Spoon Full of Love
I hear her, it’s my
Mom—She’s chopping and stirring
It’s time for dinner
Usually around four, I start to smell it. The scent of Picadillo, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Chili, or Bandeja Campesino. My hunger, which was previously nonexistent, bubbles to life. I ask my mom what’s for dinner, while she’s dicing carrots and defrosting the peas. Today it is Ropa Vieja, which means old clothes in Spanish. I guess the Cuban stew could look like old clothes, but to me it looks like shredded beef with carrots and peas. And trust me, it tastes far better than old clothes. My mom has now moved on to dicing the onions. As she chops, I dip a silver spoon into the pot of black beans resting on the stove, as I talk to my mom about her day. This is what any given afternoon in my house looks like.
In my family, we almost always eat dinner together. We eat around 5:00 almost every day (not too early, not too late). My mom cooks most nights, even though she works full time. Sometimes dinner is just plain cheese quesadillas, but I love them as much as my mom's homemade Shrimp Oreganata. Sometimes I wonder if she has some magical power that makes every bite-full of food taste so delicious. Maybe it is because everything is homemade? When we were little she used to say, “My food is better than the restaurant because I put in a spoonful of love.” If only we could put a spoonful of love in everyone’s dinner. I bet it would solve world peace. (Afterall, her food can make my siblings stop fighting and sometimes that is a near impossibility.) But dinnertime in my family somehow manages to go beyond the flavor of the food and our eating of it...
At first glance, dinner is only dinner. It’s a required meal of the day for hungry children, parents, and grandparents. But in my house, food unites us. Over our Ropa Vieja, we talk about our lives. My brother and sister(the comedians of the family) bicker because my brother tried to wipe his food-covered hands on my sister’s thick mane of curly hair. My mom yells at them to stop fighting, while my grandpa and I try to hide our laughter. When my siblings stop fighting, my mom asks all of us about our day. Afterwards, we hear my grandpa’s story about a Cuban man he met during one of his construction jobs. (The Ropa Vieja sparked the memory for him.) Seizing the opportunity to talk about Cuba, my dad launches into a lesson about politics and Fidel Castro. He reminds me of my Godfather who fled from Cuba with his family to the United States.
You see, dinner is much more than the food we eat in my family. It’s the effort and love my mom puts into a meal. It’s a fiesta for our taste buds. It’s a learning experience. It’s a celebration. It’s my family sitting together happily, madly or sadly, but together, nevertheless...