I spent a great deal of my young life rebelling against one thing: Being in the kitchen. I come from a traditional Mexican-American family and, in my mind, learning how to cook (and clean) meant you were destined to get married.
What did married mean? Cooking and cleaning up after messy, disrespectful children while your husband was out living a more interesting life. To me, it was all a trap that had to be avoided at any cost.
All the relationships I had I held at an arm's length so they didn't end up liking me enough to want to get married. Not only did I go out of my way to not be a particularly good girlfriend, I went as far as to not learn how to cook. As a child, I would ignore the steps my mother took to make Mexican Wedding Cakes, enchiladas, beans, posole, albondigas, and especially tacos. Her arms are scarred with splattered grease from frying the tortillas. I viewed them as marks of her servitude.
Loathing the idea of cooking did not get me out of kitchen. Being a girl meant that I had to help prep growing up. My job was the lowliest in the house (my brothers got to do yard work while my sister and I were stuck in the kitchen or cleaning the bathrooms). I had to grate the cheese.
That meant bloody fingers from the sharp grater, but worse was the volcanic tantrum I threw when my brothers, sisters, and dad would come by and take a handful of finely grated cheese and stuff it in their mouths and I would have to start over.
The cheese was for the many wonderful dishes my mom made almost every day. She had no recipes just instinct and it was always good. Sometimes the enchiladas were better than the time before, but even when they weren't perfect, they were still delicious.
My favorite dish was the quesadillas for breakfast. She would take a corn tortilla, fill it with jack cheese, dip it in the hot oil so it would fold and then fry the whole thing. She would then dab it with a paper towel to get the grease out and generously sprinkle it with salt. No other restaurant flour tortilla with cheddar cheese and sour cream could possibly compare to that.
Flash forward 20 years and I'm making those quesadillas for my husband and two boys. I cook and clean and until recently I even had a baking business where I cooked and cleaned. And I'm struggling to figure out how to make the dishes I ignored. I hated Albondigas, a Mexcian meatball soup, and refused to eat it let alone pay attention to how it was cooked.
Lately, though, I can't stop thinking about it. It's perfect for a Fall dinner, or as my mom would sometimes make it, a holiday appetizer. It's not too spicy like her posole that I make every New Year's Eve. And it's more exciting than the chicken and rice soup my mom made all of us kids when we were sick.
When Yahoo! Motherboard asked the group about their holiday traditions, I had to try to make it.
I called up my mom from the grocery store and asked for the recipe. Her "recipe" was more an idea than a guide to how to make it. She told me what to get, but no quantities or what exactly to do with the ingredients. She said, "make the meatballs." So I rolled hamburger with spices and set them aside. (It was only after I put them in the boiling water did I remember that meatballs usually have eggs, and bread crumbs or rice.) She said, "saute the vegetables in the pot first." How many potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini? "As many as you need."
This is how I usually cook, actually. I just add things and add spices until whatever I'm making comes out right. If it's good, I write it down. If it's not good, I try to forget it. Thankfully, because I was bringing the soup to a potluck, the soup was a big hit. Not traditional Albondigas, but very good.
I wish I could share the recipe, but it would go something like this: Make the meatballs, saute the vegetables, then add water and stock. Drop the meatballs in the boiling water. Add spices until it tastes like you're 10-years old and you're sitting in your mother's kitchen. Enjoy.
Next time I make the soup, I'm writing down the recipe. And I'm going to make my kids watch.
I'm a member of Yahoo! Motherboard and my post was based on a suggested topic.