I Own You!

Women of the Night & Day (Mujeres de la Noche y Dia)

Channel surfing this morning looking for the Cooking Channel, I found a powerful channel. The Church Channel, there was a show on called the “The Sisterhood Stories.” Addressing the global problem of children being sold into the human trafficking trade and used as sex slaves.

By no means did we have a “Leave It To Beaver” existence, thank goodness, but my siblings and I were very sheltered, protected and timed. Our elders were very vigilant! We were all very aware of our surroundings. You just couldn’t but help, it was all around you.
I was young, everyone in our town of 2,000 knew each other, and knew it went on; prostitution, human trafficking and slavery, although human trafficking and slavery weren’t called that in the 1960’s. Everyone just accepted this, as well…..the “way of life.” It was accepted as it was something that had to be done for their survival and the town’s survival also! The young ladies had a need to escape their countries and had a service (their bodies) and Huron could help them escape their country and pay minimally for their service. It was viewed as a business!

I grew up in a town named Huron which seemed at times like it was lawless. We not only had human trafficking we had a heroin epidemic.
I recall I was about 16 years old, one morning awoke to my Mama, calling my name from her bedroom upstairs, kinda whispering loudly as to not awake my brothers and sisters. She was peering from a corner of the drapes. She had heard the sound of a car pulling up and leaving. By the time she looked out her window a body laid on our front yard. He had been dumped from a car like trash. She called the police. We were all very shaken up by that for a long time.
I knew the young man from school, he was probably 18 years old. His name was Joe, a very handsome young man. He had died of an overdose of heroin. May you Rest in Peace Hermano, I had not thought of you in many years.
This was very common, not in our front yard, but in Huron.

I would see “them” as I walked to and from school or when I walked to Lassen Market to buy corn flakes and milk. I would see the girls looking like little girls dressed up to pretend play; although with way too much make-up, very scantily-clad and cheap perfume that gave me a headache. They were trying to look older than they were.

Let me paint you a picture of Huron. My family arrived here from Chicago sometime in the late 1940’s. I’m sure what drew them here was that Huron was an agricultural town. They could work here. I’m sure that’s what drew many law-abiding Mexican families in search of the American Dream of improving their lives. They wanted the best for their children, they wanted their children to study and become productive citizens. They simply wanted a better life for their children. My family did not come here demanding or asking for anything.
They we’re willing to work to attain a part of the American Dream. And work they did!
But, as in most communities there exists the ugliness and darkness, we prefer to avoid, ignore or pretend it doesn’t exist!

Even with all this, I have fond childhood memories of Huron. But, I saw it change from the town where everyone knew everyone. To playing hide-and-seek till late, and playing hop-scotch on the streets while we ate watermelon on a hot summer evening.
To a large influx of people arriving from border towns. I saw graffiti appearing where once we had never had that. I saw gang activity developing.
If you think we had had a lawless town then, it was now the Wild West Pancho Villa style! Where the police hid! It was time for my family to leave. The year after I left college in 1971, they moved to Coalinga.

I recall hearing instances that police were paid off to ignore these problems by the bar owners either with money or sexual favors. And, it goes without saying, the bar owners always had his pick of all the girls also. They were his property! Imagine having 10 to 20 girls working every night. You could conceivably make a lot of money. At one point I think we counted approximately twelve cantinas in Huron and just four churches. El Michoacan, Jimmy’s Place, Smokehouse, El Rancho, Mechi’s Place and many more of which names I have thankfully forgotten.
Men would get out of work and hit their favorite cantina and girl. Or move from cantina to cantina in search of something that cannot be found in bars! I recall hearing of wives who had left their husbands because the husbands repeatedly spent all their checks at the cantina!
Very young Mexican girls; ages twelve to twenty were herded into town like cattle. This occurred often; I would say once a month if not more.
As I became older I heard stories from my Mama, of how some of these young girls suffered crossing the border; they were raped and beaten. And most horrific, is while here they would be abused, exploited and beaten repeatedly also.
We all know the reasons why they leave their countries. Here they at least had a roof over their heads, they had food, some even had pretty clothes and jewelry, but in exchange lost there souls.
They were taken to bars, where they were forced to drink, dance and have sex with many men. Typically the bar had rooms or a trailer for them to use for their “business.”

