I am lucky to have a grandmother who is a truly talented home cook. Her ability to prepare incredible flavorful meals, simple and with that unique touch of spices. Her meals fill the belly and the heart with warmth. There is something about grandmothers, grandfather, great aunts and uncles that have this unique home cook ability. Their food is some of the best and yet they just learned in their own kitchen, from their own experiences, and they prepare real food. This is just like my grandmother or as I call her Abuela. She didn't start cooking until a few years after she was married and my family moved from Cuba to Puerto Rico. Typically in those times the help or maid would prepare the food or you would go out to eat in good local restaurants.
My grandmother began preparing dishes, reading magazines and adapting the recipes to adjust to her families tastebuds, as well as taking from the flavors of her country and recreating them. Her hands had the unique touch that allowed her to really become a magnificent home cook. I have always thoroughly enjoyed my grandmothers cooking and always ask for her recipe, but I have decided to do something different. I am going to learn from her. Go in the kitchen and prepare the dish with her. Learn her movements in the kitchen, her culinary instinct, her sense of feeling of when something is ready, and her gift. A recipe anyone can read and follow the steps, but cooking is so much more than that.
A meal delivers a message, an emotion, a story. My mothers side of the family is Cuban and my family left the island in 1961. I have never been and one day I would like to go, but even if I do go I don't think I will achieve what I would like which is to see my roots and know my family story. Where I think my families story and identity lie is in the food. The recipes that were prepared by my grandmother, great grandmother, great aunts and uncles. The traditions they celebrated all came together around food. My families identity wasn't left on the island that they once called home, but travelled with them through their recipes and on the pages of the cookbook.