Communion and Sustenance
“Food for us comes from our relatives, whether they have wings or fins or roots. That is how we consider food. Food has a culture. It has a history. It has a story. It has relationships.”
– Winona LaDuke
My mom does not keep a recipe book. Every meal she made was made from memory and intuition. No measuring cups: only the knowledge of her eyes and hands that could measure the exact amount of spices or ingredients needed for the food. And her food was always perfect!
When I attempted to learn her recipes, I asked her to teach me and she invited me to watch her, but she would cook so fast that I would often miss steps or ingredients. I gave up. I found it impossible to learn that way. Many years later, as my mom’s aging became more noticeable to me, I once again decided to learn some of her recipes. She was visiting once and I asked her to make enchiladas. This time, instead of trying to take notes, I decided to take pictures of every part of the process: boiling to hydrate the dried chilies, put them in the blender with clove and cinnamon, add water, bring to a boil, add pilloncillo and some corn starch to thicken the sauce. Then work on the filling. The sweet smell of the sauce filled the air in my kitchen and awoke the memories of my children who soon rushed to find out what was cooking.
This is a recipe from our region of origin, a recipe created in valleys and mountains of the southeast part of Jalisco, in the area near the volcano. It is the recipe my mom learned from my grandmother, and that my grandmother learned from my great-grandmother and so on. I make it from time to time. I don’t have exact measurements so I am still in the process of intuiting the right amount of ingredients but I notice my progress every time. I have been able to recreate other meals with success, but the enchiladas have been challenging. Still, the smell of the chilies and spices together bring back the memories of family meals and shared moments. In the spaces between each step of the process, I add prayers and blessings to the food, as I know my mom and grandmothers did, too.
Food is nourishment and cultura; it carries the love, wisdom, and stories of survival of a people. When I cook the meals I learned from my mother, I am in communion with life and with my ancestors and I receive sustenance for the body and the spirit.
May every meal bring you nourishment of body and spirit. May every pause to eat remind you of your connection to others. May gratitude be the only response for the gift of food and all the love and work behind it.