They were all housed together in “chantes” infested with mice and cockroaches. They slept on a thin mattress on the floor with a vegetable crate as their nightstand, always with the rosary and a Virgin de Guadalupe picture. They were paid $20. per Juan. I’m not sure how much of that they actually kept.

I have wondered what happened to these young ladies. As a woman I feel their struggles and pain.
I would like to think some married and became part of main-stream society. But, I also know a body and soul filled with so much trauma would find it difficult to function in a role of a traditional family. I pray that they were able to break those chains and live productive lives.

While others gave into the lifestyle of alcohol and drugs as they became old women. I wonder how many succumbed and became drug addicts. Perhaps ending were they started, in a cigarette, beer, urine smelling bar infested with rats, cockroaches, men and women seeking to get rid of their pains.

I also now realize why my family was so strict. When I was young I just thought they were mean people! It was because of all these toxins around us, that they wanted to protect and shield us.

I now know my experiences were my training, so I would be ready to be able to help. I know about this lifestyle because I would hear my uncles, Mama, neighbors and the whole town talking about these young girls. They were the “talk of the town.”

I have since learned if we focus on the prostitutes or the heroin addicts we don’t have to deal with our own issues and problems.
I am aware of the seriousness of the problem, but to just talk without action is not productive.

I can’t do everything, but I must do something!
I am aware and concerned for children of the world who are broken and discarded. I know God wants me to be available to what He wants to put in my heart and hands to allow His life to pierce the darkness. I know I must:
1. Pray incessantly
2. Be Aware
3. Practical assistance

Abrazos y Besos

Bad Moms (the movie)

When I first wrote this my Mama was still alive on May 12, 2012. She has since left us to be with Our Lord on August 12, 2012. My Mama was born in Chicago, Illinois. All of her 6 children were born in California.
The original has been modified.

As Mother’s Day approaches I reflect on my Mama, who is 72 years old and of an era of women that no longer exist and a breed of women that is a dying breed, literally and figuratively.
To my Mama, and all of the Madres who picked the crops, I say Gracias Mujeres Trabajadoras! They contributed in making California the fruit and vegetable bowl of the country. But, more importantly, they raised strong children with strong values, while working in the fields.”
It is so hard to convey the beauty of anyone’s spirit, but our Mama was the real thing. She was soft, compassionate and loved children. She could also be stubborn, a no-nonsense woman of her convictions, and her word was better than any contract. My Mama did not have a formal education beyond the 7th grade. She had to work in the fields, to help her family. But, boy oh boy was she sharp. My Mama had more common sense in her pinkie, than I’ve seen in most.

My Mama never attended an opera, but carried herself regally. She loved all people and had the ability to meet someone and within 5 minutes the person would be spilling their heart and life story to her.
She passed this gift on to me, also. Another gift; I have the ability to go to the Eiffel Tower or the Vatican with the same ease and comfort as if I was visiting my hometown or walking and interacting with people in the slums throughout Jamaica, Mexico or Guatemala.

I am now able to see all of the “good qualities and lessons” she passed on to her children, through her many struggles.
We all thought my Mama had supernatural powers; she knew what we were thinking and feeling; she knew when we were up to no good, and would lead and guide us. But, now we all understand she was just very wise and intuitive Mama.
There were many verbalized and modeled lessons she taught us; invaluable lessons about work, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life.
She wanted her children to break out of poverty of learned helplessness! She sent us to work in the fields, so we would know how hard it was. And, to break out of this cycle!
And, then there were the unsaid lessons of teaching me to work for my dreams, not to expect them to happen.

