Written By: Myrtle
Let’s face it. Not all food is made with love. I’d hardly call the after-school microwave pizza rolls made with love, or the Kraft macaroni & cheese with chunks of hot dogs in it for protein, made with love.
But there are those many special times when moms, aunts, grandmothers, and big sisters gather us together to teach us, to share with us and to offer us food made with love.
You know the times. When the menfolk clean, do the heavy lifting and excuse themselves to the nearest football game until they are needed further. The 3 days prep, the 25 trips to the grocery store, the 5 crockpots, the “all hands on deck”, the family reunion aprons and the mess. These are the tell-tale signs of food made with love.
At least that’s how it is in our family.
For as many years as I can remember, when you saw a chocolate mousse cake, you knew it was my dad’s birthday. The light fluffy airiness of the chocolate; I always wondered how my mom got it that way. And don’t forget the crunchy, yet moist cookie perimeter. This treat is always topped with homemade whip cream. The beaters from the hand mixer, covered in whip cream, are reserved for the youngest ones to lick clean.
Or after the trip to the Asian market across town, you know, the one with the squid on the ground? When you came into the kitchen from watching SpongeBob and saw the biggest mixing bowl filled with ground pork, veggies, and apparently oyster sauce, with 5 big spoons in it, we knew our mom was making lumpias. We were about to celebrate something worth celebrating (a graduation, a homecoming, an end to the school year).
Or when the combination of ground beef, rice, onions, cilantro, and tortillas were on the counter, you knew your mom was about to whip up some albondigas. And you knew that it meant that winter had come and we were freezing our ‘you know what’s” off, or Tommy was home.
And we hardly got birthday gifts growing up, yet we always had a character birthday cake of our choice, with a level of detail that could take our mom to the final round on cake wars, without the sous chef! If it were around back then…
But one of the most special times of the year is hosted by The Aunt Who Feeds Us. Who every year, gathers & prepares the masa, the corn husks, the meat, cheese & veggies for the annual Tamalada. The Tamalada is a Mexican tradition, most often around Christmas time. We all come together, from wherever we were that year, friends and family alike, to make tamales together. This typically happens on December 23rd or Christmas Eve, so that we can cook them in time to eat after midnight mass and hear stories of life in the barrio.
In recent years, The Tamalada has come to include a delicious sangria bar and our cousin has started her own tradition and mastered the yummiest eggnog, which she starts making just after Thanksgiving! Both of these libations are needed to cope with our tamale making short-comings (God help you if you’ve been assigned tying!).
Nonetheless, our Aunt still appreciates our assistance and we have all grown into a heightened level of appreciation and gratitude for the lessons passed on and the tamales without corn.
Cheers to the moms, the daughters, the aunts, the big sisters, the grandmothers, and the menfolk alike, for providing us with nourishment, laughter, and booze made with love, often times when we need it the most.
Whatever your food and family tradition may be, let it be made with love.