I am the John-Boy of my family; the oldest and the most prophesied over. For years the elders in my life, mentors in their own respect, have spoken things over me that I cherish and still hope to see manifest in my lifetime.
To listen and learn from people I admire, though I do not agree with them, has been the most humbling lesson of my life. Faith is precious, though it may not resemble my own. There is so much I have learned from the older generations of my family. There is one prophecy I hope to fulfill soon. Ever since I can remember my grandfather has always told me that one day I will write a book about our family. This may seem trite and disingenuous, but he and I both know what a treasure our history is. It is important to understand one another’s experiences and to honor our history by recording it. And so it is that I come to present a meager offering of that history, at least my experience of it.
(an excerpt from The Book)
Patriarchal expectations aside, these beautiful women have developed some way to hold fast to their independence. They gather together in kitchens, a place that our culture has demanded they rule, and they talk. And talk and talk and talk. And all the world’s problems are solved before you can say Arroz con Gandules. And they touch each other’s shoulders in support, sharing each other’s burdens. And they teach the younger generations about family and faith and flan. Those kitchens are sacred ground where worries are flattened out like tortillas, hurts are thrown into the oven to be refined into strength, and love is the ingredient that makes life worth all the effort.
These women are precious gems that have rubbed against each other so often they have made each other shine. This realization came to me quite a long time ago. When I decided to embrace this ancient tradition that was my heritage it became clear to me that my world would always include these things.
Cooking is always going to be synonymous with friendship. My children will know as surely as I did standing at the counter in Abuela’s kitchen watching her fry up the Bacalaitos: family is the most important thing.
I can walk into a group of women with full confidence thanks to Abuela and the fearless way she lives. I can learn new things because she learned them first. I can live my life and give away everything I have to the people around me because she has shown me how rich she is with love. It is an irreplaceable lesson, a humbling reminder that I am responsible for myself and the impact my own life has on this world.
“Long after we are dead and gone, for a thousand years our tale be sung, how Faith compelled and bore us on. Oh Sarah, fair and barren one, come to Canaan, come.”