Women whom I consider some of the first “working women” and talk about ” farm to table” or how “to live off the land. ” At times that’s all they had to feed their families; whatever crop they were working on at that season, that would be dinner!
Women who woke up at 3 a.m. to make breakfast and countless burritos for breaks & lunch. Which usually comprised of a bundle of burritos and a thermos of coffee. And then going to do back-breaking work all day long, under very treacherous conditions, this was pre-Cesar Chavez movement days. What I mean is sometimes no outhouses, breaks or water and the short hoe was still in existence.
I Thank God, that I don’t have to wake up at 3, as she did. And, that my husband is so cool, he would never demand I iron his shirts, as my father did.

I remember the shirts mi Mama use to press for my father; they were very white, she scrubbed them on her washboard. And they were stiff from starch, as he demanded! And this wasn’t a can starch, this was a starch they made, if I recall it was blue and a goopy concoction that she washed into the clothes, similar to Vano. This is how my father demanded his shirts, and it was a painstaking task!

She then came home to cook, to wash and get the kids ready for school the following day. No time for re-viewing homework or too tired to read a Dr. Seuss night time story to her children.
Only to repeat the cycle the next day…..and next…..and next.
These were women who rarely went to the dr. and usually gave birth to their children in their shanty campos or camps, usually with the help of an elderly woman, who more than likely had had her own brood, so under “old day” standards, that should qualify her similar to a mid- wife status!

I’m not sure if you are familiar with campos? They are a step above tents. They are rows and rows of one room housing, where large families lived. A small hot plate or the families cooked outside. With a community bathroom for all to share. Each camp had its own bus, to transport the people to work. We lived at Campo Uno, Varela Camp and Campo 22.
My belief is that “campos” are a continuation of the plantation, then came government projects.
Her week-ends were not for herself or to go shopping, or go and treat herself to a mani-pedi, but to clean, iron and wash in a wringer washer or washboard only to repeat this cycle over and over.
Even though times were very tough, I always heard the joyful sound of the radio blasting Mexican music and my Mama singing, my Mama had a beautiful voice. She also loved to dance, and was a very good dancer. My Mama loved to laugh and was very witty and quick.
She taught us to be early-risers lol. She taught us the virtues of hard-work.
She taught us how to hum or sing as she kept beat to the pallote (rolling pin) while she rolled out countless home-made flour tortillas. Everything was made from scratch, boxed food, take- out nor pizza were available to us, or did not exist.
She taught us how to take pride in a job well done and not to do things “half-way.”
She taught us how to make something out of very little. She taught us creativity.
She taught us, that even though they had very little, you should share, there was always room for one more at the table.
She taught all of her children to be self-sufficient. I recall living on Apple Street and seeing my Abuelita and Mama give burritos and water to the hobos, whom used the railways near Apple Street in Huron.
She taught us to be patient; that it didn’t matter if you finished first, but to finish!
That money is not the most important thing in life, but God is.
And, that money does not bring you happiness.
That we may not have had toys, but that the whole world was our playground!
She taught us not to expect a toy or candy every time we went to the store; first we could not afford it and if we made a fuss we would surely get a spanking!
She taught all of her children how to cook, wash, iron and keep an orderly home, and to take pride in our home.
My Mama taught us that there is dignity in any job you do.
To fight, persevere, and never give-up.
That failure is not an option, but merely a temporary set-back.
That when we think GOD does not answer our prayers, perhaps that’s not what He wants for us.
She introduced God to all her children, some of just took longer to develop a relationship with Him.
We learned herbal home remedies and nature’s gifts. Now it is quite fashionable for many into new age hocus pocus to experiment with herbs and crystals.
To respect the land, and it will re-pay you back.
We were never picky eaters, because we knew that’s all there was. There were no choices! We  ate what she served us!
Mama, toward the end, when it was too difficult for you to walk, I remember the sparkle and excitement in your eyes when we shared our lives with you; if we had eaten something you had never tasted, or when we went somewhere you had never been. You were so happy for us to be experiencing things you never had. You lived through all of your kids. You lived each of our adventures as if you were right there with us. I recall buying you lamb chops; your favorite and going on our back road rides.
She taught us to respect our elders, regardless if we agreed with them or not!

