The Art of Cooking When you're Away from Home

“Comes algo o no me comes nada?” is something we have all heard from parents. Specifically, it's a saying I’ve heard from my mother whenever I would ask if we could get McDonald's or some other form of American fast food (typically McDonald's, I was a sucker for 10 piece chicken nuggets). 

Now that I’m about to turn 21 and I’ve been away from my family for months due to safety reasons, I’ve felt the urge to tell myself, “Tenemos comida en la casa.” I’ve found myself resembling my mother’s cooking and the little things she does in the kitchen, like when my mother cuts up a whole pineapple and puts it in one of the hundred of tupperware that have lasted my entire life and my mother’s impeccable potato peeling skills have come to light in my own cooking. 

Some people have asked me, “Why did you start cooking now?” I’ve always considered myself to be an okay cook. I knew how to cook the basics such as rice, pasta (from the jar), eggs, and the little stuff that went a long way when I first moved away from my parents for college. The little stuff still goes a long way, this time around, I feel more connected to my family’s cooking because of how I was able to cook it. I think when people first move away from their family, there is always that small hunt for the type of food their parents used to make, especially in Latinx households. By my second night away from my parents, I went to a tiny Mexican grocery store, in search of that connection to home. I had missed the small tortillas de maiz warming up and the sizzling sound of the oil adding flavor. I needed that connection to feel like I was still close to my parents. 

My biggest fear of going into a new environment was losing myself, meaning losing my culture. I used to see so many people on film and television change when they go to university or move away. Maybe that was me believing everything I watch on TV, like to believe that these TV characters on my favorite sitcoms growing up were able to afford these big apartments and lavish lifestyles. Literally, in what world would Rachel from Friends be able to work as a waitress and live in Manhattan? Well, who knows how much inflation has affected the prices of the 90s. 

I took a lot of pride in being Mexican, more so with the food and little traditions. There’s so much care and love that goes into making Mexican food. I remember every Christmas I used to get my own rolling pin and help my mom flatten out the tortillas de harina so she wouldn’t stress about her posole burning. I also was a mommy’s girl and loved spending time with my mother as a child.

 “Like this mami?” 

“Si esta bien princesa” 

I’ve always been curious about cooking, never one to pursue it as a career (that would be far too stressful for me), but always one to appreciate the process of making food. I’ve mentioned before the care and love that goes into making specifically Mexican food. 

It really has done a lot for me. When I say that, I mean that the process that goes along with cooking has built this bridge for me. This bridge of memories grows longer and longer as I take on the skills of my mother, like her tacos de papa, her sopa fideo, posole, and other of my favorites that I would not hesitate to grab seconds. 

I hope from here I’m able to pass on her cooking skills to my kids and so on, without burning any sort of establishment down of course (I burned my papas de tacos the first time). Most of all, I hope that my culture runs through future generations. That love that comes from food is what keeps us going in some way.