The year and a half I lived in Brasil I learned that around lunch time every day you could smell the same flavors coming from each home. It didn’t so much matter what you were cooking, you always started by sautéing diced garlic and onions in olive oil. If you stop by my place around dinner time you’ll most likely get a whiff of garlic and onion sautéing in olive oil. It’s how we start cooking most things at our home.
My family all went back to Santa Fe two years ago, bringing our spouses and the next generation to show them where we’d lived as children. It included a stop at Tomasitas for real sopapillas. If you’ve never had a sopapilla there you do not know what a real sopapilla is. It’s part of my childhood. Which makes it part of me now.
My grandma grew up on a sheep ranch. It was her job to make the bread for all the ranch hands and the family. One day she thought she’d killed the yeast, the dough wasn’t going to work. And she’d wasted all the ingredients. Rather than admit the waste she took the dough and buried it in the yard and went back and made more bread. Later that day the goats were acting strange in the yard. Grandma hadn’t killed the yeast. And it had grown in the yard. And now the goats were stuck. My grandma lives on in my kitchen when I make bread and wonder if I’m going to kill the yeast.
My husband grew up eating waffles for Sunday lunch every week in his home. I grew up eating tomato soup with pasta letters as a favorite lunch. Now they are both part of our home and our children will grow up having waffles for Sunday lunch and letter soup for Sunday dinner.
When I want make scones I make them how my mom made them. A small amount of bread dough pulled flat and deep fried. Then covered in jam or honey.
The food we eat defines who we are, where we came from, where we’ve been, and what our cultural heritage is. How I cook dinner and what I cook tells you about me.
Aside from learning the joys of non-processed foods when I was in Brazil, I also learned the phrase, “você faz parte da casa,” which means “you are part of our home.”
We invite many people to our homes as guests. They are welcomed into some kind of front room where there’s a nice sofa to sit on and the floor has probably been swept or vacuumed before they arrived and the clutter was stashed elsewhere. They might even be provided with some type of food or drink refreshment. But that doesn’t make them part of the home.
To invite someone into your kitchen is to invite them into your family. To invite someone into your kitchen is to invite them into the messy heart of your home, to show them your true self, and to let them be a part of it.
We might share bread together as friends, but making it together, getting flour on our shirts together, and dough under our nails, that makes us family, that makes you part of my home.