You know as a child I would think, does it really matter if I know how to cook? At a very young age I wanted to break the conventional and traditional script written for me of being a tortilla maker and having many babies. I wanted to explore, travel, and attend college. And my Mama was my biggest supporter. A very progressive woman way ahead of her time.
And now, I realize my husband really appreciates the fact that I know how to make mac and cheese from scratch and not from a box! Or that I know how to make homemade enchilada sauce from scratch and not from a can or envelope.
And when I see Augie or friends eating my chile verde or chile colorado con “tanto savor,” I secretly smile inside, and say Thank you Mama.
So yes, I can bring home the bacon and cook it also! This was very important to my Mama; that her daughters all be able to care for themselves and not be dependent on a man or the government!
I also now see the value of a clean and orderly home. When my home is in order I feel that my mind is in order!
With all of the lessons and skills my Mama taught me, I feel that I am an administrator of my home. And, a very competent administrator, at that! Keep in mind I had a lot of practice, as the eldest, I helped my Mama do everything. From cooking, cleaning, shopping, pay bills and help her care for my siblings.
I have always worked and maintained all that encompasses “running a home.” And I realize that if you are a woman; to work, raise kids, and maintain a home is difficult. And, that inevitably something will suffer, hopefully it’s not the children. It just takes organizational skills and preparation.
In Spanish there is a saying “una mujer preparado vale por dos! Which literally translates to a prepared women is the value of two!
How did women do it in the 50’s and 60’s with large families and work full time, to boot!
I realize in retrospect we were not taught everything! I also realized my Mama lacked on many levels and skills. For instance, teaching us a crucial life skill as how to handle money. We never had money, so there was just not much emphasis placed on it.
But, as I will re-iterate there was a multitude of skills she passed on to us that make us very strong, driven, and organized women! The more you know with clarity who you are, the less vulnerable you are to what other people say and think about you.
It saddens me that these skills are not being passed on…… that children expect something every time they accompany mommy to the store. Because they feel “entitled!” And mommy’s are not strong enough to say “no” we cannot afford it, or simply No!
Kids who are babysat by video games and electronic toys.
That you don’t brag and boast about what you have. As they say in Spanish not to “presumir!” or brag. That you not try to keep up with the “Jones’.” That you not compete over money! Throughout my life I saw my own relatives doing that!
That you don’t buy a nice car, and then not have money to fill it with gas!
That is why I studied and “received an education!” My education came at an expensive cost! My Mama and my siblings were my motivation to keep pushing ahead. I finished because they needed to see me do it. I’m not strong because I want to be, I’m strong because I’m your first example? I suffered a Iot in college and many times went without food and many basic necessities. My initiation to thrift shops and yard sales came out of necessity, it’s the only place I could shop that I could afford. But, if you don’t have it, even thrift shops or yard sales cost money! I always worked very hard and have been very “blessed.” I have always given Thanks to the LORD for everything he has given me. I view everything he has given me as gifts from my LORD, that has nothing to do with me, but because of His Grace. I have never been jealous of what others have.
I recall as a child, doing without much extras. I mean we always had the basics; of food, clothes and a roof over our head. For the extras I wanted such as extra shoes, purses and extra clothes my siblings and I went to work in the fields during school breaks and summer. We picked cotton, potatoes, grapes around Fresno, prunes around Napa, tomatoes, lettuce, garlic, chopped weeds, and thinned the crops. We grew up in the San Joaquin Valley where temperatures would soar to 110. Boy, was it miserable work.
Much later I saw people working in the fields around Greenfield or Santa Maria, it was much cooler weather, and even cold at times. Where cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and artichokes grew. I think it would have been a much more bearable experience to work here.
Any extra money, of which there was very little was saved for my education.
But, when I left home at 17 years old to go away to college I found I was always trying to fill that “lack of things” by shopping for that “little treasure.” I now realize, I was trying to fill that void with things when I should have been focusing on My Father and filling myself with Him. This has been a recent revelation for me, a cathartic experience.
Matthew 6:19-21New International Version (NIV)
Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Immediately after graduation, I moved to Santa Maria, Ca. I taught at a middle school for two years, Main Street School in Guadalupe. It was one of the toughest and most rewarding two years of my life. I have re-connected with some of my first students; they are now grandparents and very precious to me.

