Smells of taco seasonings, tortillas frying in oil and cilantro in salsa remind me of my grandma. Many of my memories of her include her standing in the kitchen, cooking meals for me and my family.
Sometimes, she would laugh, crack jokes and sneak her dogs food while she cooked. Other times, she would be fastidiada—the Spanish word for irritable—because the kitchen was hot, and she was tired. I smile as I remember her being the latter. She was a spunky, sassy lady.
My grandma passed away in November of last year, and my heart is still healing from the pain of losing her. Cooking has been one way for my heart to heal.
Cooking has been one way for my heart to heal.
A few weeks ago, I went home to spend some time with my family. I promised my grandad a few days before that I would make him homemade enchiladas, one of his favorite meals and a meal that my grandma was known for in our family. I made chicken enchiladas for myself a few days before but cooking beef enchiladas (per my grandad’s request) for my family was an experience that made me feel closer to my grandma than I have felt since she passed.
As I let the sauce simmer on the stove while I ground the meat, tears began to roll down my face. I smelled the familiar smells that I associate with her. It was like she was in the kitchen with me.
I continued to cook, and the process took me almost two hours. Toward the middle of the process, I was tired and hot. I myself began to feel fastidiada. I began to cry and then laugh as I realized this is what she must have felt too. In tandem with these emotions was a deep desire to make the meal perfect. I wanted everyone to enjoy the meal and to leave our house with a full stomach and a happy heart.
I think my grandma must have felt the same way when she cooked for us. I was cooking as an act of love for my family. She did the same for us.
I was cooking as an act of love for my family. She did the same for us.
As I felt these feelings, I started to cry thinking about how much she loved us. She loved us so much that she was willing to be hot, tired and irritated just to serve us a delicious meal that she knew we would enjoy. Perhaps she too felt the pressures of perfectionism, and these emotions were the result of that. I felt her love more than ever before as I cooked for my family because I had this new understanding of her love.
My grandad loved the enchiladas, and I heard him tell my mom, “These taste like your mom’s.” I was exhausted after two hours of cooking, but my heart was filled with the love of my grandma, and this new connection that I felt with her.
Healing is a long and hard process. It looks different for everyone. Cooking has been an instrument for healing in my life. It allows me to take care of my family and love them in the same way that my grandma did.
My enchiladas will never be as good as hers, and I will miss her laughter in the kitchen forever. I miss her constantly. I think of her every day as I stand in the kitchen and cook.
Is there an activity or hobby that reminds you of a loved one who you’ve lost? How does this help you connect with them?
Image via Raisa Zwart Photography