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Mexican Food for the Soul

I spent the greater part of today catching up on my twitter thread, skimming through hash tags, and reading blogs from the past few days. It didn’t take long for me to notice numerous examples of meaningful relationships that have been formed on twitter over the past year. Maybe it is the holiday season or the end of another year that gives us a reason to reflect, but there were certainly a number of tweets and posts giving thanks to others for sharing their knowledge and learning with members of their PLN. Like many of you, I have connected with hundreds of educators this year and would describe each of them as respected colleagues and in many cases, friends. And although I have enjoyed every part of my transition to connecting with others through social media, there is one honor that I will miss sharing with each of you.
We have all experienced those moments when a song comes over the radio and it immediately takes us back to a place that we remember vividly.  Well, if I smell chorizo and huevos my memory takes me back to when I was in elementary school, sitting at the kitchen table watching my mom roll flour tortillas with her palote de amasar (rolling pin) The smell of home-cooked tamales conjures up in me the nostalgia of Christmas and the spirit of giving.

This past Friday, I spent the day with my mom making tamales, a holiday tradition I have enjoyed doing the past fifteen years.  I have fond memories as a child growing up watching my mother cook in the kitchen. Ever since I can remember I have been proud of and passionate about my mom’s cooking.  Mexican celebrations, holidays, birthday parties, and special occasions always revolved around food, lots of food. It seemed my mom was always preparing food, which included frijoles and arroz and her most requested specialty, homemade flour tortillas.
As I watched her work the masa (dough) and spread it on a corn husk with the back of a spoon, she would tell me a story about my late grandparents. I listened intently as she told me story after story about her days growing up and cooking with her mother. She described the ingredients, preparation, patience, time, skill, and hard work it took to make rich dishes that brought honor to our Mexican heritage.
Every time she would expound on a memory about her cooking, there was a mention of some relationship that evolved because of the food she and my grandmother shared with others.  She described different events where they had prepared meals to serve and then described in great detail something about the people at the event that recognized the significance of the relationship.  I immediately began to reflect back on my own childhood memories and gave thought to how many friendships were fostered through my mother’s cooking. I recalled my mom cooking meals regularly for my friends, my father’s work, co-workers, church events, school fundraisers, and even recent acquaintances they had just met.  It seemed as though we were always hosting someone at our home and serving Mexican food.  
And then it hit me. I would soon venture out and share my passion and love for my mom’s cooking with people I cared about by delivering tamales to their homes. I thought back to my years as a coach, teacher, and principal and the hundreds of friendships that were developed and enriched because my mother modeled to me how investing time in preparing food as a gift could bring people together in a way that recognized them and said in some small way they were important to me.  As I drove around Friday night and dropped off the tamales my mother and I had prepared to the homes of my friends and co-workers, I couldn’t help but feel a great sense of pride as they offered their genuine words of appreciation, thank you’s, smiles, and even hugs.
I hope through respecting and recognizing my mother’s talent and passion for cooking Mexican food I have brought honor to my ancestors and family, demonstrated a deep love and appreciation for my friends and co-workers and demonstrated the value of being intentional in my relationships with more recent acquaintances. 
I am just sorry I won’t have the same opportunity to enjoy a home-cooked Mexican meal with most of you that I have met through twitter. Who knows, maybe some of you will decide to come visit me? 
Thank you mom for sharing your passion with me and for showing  me the value of bringing people together. Love you. 

“The most indispensable ingredient of all good home cooking: love for those you are cooking for.” -Sophia Loren.
  • Marshall
    5 years ago

    Great memories are made by and with great people. Had the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with my grandmother, who was also an outstanding cook like your mom. It wasn’t tamales and sopapillas, but it was memorable. Hope your Christmas was excellent and your school year is fabulous.

  • Juanita Giltner
    5 years ago

    I know how you feel. Every time I make Tamales the smell reminds me of my grandmother (who raised me, she passed this last August). Our house was the same way, there was never a time when someone came over to visit and there was not food cooking in the home. Reading your blog and about your family really brings back memories of mine, we grew up in a very similar fashion!

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