To be frank, I was quite looking forward to this assignment. I know I’d been quite the picky eater, but I wanted to know when that changed, when I stopped being so picky and started eating sushi and polenta with fried plantains on top. However, reading Luxury, that long-suffering ode to the mother as chef, made me wonder… did I make my mother suffer like that? Thus, with that thought in mind, the questions began.
What was the first thing I ever ate? You mean, beside milk? After that, I would like to say, the standards, Cheerios, french fries, and you lived off of baby food green beans. I had to buy that for you until you were eight.
What was the first thing you made for me? We had a lot of chicken, you liked rice, you had such a limited diet. I would cook but you wouldn’t eat. That was so frustrating.
When did it get easier? I guess you started eating more foods, you always liked my enchiladas. Mexican food you would eat. Wait a minute! You wanted to be Mulan, so you started eating Chinese food. Weirdo.
What foods did you stop cooking when you had children? None. That was always pretty stable.
Do you like cooking? I love cooking. I hate cleaning afterwards, but I love cooking. I love when your dad comes home and the house smells good, your dad always comments. I love that.
What are your favorite things to cook? That’s easy; of course chicken and mole, my tortilla soup, and, then I’d have to say tri tip, just the standard. And I love my crockpot salsa chicken.
Have you ever resented cooking? Never. Not a single minute. 🙂
When do you like cooking most? I like cooking most on rainy days, and of course the holidays.
What is your relationship with food? It’s a love-hate relationship. I love the taste of food, I love cooking it, I love the smell, but apparently it loves me so much it never wants to leave me.
What did I hate eating when I was little? Anything with flavor, or texture. Oh my God, texture was the worst.
What made you want to cook? I’ve always wanted to cook, ever since I was little. It was always such a happy thing in my family. That’s what the women did in our family. Grammio was always cooking, and I adored Grammio, so I guess I just wanted to be like her.
Did your parents cook (as well)? Yes. Both of them did, but it was mainly Gramma’s responsibility. I’m a better cook, though, except for Gramma’s sopa.
Did you ever cook for yourself? Oh yeah, I had my own place, in college I was always the cook of our group.
Did your relationship with food change when you had kids? I don’t know that it did, kid. I had to keep a couple menus going, because you kids were very finicky.
Are there any meals that remind you of me? Any time I make a pot of rice, I think of you. And of course ham. Definitely sausage and rice.
What would you like me to cook for my kids? Enchiladas, all the foods that are the family secrets, you know. I want those passed down.
Did you have to change your cooking to accommodate Dad? I don’t know if that was the case so much as Dad learned to eat differently.
If you could eat a meal by yourself, what would it be? No doubt in my mind; it would be a nice thick, fillet mignon, wrapped in bacon, with mashed potatoes and a nice bearnase sauce.
Then I asked the dreaded question: How do you deal with Dad’s La Victoria Sauce? My mom’s face scrunched. Hannah? Why are you bringing that up? Do you want me to get upset? I don’t like it, I think it’s insulting, every time he does it, it pisses me off, my hands are on my hips. No me gusta. I couldn’t help but laugh, and she said, her voice joking, “I’m sorry you find my pain so humorous.”
What do you eat for comfort? Chocolate. Dark chocolate. Especially Dove Dark Chocolate.
How did the process of making Triple Threat Cookies change as we got older? Well, since it was never a solid procedure, but rather a texture thing, it’s a very fluid recipe. You guys add your own favorite, I mean, you try to change it and I’ll yell. Sometimes you’ll make Dove Chocolate chip cookies, and then I’ll yell. Sometimes, you’d make too many sugar cookies, and then I’d yell. That’s it.
What about the food politics of late (San Francisco banning McDonald’s Happy Meals, etc.)? They ought to just shut up. The government doesn’t have any business in our kitchen. They say there ought to be no business in the bedroom, I say get the hell out of our kitchen.
She then told me, without a question to prompt it, “It’s, very honestly, the best way I know to show my family that I love them. I try to show that in everything I cook. It’s very personal to me. I mean, if you don’t like my food, you don’t like me. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s how I feel. It’s like he’s putting La Victoria on my love, Hannah!”
After the interview ended, I was silent in thought, no sound being made but the clinking of my fingers on the keyboard as I typed. I had worried that my mom had sacrificed so much to make me happy as a child, because I had been such a picky eater. Hearing that she hadn’t really sacrificed that much at all gave me a sense of relief. I guess it’s because I’m instinctively afraid of inconveniencing people, but maybe I’m not as much of a burden as I feared. That makes me smile.