I then moved to Paso Robles, and worked for the State of Ca. as a teacher.
After 10 years of working for the state and making pretty good money I decided to leave my good paying position. Because I was not satisfied with “just making money” and knew in my heart there was more to life than just making money! I had learned the the difference between a need and a want at this point. I also learned another good lesson from my great friend Shirley Beebe, that nothing in life is free. And it is erroneous thinking if you think you are getting something free! You’re not! You are always paying for it somehow or somewhere!

We have a whole generation of entitled people! People whom seem to think they were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, just because. And a generation that feels they deserve it, whatever it is, just because.

Therefore, that is why I’m not all sweet, mushy, or compassionate with young women now-a-days who have one child or two. Sleep in, wake up and do their motherly duties of feeding, playing, and getting her children ready for the day, to go to school or with the nanny while she perhaps runs off to the spa, yoga, gym, shopping, lunch with the gals, etc. and I hear them complain of how exhausted they are.
I immediately think of my Mama and women who had 9 children and were too tired to complain. The women of my Mama’s era never had the luxury of going to the spa, to exercise or shop.
I have an acquaintance who you could say lives a “Bad Mom” existence. This is a short description of movie.
“When three overworked and under-appreciated moms are pushed beyond their limits, they ditch their conventional responsibilities for a jolt of long overdue freedom, fun, and comedic self-indulgence.” Frankly I cannot identify with the whole premise of this movie!
My acquaintance is all into organic and green everything. Her children have never tasted store bought candy. It’s all about the kale chips. She demands healthy paint for her home. Only the best natural fabrics. The freshest non-gluten, non GMO organic foods. The best of everything. I think this is all wonderful, but she cannot afford the lifestyle, and wants to portray she can, just makes me wonder, why?
Believe me I would not like to re-live my Mama’s life. But, darn there were a lot of good things about the “old days” and a lot of the lessons my Mama taught us that have been lost!
And I yearn and cry for them!
My sister tells me times have changed, yes I concur! But why! My stance is ………..that’s why our world is upside down, and things are such a mess! Because we have lost our old beliefs, values, we have lost our way toward God.
Abrazos y Besos

Herbs/Yerbas

I have always been into herbs, are you kidding me I’m Mexicana. My Abuelitos always grew them and used them in cooking and as herbal remedios.
So I naturally grew up loving them, also. As soon as I could plant my own herb garden ( I was 19) I did. Usually potted herbs on a window sill or small patio, during my college days. I planted basil, thyme, cilantro, oregano, yerba buena and always lavender. Before, I ever knew of the medicinal value of herbs. I knew intuitively that whenever I smelled certain herbs they either relaxed me such as lavender or thyme. Or energized me such as rosemary.

Many years later I learned turmeric was good for me. And have used it off and on for several years. I also had the opportunity to study essential oils and their value while taking aromatherapy courses, in the early 90’s. I had an excellent teacher from Romania, who taught me how to make face and body products using herbs, essential oils, and everyday kitchen products such as oatmeal, yogurt, avocados, honey, eggs, salt etc.

