Poetry in food
Every burner on her stove was going and heating up the room. She had lentil soup just about finished, beef bouillon cooking for dinner, pasta for the children and was frying green bananas. At the same time she had been chopping up lemons, onions and peppers to make chary, a condiment made of fermented lemons. So many warm scents filled the air. It was not the first time. At her house I have enjoyed sambusas made of tuna, tilapia in a simple but exquisitely spiced tomato sauce and a Divine mung bean soup. I asked her if she ever watched the movie or read the book Like Water for Chocolate, I asked her if she was familiar with MFK Fischer, if she ever watched that movie Julie and Julia, watched Chopped, ever wanted to be on Chopped... Instead she just put in front of me a bowl of everything to try.
There have been only a handful of people in my life who have been able to create a memorable dish from the simplest of ingredients: My Grandmother, my Abuelita, my Oma-in-law, my Abuelita's cousin and Nadia, who is also the most precocious cook I have ever known.
I started to think of how I have known too many who do not know how to cook, and sometimes, don't want to learn because they don't like it. I find it extremely important to learn to put together a meal for oneself, to be able to feed friends and family. In college everyone could make brownies, Rice Krispie treats and maybe spaghetti but no one was putting together stew in a crock pot, or knew how to make a chicken soup from scratch. All animals teach their babies how to hunt and feed themselves. Learning to feed oneself should be high on the priority list. When my child leaves home I hope her skills will include: balancing a check book, knowledge of a trade or craft that she enjoys and can turn into cash when needed, and the ability to create several meals with complete confidence.
One evening Nadia visited me and became hungry. She looked through my refrigerator. That night she taught me how to create capers du oeuf and now it's the only way I want to eat a fried egg.