Thursday, May 18, 2023

You Know I'm Gonna Be Like Him

When I was a young girl wandering around in my parents' Mexican restaurant, I began breaking out of my finicky eating habits and understanding just what my dad saw in food.  I started to get why he got so excited about the sweetness of the summer corn or how a burger was put together just right.  I knew that I wanted that type of passion in my life.  I had a laundry list of foods I wasn't fond of and generally stuck to tried-and-true options.  But I also didn't want to miss out on all the fun he seemed to create out of thin air.  I wanted to learn this skill of honing happiness from very small occurrences. Peeling an orange, choosing a ripe watermelon or spotting a fruit stand were all things that could change the entire day.  Come to think of it, our general welfare tended to depend on our dad's mood, so just like you wouldn't want to be around if he was grouchy, it was an absolute privilege to be there when he was happy. 

I loved the mellowness of my mom's Mexican rice. She had the goldilocks factor with her food.  It wasn't too tomatoey, it wasn't spicy, you couldn't place all the spice, it was very subtle and delicate.  Her hot sauce was hands down the most addictive in all of the Fort.  Other restaurants bought it to serve, it was that good.  Even with my undeveloped taste buds, I knew their food was special.  

My small mark came with the secret invention of the rice bowl.  I would grab a soup bowl, fill it with rice, hot sauce and ground beef from the front of house.  There were giant vats of chilled chopped lettuce and tomatoes sitting on ice, so that cool bite would go on top. Afterwards I scooped up all the goodness with freshly made warmed corn chips, no need for a spoon and that became my feel good meal.  It was non-committal, which was important, even back then.  I hated sitting at the booth and eating alone.  I could be mobile with my bowl, to go bother the dishwasher or sit in the back with my mother.  It had the best of everything, hot and cold, crisp and crunchy, fresh, and packed with flavor.  That was my initiation into finding absolute joy and contentment in small things, in the moment.  Of course I would get older and forget everything for too long a time but I remember now.   
Just like the thrill of discovering fresh flowers, reveling in their beauty and then riding off.  Like these Peonies.  Peonies were one of my mother's favorite flowers and now they are also mine because of their large bulbs and giant bold blooms. They are robust and burst open with no apologies.  We had two giant bushes in our front yard and I used to run and leap on them like pillows, much to my mother's horror. 

Today's Mexican Rice Bowl sans chips and sauce

Later a bowl of leftover green chili

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