Several years ago, we were traveling through Albuquerque, NM, in our 5th wheeler. I had slept wrong and had a crick in my neck. We were out and about exploring; eventually our plans were to pick up a few groceries and return to our 5th wheeler. We were driving along when we encountered a grocery store. Mi Corazon and I pulled into it. And lo and behold in this strip mall there was an acupuncturist right next door to the grocery store. Believe me, I do not believe this was coincidental. We looked at each other and I knew Mi Corazon knew exactly what I was thinking as he went into the grocery store and I walked into the Two Red Brothers shop. I walked into a waiting room and was overwhelmed with jar after jar of herbs. I heard quiet voices in back. A young man and elderly woman appeared from back offices. They settled their business. I met Dr. Chilan Mustain, he is one of several Drs. in that office. They are all licensed Doctors of Oriental Medicine who have gone through extensive medical training, and in the state of New Mexico are recognized as Primary Care Providers.

I explained to him my neck was killing me, to the point I had a headache. And could he please see me. He told me he was getting ready to close, but would see me. I felt grateful. He escorted me into his office, we talked. I checked out his exam room for cleanliness and inquired about the needles he would be using for safety reasons. He strategically placed some needles in me. He left as I rested. When he returned shortly he turned or wiggled the needles, he left again. He came back, we talked. He suggested some herbal tinctures, one being turmeric to mix in water and one to apply topically for pain. I think he is a very good dr. and they carry the largest assortment of herbs I have ever seen. They specialize in herb forensics. I also like their sense of humor as their business card states, brothers from different mothers. Check them out.
http://www.redrootacupuncture.com/
Mi Corazon was patiently awaiting outside in his truck. We left, I knew it would take awhile before I felt some relief but, I was one happy girl. I know Mi Corazon was happy also.  I  love herbs, believe in them and always want to be surrounded by them……they make my heart happy.

Here is a small sampling of Two Red Brother’s Products:

Our focus is on tinctures, which are naturally preserved herbal extracts to be taken as a health supplement.

We also make a handful of topical products such as arthritis salves, sports liniments and beauty aids.

Oye, due to our high standards of quality,some products may only be available seasonally.

The following statements, while having been accepted by Indigenous people as true for centuries, have not been approved by the FDA.

Pain

Dancing Frog Liniment Topical Spray for Aches and Pains.

Docta Peppa Salve Topical warming massage salve, great for cold type arthritis, or any aches and pains which are better with warmth.

Fibroblaster Internal formula to ease the pain and fuzzy-headedness associated with Fibromyalgia type syndromes.

Maya Jade Trauma liniment spray. Great for sprains, bruises, bumps, contusions and golpes. For topical use only.

Our Nan Bai Yao An aconite free, locally made alternative to the well known stop bleeding and trauma formula. Topical powder.

Turmeric Helpful for many different types of body pain and circulation, but has a special affinity for the neck and shoulders.

Stone Bone Stallone Topical liniment for traumatic injury, healing of broken bones, sprains and fractures.

We’ve Got Legs! For varicose veins, to be taken internally.

Relaxation

Fo Shou Feeling stressed? Need a hand from Buddha? Try this Buddha’s hand tincture. No Buddhas were harmed in the making of this tincture.

Lemon Balm Soothing for anxiety, without causing drowsiness.

Passionflower Relaxing, helpful to promote sleep.

Digestion Enhancers

Menage-a-trois-thorn A synergistic combination of three varieties of hawthorn: Mexican, American and Chinese (sounds like a good buffet, no?). Hawthorn is well known for its ability to aid in digestion after a fatty meal and regulate cholesterol (also good for the buffet, no?). Hawthorn is also known to improve circulation and other affairs of the heart. Caution: should NOT be used in pregnancy or in cases of stomach ulcers.

The Muffin Melter By popular demand! We’ve created a weight loss tea that is full of minerals, helpful to curb sugar cravings, encourage digestion and pull fats out of the digestive system. Does not contain caffeine or stimulants. Tincture form coming soon!

