December 13, 2019
It was early morning as I joined Mi Abuelita, Elena for our Sunday ritual to go out like something out of a horror movie and kill 6 chickens, in preparation for our Sunday dinner to feed about 20 persons and growing.
First I’d run around and help her catch one, I mainly did the running around, she used the neck dislocation method; she was short, strong and fast. She turned away from me, so I wouldn’t be exposed to “all” the gory ritual. My other job was to help her pluck the feathers and singe some of the feathers off. To this day I cannot forget the smell of singeing chicken feathers.
From there it was quite fascinating to me how Mi Abuelita or Aunt Lupe or both determined our menu, whether we would have barbecue chicken, fried, soup, baked, molé, or pollo con arroz. I’m sure part of that decision making process had to do with the seasons. But, it was always “A Chicken For Every Sunday Dinner.”
My all time favorite was fried. Oh my gosh, they and Mi Mama made good fried chicken using their secret ingredient, buttermilk.
Every Sunday of my childhood life I could count on having chicken since Mis Abuelitos raised them and we had many. If we did deter it would be the infrequent Sunday pot roast or the occasional menudo or birria (goat) since Mis Abuelitos also raised goats, and we had a lot of those also.
I take pride in cooking Mi Abuelita or Aunt Lupe’s recipes, y no se diga las de Mi Mama, but of utmost importance to me personally is to preserve these recipes for generations to come. It doesn’t really matter to me if future generations in Mi Familia are all eating prepared packaged meals like Blue Apron, or any other space-aged food.It is necessary for them to know their history, their roots, their relations, our anecdotal stories.
Sunday’s were the day we all gathered. Good food was the lure. But Sunday was more than just dinner: It was time held still, time to relax and engage with the people we loved for a long, loud, drawn-out afternoon. Yes, loud, Mi Familia affectionately said they had Italian blood because they spoke with their hands and were loud.
For me, it was time to play with my cousins, the Garza’s. We had so much fun terrorizing Polvadero.
I’m not sure how or when we lost our Sunday dinner ritual, but we did. It’s like the day the membrillo (quince) died, finding a quince now is like finding a rare archeological treasure.
Mis Abuelitos moved from Polvadero where a lot of my fondest childhood memories were formed. Where I learned to garden and gather food, to care for animals, to quilt, to cook and where I was allowed to play and have fun asa child. My sense of wonder was fostered here. And, another gift I inherited from Mi Abuelito besides gardening and quilting, was how to make something from nothing, it has served me well on how to be resourceful in this disposable society.
Mis Abuelitos moved to Coalinga on 5th Street. It was a tiny kitchen that didn’t really allow for big dinners like Polvadero did. It only seated 4 persons. I recall you could barely squeeze in through the back door since the dining room set was there. And, I recall the family always used the side door on 5th street. Not sure why this was so, but the front door had a rolled up towel on the floor up against the door to prevent the draft from coming in.
But, perhaps it didn’t have anything to do with space, the times and demands were changing and out of necessity we all succumbed to the “neon concrete jungle.” Even though we still had family visits on Sunday and the occasional backyard barbecues on 5th Street, things had changed. We had moved from the country to the metropolitan city of Coalinga (jeje) and I missed Polvadero.I went away to college and the idea of sitting down to Sunday dinner seems to have fallen away by the wayside.
In as much as I think about my own immediate family, Sunday dinners are a tradition that should be kept alive.For us it would entail us flying in from different parts of the country! As my baby sister so succinctly put it:
Good Morning to the sister in Hawaii
Good Afternoon to the sister and brother in California and
Good Night to the sister im Texas.
Abrazos y Besos
Thank You, Father