Friday, January 26, 2007

rediscovering the kitchen's secrets

In my parent’s house growing up, it was my father who did the majority of the cooking; after a long day’s work, he would roll up the sleeves of his collared shirt, don a pair of shorts, and begin any number of artful combinations of vegetables, legumes, spices, and rice. On Saturdays, it was a sure bet that by the time I woke up, there would be a bowl of dough rising on the counter. My dad never worked in a restaurant a day of his life, but he is definitely a chef.

From childhood through my college years, I never gave much thought to cooking. And as I grew older, I increasingly looked for the quickest meal option available, whether that was tuna and miracle whip, raw carrots with hummus, or a Bill Miller’s or Taco Cabana drive-through stop after work. On a few special occasions, I would be brave enough to try my hand at baking desserts or simple casseroles. Most of the time, though, I was just too tired and I lacked the motivation to cook for myself.

I don’t know if it’s being in Nicaragua, having a roommate, or missing some of the tasty dishes of my adolescence and young adulthood back in San Antonio, but over the last 9 months, the kitchen has become a place where I find comfort and joy, whether I am just making a simple pasta dish for Andrea and I, or hosting an 8-person dinner party.

My cooking influences are many and varied. From my dad’s kitchen: potato, cauliflower, and peas curry, and spaghetti sauce; from memories of Main Street Pizza: a version of chicken cacciatore; from recipes gifted to me from Beth H: banana and pumpkin bread; from memories of beloved Tex-Mex food: Spanish rice and potato and egg tacos; from my grandpa’s kitchen, an eggplant, zucchini, and tomato stirfry; from Nicaraguan friends, arroz con leche. And then of course, there are the concoctions that have come to me as I stare into the refrigerator—like a ground beef, potato and pea casserole, or a curried chicken, broccoli, and carrot dish.

My kitchen has become one of my few sanctuaries here in Managua—a place where I can relax, create something beautiful (and hopefully delicious), and practice the gift of hospitality. A place that--through the aromas of cinnamon baking, onions sizzling, or coffee brewing—reminds me that I am not so far from the people and places I love, that somewhere north of here, you also are sitting down at a table not unlike mine, sipping a cup o’Joe, reading the paper, or enjoying a meal cooked with love.


soupablog said...

a great post, hermanita.

Dawn said...

i L-O-V-E this picture of you. must get a copy.
love you!

Sas said...

Hi Pamela - this is a really great post! I know I certainly enjoyed your cooking on my visit to Nics. Maybe you can work on teaching Andrea a few things ;)

andrea said...

HEY! I make a mean Mac 'n cheese!