Fever

Squirrel Tailed Yarrow For fevers, sick kids and menstrual problems including pain.

Teabag the White Tiger Traditional Chinese formula Bai Hu Tang made into teabags. For Big Fever, Big Thirst, Big Pulse and Big Sweat

Allergies!? Ain’t nobody got time for that! Helpful for the itchy eyes, scratchy throat, fuzzy headedness and nasal ick associated with seasonal allergies. Has a wee bit of caffeine.

Allergita Our original allergy formula modified for kids, preggies, and those with an aversion to alcohol. Based in glycerine.

Lung Oil No. 4 Awesome for opening up the lungs! Topical use only.

Lung Revitalizer Great for healing the lungs after chronic illness, also for dealing with addiction, grief, loss, and quitting smoking.

Mullein aka Gordo Lobo Great for lung stuff, and quitting smoking.

Osha Root Great for sore throats, cough and headache.

Sakamoko Opens the nose. Helps with allergies, colds, chronic or acute nasal congestion.

Yerba Mansa is a New Mexico favorite with strong anti-microbial properties. Great for sinus infections, diarrhea, catarrh, some even say it helps with the heat and inflammation of arthritis. This tincture is made from the root leaf and flower, gathered near Las Vegas, NM. That’s a true Southwest Super Star!

Mojo Boosters

Black Walnut So many uses! Anti-viral, anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial; can be used topically for warts, acne, pimples, snake-bites, herpes and athletes foot, or internally for parasites, candida or constipation (to name a few!)

Champion Lover Tea To get you feeling frisky.

Gun Powder Pre-workout powder to be added to a shake to increase stamina and energy, great for weight lifting and cardio alike! Liquid gunpowder coming soon!

Abrazos

“Hacer Los Sartenes Chiar”

image

Skillets

As I stood in front of my kitchen window scrubbing an old skillet, I’m reminded of the owner, of this skillet. Washing dishes is therapeutic for me, but especially cleaning skillets. Not sure why; but I think of what I cooked in it. I also think of all the meals Claude cooked in this skillet at his French restaurant. This particular skillet belonged to a well-known chef, Claude, from Paris Restaurant (now closed) in Paso Robles.

It is just an ugly simple restaurant Sysco-ware skillet, but I really like the way these skillets cook. Claude returned to Paris and I purchased about 6 of his everyday skillets he used in his restaurant, in different sizes. In addition to a few other items.

Do I think I cook better because they belonged to Claude, heck no, but I do find I want to cook better since these were his skillets. I also find inspiration from him.

I wish I had only one skillet, but I must admit I have different skillets for different purposes. Just as many of you do. I have different sizes and different styles. My favorite go to skillets are my cast iron ones. Because, I grew up with those. I saw Mi Abuelita and Mi Mama using them. I typically use these for cooking Mexican food.

The saying, “hacer los sartenes chiar” literally translates to make the skillets cry or sizzle, it’s a saying I heard many years ago, used by an acquaintance as she prepared to start dinner she stated she was going to, “make the skillets sizzle.”

Cast iron skillets must also be cured or prepared before using them similar to a Molcajete. I think one of the highest honors is to inherit your familiy’s skillets.

I have a favorite small non stick skillet, I use only for cooking eggs. I have my favorite all-clad, that I use to stir-fry vegetables and also to cook fish. I have a ceramic skillet that cooks evenly and browns beautifully. Not all skillets brown. Awhile back, I got rid of my Teflon skillets for health reasons. I have several paella pans also.

As I stand in front of my kitchen window admiring the beauty that surrounds me, I know each day is a canvas. I finish washing my skillet, I think of all the love I want to pour into my meals, as I go out into the world to paint my canvas.

