I have a friend who always tags her foodie pictures with #foodismylovelanguage. And I get it! Because there are a few of us who show others how much we love them by feeding them every opportunity that arises.
I love preparing special meals for our visitors–surprising whomever I can with a meal from their homeland. I had a game night for Minnesotan friends from work where I made Tatertot Hot-dish. Ick. They loved it. I didn’t. When our visiting worker from the Dominican Republic vetoed Italian food, I cooked an all day affair which turned out to be Sancocho. Sometimes I like to ask if anyone wants something special–and I have whipped up everything from chocolate chip cookies to cornbread and beans.
I don’t just cook foods from other places for other people though–often I will think of someone, then cook a food that reminds me of them. For example, I have been really homesick for Chiapas lately. I normally visit there during the summer months, but we are skipping our trip this summer. What came out of my kitchen as a result was black beans and salsa–which we ate with tortillas and fresh cheese. I roasted the onions and peppers on the stovetop before adding the blacked parts to my tomato pulp (procured by “shredding” the tomato flesh on the cheese grater). The more time consuming the project is, the more time I have to think on them!
This morning I made homemade cinnamon rolls–too many! I still have a pan of cinnamon rolls sitting in the kitchen! There’s a gallon of iced tea on the counter-top, and buttermilk just waiting for some biscuits to be made tomorrow. Our basil plant needed to be cut back, so I made a friend’s pesto recipe a couple days ago (and shared the frozen pesto leftover with another friend who stopped by to visit).
I may not be able to be all the places that I am thinking of today: Virginia, Tennessee, Chiapas, etc. But each memory inspires something new to happen in my kitchen. Memories of those places are taking over my mind–and dancing across my plate. Oh, yes! I do believe that food is my love language too!
I remember when I moved to Mexico, I had the hardest time the first two weeks. I didn’t know what to eat–and resorted to a daily diet of beans, tortillas, fresh cheese, and Valentina hot sauce. It didn’t take long for me to adjust, and now I miss fresh cheese, tamales on demand, and more fresh cheese.
I’ve become a little spoiled here in the north. I can buy most items I would buy in the States. What I can’t buy I have learned to live without, or I make it the long way! This has actually been something I revel in, and I have a list I have been compiling of what I will not go back on.
- Popcorn: It has taken me 30 years of my life to finally make real popcorn. We have lived microwave-less for two years, and that also meant popcorn-less. Until now. Now I am unstoppable. I am a popcorn making machine! I love the flavor, and I am afraid I may never return to bags of popcorn with questionable ingredients. I also love anything that I get to choose my own oil–olive oil popcorn tastes just as delicious!
- Salad Dressing: The other day, I had to share my recipe for honey mustard dressing with the ladies at school. I was almost embarrassed. I mean, they were RAVING about how amazing it was, and I was over there saying, “Three ingredients. That’s it. Mayo, Spicy Brown Mustard, Honey.”
- Pancakes: This was new for me, because I am not a big pancake person. These were the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted in my life. Recipe Simple ingredients. Easy to make. Fresh taste. Now, if only real maple syrup didn’t cost an arm and a leg…
- Taco Seasoning: I remember making tacos with my family. We scrambled meat and added this package of taco seasoning. Without it, tacos just weren’t tacos. Well, it should come as no surprise that Mexicans don’t actually season meat with packages of powder. My suegra mother-in-law and my husband make the tastiest meat you’ve ever tasted. They do it with onion, garlic, salt, and tomato. That’s it. I, however, do find myself occasionally wishing for the tacos of my youth. And when I do, in goes a little garlic (powder), fresh ground pepper, cayenne pepper, chile pepper, fresh sea salt, and pepper flakes. Yah. That’s it. Just go easy on the pepper if you are sensitive to spice.
- Mixed Salad: This is embarrassing. My grandmother would die if she saw the money you spend on bags of salad. Basically, I could make a “fresh spring mix” for a fraction of the cost for the bag of salad. The other thing is the flavor. I think I may be more sensitive to flavors now–because the taste of lettuce in a bag is strange. It also smells strange. Now I buy a couple different kinds of lettuce, wash it in cold water (in my case soak it in disinfectant), then I put it between pieces of paper towel or regular towels and roll it up. I store it in a plastic bag in the fridge, and it stays nice and crispy! Making a mix of lettuces, cabbage, fresh veggies–no big deal. Salad in minutes.
- Granola Bars: Do you know what is in granola? Basically the most basic ingredients in the world–then a bunch of stuff I can’t identify to preserve it. I love making granola. I can put whatever I want in there, and I don’t feel guilty about sharing it with my baby. I love making granola with oats, honey, olive oil, dried cranberries, pecans, almonds, peanut butter, chocolate chips, and chia seeds. Yummo! Here are two good sites: Inspired Taste and Running With Spoons
- Muffins, Rolls, Other Breads: Bread used to be my unicorn. It was some mystical being that I hadn’t personally been introduced to. Victor and I occasionally buy bread, but we usually stick with corn tortillas. Once upon a time, we bought a bag of bread, then we went on summer vacation. I am not kidding: it didn’t mold. I know we live in the desert and that there isn’t much moisture, but bread that doesn’t change in appearance after a month is a little scary. I love making bread. It feels like I am really giving my all to my family and guest when I feed them a warm out-of-the-oven roll. It isn’t that hard, but I have found that, yes, you can leave bread to rise for too long.
- Cake: Don’t buy cake in a box. Yuck. It tastes bad. Enough said.
- Chicken Broth: It is so simple to boil a chicken in water. Yes, you can add some veggies to add flavor, but just chicken in water does the trick too. Especially if you leave the skin on that guy. You can make your broth skim by cooling it afterwards and removing the fats from the top. But the fat gives flavor, so I suggest you leave it. I mean, it is mostly water, after all…
- Flavored Oatmeal: We used to fight over the Strawberries and Cream oatmeal packets when we were young. This is before Quaker got smart and started selling boxes of ONLY Strawberries and Cream. Then, when I was expecting, I read this article that suggesting making your own fruit and oats to avoid extra sugar. Oh my. Oh my! I cook the strawberries first with sugar. Then I add water, milk, and oats. Sometimes I slice apple and cook it with cinnamon and sugar. This is so good. And so much better than a packet of dehydrated fruit, flavored powder and sugar, and quick oats. I use real oats, people. It starts my day off with a bang!
I think it is clear that I have a love affair with food. This isn’t even about preservatives, all organic, non-gluten mumbo-jumbo. This is about flavor. It tastes better if you do it right. The fact that it is healthier is a side-benefit! Provecho!