One of my fondest memories growing up, was how the family would all get together at my Grandmothers house and all of us children would all be running around in her backyard off 22nd and Lombrano streets, in the city’s west side. Soon enough, she’d call us all in for lunch and more than half the time it would include Vermicelli, or as she would call it; Fideo. Her kitchen would have the wonderful scent of both Fideo and fresh hand rolled flour tortillas! We would all sit around the kitchen table, just laughing and talking about what we were going to do next. Growing up in California, my mother didn’t make Fideo very often, so I really looked forward to the vacations we’d take here in San Antonio. Even to this day,
whenever I’m at the grocery store, I can’t help but picked up a box or two, it’s become a habit. And whenever anyone cooks it, I always find myself reminiscingabout my younger years and my Grandmother!
One of things I like to think about is how small something can be and how
meaningful it can be. When I was younger, I grew up in Southern California, so we
could only come to San Antonio during the summers. I remember spending time
bouncing between houses of my 4 Aunts and my Grandparents. Normally, I’d stay
with my Grandparents, since they had the largest house. And with every meal, my
Grandmother would always cut and cook Serrano peppers and add it to the sides of
our plates. She had plants that would produce the peppers in her backyard and
would have us go out and pick the ripe ones. So, to this day, whenever I’m at the
grocery store, I find myself buying these peppers and prepare them just like I saw
my Grandmother did for so many years. And whenever I’m cooking them, I find
myself thinking about spending time at my Grandparents house, when I was
One of the traditions that my family enjoys is going to a local Mexican
restaurant on Babcock Road, called “Jalisco Grill”. Every Friday, the restaurant has a
“Molcajete special”. A Molcajete is a kitchen item that is used by the Latino culture to
grind and smash spices and chilies to make salsas, among other items. At the
restaurant, they place beef and chicken strips inside the molcajete, add bell pepper
and onion slices, they then place a jalapeno pepper inside, and then finally, they
cover it all with Mexican shredded cheese and place into the oven to cook. The
cheese melts all over everything and is simply divine. It also comes with rice, beans,
lettuce and a tomato slice on the side. You get all of this, plus a large sweet tea for
the amazing price of $5.99! We all look forward to getting together; sitting at the
same table each time and even having the same waitress help us. It’s a great time
and good way to catch up with everyone at the end of the workweek.
Many people love to eat enchiladas. The best part about living in San Antonio is that you can eat just about any food that you can find in Mexico. I used to love to travel to Mexico often. I miss visiting my Tias and my primos. The thing I miss the most is the food. San Antonio is such a diverse city that you can find many traditional foods that you will find in Mexico. Enchiladas is a famous dish amongst Mexicans. But enchiladas in Texas are considered Tex-Mex. Normally enchiladas would be made with a chile con carne gravy and filled with shedder cheese. Enchiladas estilo Potosi are how they are made in San Luis, Potosi. Depending on the region the enchiladas will differ. I traveled into San Luis, Potosi a few years ago. There are Mercado’s filled with different vendors. So much delicious food is found there. When I tried these enchiladas they were different than what I was used to. These enchiladas are made with a red sauce made from chile pods of guajillo’s and ancho. The tortillas used are fried with the sauce then it is filled with queso fresco. The enchiladas are topped with more queso and shredded cabbage and fried carrots and potatoes. They are very delicious. It is so sad that the violence in Mexico has increased so much that it has become unsafe to travel. I really miss traveling to Mexico.
In my family along with many other Mexican Catholic families we celebrate Lent. Lent is a religious observance that begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday. Aside of Christmas and Thanksgiving I love Lent. I guess any excuse to eat delicious foods! During Lent you are not supposed to eat meat on Friday’s. Besides fish there are other delicious foods that we enjoy in place of meat dishes. A typical cuaresma plate would have nopales (cactus), lentejas (lentils), and albondigas de papa o camarron (potatoes or shrimp egg battered patties). The best part of the Lent dish would be the capirotada. Capirotada is a bread pudding and depending on the region from Mexico that your family is from will determine on how this bread pudding is made. My mother’s recipe is my favorite. I will briefly explain how it’s done in my family. In a pot with boiling water you add piloncillo (brown sugar), cinnamon sticks and cloves. You allow the ingredients to boil until it becomes almost a thin syrup. In the meantime you cut bolios (French bread) in pieces and allow them to toast. You then put the pieces of bread in a deep pan and make layers consisting of the bread, raisins and pecans. Then you add the syrup over the layered bread and then you top it off with shredded American cheese. It can be served warm or cold. Many recipes will vary with some containing peanuts and shredded coconut. I’m really looking forward to eat capirotada!
This is a classic in my family in terms of cost efficiency, quickness and easy to make, and did I mention cost effective? There was a time where food was scarce for my family. Not in the sense of struggling to eat every day exactly but it was never going to be anything special or in large amounts and most definitely wasn’t going to be us dining out! Sometimes my parents would work two jobs or even 18 of the 24 hours of the day when I was young and conchas was the only thing I could make from memory as a second grade kid. Today, no one in my immediate family struggles with an empty fridge, thank the lord but it’s interesting what the rougher times of the past do as a bonding mechanism. Believe it or not every now and then my family invites me over form dinner just to stay connected weekly and out of ALL the things to choose from to prepare, once in a good while it is the famously simple sopa de conchas! Oddly enough, that same feeling of togetherness and huddle of love returns during that meal. The feeling that only a time of lack and limitation could cause a clan to come together in huge appreciations even if over small meals. Now, we eat from a beuatifully crafted long, perfectly stained mahogany table but when that soup bowl is set in place that moment forces a humble smile of recognized blessing that even though times have improved, it’s the little things of the past that make us who we are today. I’m proud to say the cliche of conchas multiple times a week is a part of our family story!
A week ago, I made some mole for my husband. I blended the jar of mole with some Abuelita chocolate and a little peanut butter. I try to make sure not to make the sauce too thick so I can combine it nicely with the chicken. Most families, like my grandmother, just pours the mole sauce on top of the piece of chicken. My husband and I both prefer to shred the chicken and mix the mole sauce with it. Traditionally, this dish is made for family gatherings or birthday parties. I don’t need a special occasion to enjoy this delicious meal with my husband. Every time I eat mole, I am reminded of my grandmother. She would get upset with me because I didn’t like mole as a child. I would just have some typical American food like macaroni and cheese. I didn’t grow to like most traditional Mexican dishes until adulthood.
This is one of our favorite recipes my Mom was given to by my one of my cousins. She owned her own little restaurant and this was also a favorite on the menu. My cousin recently died of Leukemia but now we have a memory of her. The recipe calls for corn tortillas, mozzarella cheese, shredded chicken, and a can of Campbell’s Mushroom Soup. If you are lactose intolerant not a good choice to eat but it’s so good.