure it stayed in place.  He had that greaser come over look everyone is sporting these days.  I would get a kick out of watching him work as one strand of hair would fall to his face.  If it was out of place you knew he had been working hard.

photo(3)I remember one time driving to Tijuana to visit them.  We always had a great feast and an assortment of food.  But this particular time my Abuelo wanted “Tortillas De Harina.”   My Abuela didn’t want to make them because she had been cooking all day.  Abuelo kept insisting with no luck.  He said, “Hasta con los pies puedo hacer las tortillas de tan facil!”.  Then Abuela quickly responded, “Ponte hacerlas pues.  Yo te hago la harina y tu las haces.”  Everyone there started antagonizing him!  He was gonna prove his point – making tortillas is a breeze!  Abuela quickly got the mix together and handed it over with that “prove me wrong” attitude.

Abuelo rolls up his pant legs and grabs a piece of dough, throws it on the dining room floor and says, “Ponme el Sinaloense!!”  Bam, the song went on.  Not even sure how or who put it on in an instant.  The song started and he started to dance around the dough and with his feet he began to shape the tortilla. Everyone gathered and we were all laughing, having a great time.   I believe I was a teen at the time and wasn’t sure what to think but it was such a big deal in the family.  We often talk about it and laugh uncontrollably.  Abuelo era bien ocurente.  He was such a witty, impulsive man.

So he proved Abuela wrong and she went to work.  Nevertheless, we had fresh tortillas with our meal that day.

Abuelo, I miss you and you are forever in my memories and my heart.

 

Experts say that we only use 10% of our brains capacity.  In fact, our brain has a very uniquely-divine way of storing memories through our senses.  That is why I love food. LOL!  Food has a way of tapping all our “senses.”  When you begin to cut veggies, herbs, meats or poultry, their mist flies into the air, then onto our skin and then into our noses.  Boy, do I love cutting cilantro.  The smell just does something to me.  I don’t even know what it is.  After you cut your ingredients, you begin to cook them.  All the smells mesh together to produce an aroma so blissful it makes your tripas churn within.  Once that masterpiece is done you gently and strategically place it onto a plate and your eyes experience the beauty of our culinary creation.  Finally, the moment you were waiting for… tasting the masterpiece.  You take your fork, intricately pick up some of the succulent morsels of food and you lead it into the golden gates (or pearly gates if you whiten your teeth) and finally the marvelous  treasure of your process unfolds in a one of a kind experience.  You close your eyes with every bite and nod with approval like a Jedi Master as he watches their young padawans master their skills.

I receive so many messages from our subscribers telling me how our videos bring them back soooooo many memories of their childhood.  I believe in the kitchen are where most memories are made.  Why?  Because in the kitchen, all the senses are tapped and without even knowing, those tapped senses are connected to those around you at that moment.  This experience can happen anywhere not just in the kitchen.

Today, I made a pit stop at Walmart early in the morning before work to buy some D.O. FOR MY B.O. (deodorant) because I forgot to put it on at home (Happens A LOT!  Anyone else relate? No? Ok.).  photo(44)I was going to be at a middle school and knowing how cruel and blunt they can be, I was not going to take a risk of having a slight fowl smell.  I quickly went to the appropriate aisle grabbed a random stick, looked at my watch and noticed I still had some time so I leisurely walked back noticing all the things on display.  I saw the Picot and my mouth began to salivate.   All the memories of times with my aunt in TJ as kids making the Picot foam out of our mouths for kicks.  Then I ran into Pomada De La 41a192478a98e4b2e8deffeb6b9a226bCampana (Dr. Bell’s Pomade).  I breathed in and without even touching it, I instantly felt like the 10 year old who laid on Abuela’s bed and watched her rub her hands together with it to smooth over her face, freshly out of the shower.  Slowly the smell of the pomada would reached my nose and I would rest my body on her hard “Punto De Cruz” pillows like a baby who nestles in their mother’s arms.  photo

As adults, my kids may not have these same memories.  I may never use Pomada De La Campana but maybe I’ll share the fun experience of Picot.  Matter of fact, they WILL have different memories.  But in the kitchen, I will try to keep certain smells alive as we eat and commune with each other. I’m so grateful that my mom and Abuela are still able to help in cultivating some of those same beautiful memories for my kids–it’s what has made my life colorful.  Its life at its very best.


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Since my daughter was born 12 years ago, I have had the privilege to say that I am part of 4 generations of women whom have been the first born of the family.   What ‘s even more amazing is that the 4 generations are still alive.  My Abuela was the first born, my mom (Abuela’s daughter) was the first born, I’m the first born and my daughter is also the first born.  It is so special to me to be able to share that with all of you.  God has granted me such a great blessing to be able to enjoy something so marvelous.

4 genAlthough my mom and Abuela seem so humble, meek, submissive and nice they are powerhouses!  One would think that because of all the hardships they have had to face, they would be defeated women.  But they are not.  They have managed to get up and continue life… with smiles and laughs.

In one way or another, the 4 of us have inherited many similar traits.  We have the natural “1st born” syndrome, which is obvious with our “people pleasing” behavior.  The one that is the most notorious for that is Abuela.  She is a human form of a cameleon–taking any shape or form just to make sure no one gets offended, hurt or feel left out.  She will give you her last dollar and even her last Coke just to make you feel good.  If you meet her be ready to be part of the family.

My mom is just like that (especially when it comes to her kids and grandchildren).  For example, once she gets the phone call that “we are on our way” (going over her house), she jumps to the kitchen to have something ready when we arrive.  It could be anything from delicious ice cold lemonade to a full on gourmet salad.  Notice I said salad.  That’s because she is a health freak.  Growing up she never bought us cereal that had sugar.  Man that was stressful! LOL!  Anyway,  I’ve been a healthy adult for the most part.  I probably owe it all to her.  It is the heart of a loving mother, always wanting to give others the best of what she has to offer.

As I write, I’m laying here thinking, “How do I fit into the “1st Born” syndrome.  I guess it’s hard to talk about ones self.  Just like my mom and Abuela, I’m a worry wart.  I think of every possible negative scenario and play it out in my head over and over again.  I worry about everyone and can’t rest until I either get a text or send some “random text” about anything just to see if they are okay.  So either they passed that down to me or it’s just part of being 1st born.

My daughter is also a people-pleaser.  She is always trying to do the right thing to make mom and dad happy.  She definitely is a leader in her own little way.  She isn’t afraid to take risks but not on account of hurting those around her.  She has a mind of her own and is very opinionated but always trying to say things in the nicest possible way.  When it comes to her friends, she will do anything to make sure they are happy (I’m like that too).  She is the best friend you can have.groupcoke2

I can’t tell you enough how honored I am to be part of this heritage.  The ladies in my life aren’t flashy, eccentric nor women who need and want the best of everything.  They do with what they have.  They aren’t domineering women who make you do what they want.  They would rather YOU do what you want.  They aren’t women who give up.  Nor will they let YOU give up.  They are humble, meek, simple yet strong women whom with a smile will lift you and encourage you to be the best that “YOU” can be.  I can only pray that my daughter and I inherit a portion of what they are.  They are an inspiration to me and to those around them.  And for that I honor them.

Silvia

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Mayra Ariza Photography

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