Dr. Taco’s notes

My cooking story

I have a fair amount of memories of my childhood (some more blurry than others), but there’s one that I have saved especially in my black heart (also it’s probably the oldest memory of all):

My grandma standing in the kitchen stirring something in a pan and me standing next to her.

I have many flashback memories of her and me in the kitchen, teaching me how to make gorditas with masa, clean corn for pozole, tasting food for saltiness or spiciness, preparing dough to bake, eating super spicy food together (yes, it was normal for small children in Mexico to eat spicy food), or just waiting for something on the stove to be cooked. My first 10 years of life were full of memories of me and my abuelita.

I owe her probably not just all the mitochondrial DNA that came with my mom, but also the joy of cooking. She was born during the Revolutionary War in Mexico, so she had a very strict “housewive” oriented education, where learning how to run a house was the most important. In spite of that, she always had a very progressive mentality, from her I got my spirit of always wanting more. She infused me with the love for cooking, not as a way of a woman’s obligation, but as a way of showing your appreciation, of caring for someone, and even as a way of dealing with emotions.

I can still remember her patiently hearing all kinds of insane things I would be saying while stirring a pot that smelled delicious. I think that with this experience, she also showed me a way of showing and channeling my emotions. No matter how confusing my brain can be about how I feel when cooking I’ll find a way to understand it. It’ll give me the peace of mind, and compassion that I need.

She would always cook something special for me or anyone in my family when in need. If I had a difficult day, she would cook me a nice piece of bread to make me feel better. If my mom would be busy and stressed at work, she would come home to a warm and tasty plate of food from my grandma. In this way, I grew up with the — very subconscious — idea that cooking for someone is loving someone. For me, there’s no greater act of showing love, than when cooking something for someone.

Cooking is caring, Cooking is loving

This all meant, that before I even started kindergarten I already had good training with household tasks in the kitchen thanks to my abuelita (I was a model kid in the school because I had very good motor skills).

After she left this world, she left me with the most beautiful gifts: the joy of spending hours in the kitchen cooking something and the good practice of patience (you know, when pozole takes the whole day to get completely cooked, it becomes a trait). Back then, I knew only the most basic things (which apparently are a high achievement for a 10-year-old), but I wanted to learn more and I also had a palate that knew how to differentiate different kinds of chiles. My curiosity and my (already) scientific spirit also led me to keep exploring and learning new things. I approached cooking — and still do — as a lab experiment, where you measure things (though sometimes it looks more like witchcraft, and later I have absolutely no idea what I did) and try recipes or techniques, sometimes the results are great, some others are very sad, but you always get some learning from it.

Me making khachapuri

In Mexico, cooking is a social activity, in a family reunion, the place to be is the kitchen. There is where all gossip and stories are told, where hugs and tears are shared, and where a warm taquito de sal would give relief to a hungry belly (or a broken heart) while the food is getting ready. ****

After coming to Berlin, one of the things I missed the most about Mexico was the food (because it’s ducking awesome there!), especially the one made by my maker — the original señora Margarita. Entering home after a long day of work, getting the smell of the warm food on the stove, and then having dinner on a table while gossiping about everything with my mom, it’s one of the greatest gifts life has given to me. Her food has a special taste — not just because it’s good, I’d dare to say that it has the taste of legacy and knowledge, which I can only aspire to achieve one day. My mom and me cooking pozole

Cooking has become a staple family activity for me in Berlin, so, in this rushed and stressful life, whenever I’m cooking something new, I will ask my mom for her advice, or I’ll tell her what I cook to get her feedback. My mom and señora cooking

Every time I taste something I’m cooking, I wonder whether my grandma would feel proud of her legacy in the kitchen. Luckily, I still have my mom to double-check when she’s around.