Abrazos y Besos

“The Good Vibe Tribe”

We’re exploring Texas, one excursion at a time. Any chance we have, we are visiting the four corners of Texas. I call it excursionating! I realize that is not a word, but what the heck………I’ve/ we’ve been known to invent our own words before. It’s fun, I invented the word Famigo, by joining family and amigo. Now I’ve learned there’s even a Famigo Festival held by Trino Castro of Atelier de Campagne LLC. How fun.

We started off on Tuesday July 5th. Our thinking was that holiday travelers would be heading home after the long weekend. We took a leisurely back road trip to Bastrop. Once we settled in at the campsite we headed into town. We call it, “to get the flavor of the town.” We stopped at an art shop that was filled with many eclectic and colorful things we liked.

Next stop, Neighbors, a local food and drink hangout, next door to the art gallery. They were experimenting with fruit infused spirits at this bar. This is intriguing to me since my Amiga, Bonnie Porthouse and I experimented with infusing spirits with herbs in the 90’s.

At Neighbor’s they blended vodka with watermelon, strawberries, tamarind, peaches. This so reminds me of the agua frescas I first saw in Mexico as a child. The Jambo Juice capitalized on the whole juice business, later on.

We went to Smithville the next day. Our first stop was at a quilt shop, named Making Memories, fun stop. No need to discuss our very sad lunch. Headed to Bone Spirits, very hip place. I like the owner’s philosophy of producing unadulterated spirits. We sampled and bought a few bottles of gin and vodka.

On Thursday we went to La Grange. En route we stopped at World Antiques, had an awesome lunch at a local bistro; fresh in season healthy food. This lunch definitely made up for the lunch in Smithville.

Today heading to Fredericksburg for a few days pulled into KOA and unhooked in five minutes and we drove into town to find a burger and cold beer, settled at Hondo’s. I like Hondo’s life and identify. He was a free-spirited writer and owner-self proclaimed mayor of Luckenback, Texas.

We headed to Becker Vineyards, to taste a little wine and buy lavender, in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. We entered the tasting room, it was packed, we changed our mind on wine tasting, instead I purchased some lavender products.

All of the wineries here are packed. We drove on down the Wine Road 290 and stopped at a smaller winery named Hilmy. Some of their wines were fine, I did not like their Viognier, too sweet, too fruity and too floral for my liking, almost a medicinal taste. Mi Corazon and I tasted one wine named Politics and Religion (we both liked the name) we both enjoyed. This vintage offers a marriage of almost equal parts of Tempranillo and Carignan. Together, they combine for a medium-bodied red with soft tannins.

The weather has been 100, but feels like 110. The most comfortable place is inside truck or in our 5th wheeler. But tonight as we sit outside our rig we have some nice southwest trade winds listening to Lucinda Williams.

We are part of the nomadic tribe of RV’rs,
Yetis,  ice chest and cooking outdoors. We keep it simple. We call ourselves the “Good Vibe Tribe.” This lifestyle has always appealed to the both of us. But, as most of you know I have been an antique, junque, repurpose collector since I was about 19 years old.

For me it developed as a necessity. I was a struggling college student that did not have much of anything, except a few clothes. Call it what you will, if it had color and character I bought it. Old crockery, tapestries, serapes, old wool blankets, glass and dishes by Franciscan, Blue Willow, Mexican everything, costume jewelry, antique medicine and perfume bottles, enamel ware, garden stuff., art of all sorts, etc. etc. my point being that until you can part with all or the majority of these material things you cannot be free. I did and it was a freeing cathartic experience. It was time for someone else to enjoy and love them, like I had.

It’s kinda ironic to me that I am surrounded here in Hill Country by 100’s of antique/ junque stores filled with everything I just gave away.

Only now, we have more time to actually participate in this lifestyle. Part of the whole belief of downsizing as we get older also speaks to Mi Corazon and I. Needing less and enjoying more of the simpler things of life. I do not need six sets of eight setting dishes. I only need one.

Sunday after breakfast at our favorite German pancake house in Fredericksburg, we headed to church. Awesome service, awesome sermon at a Max Lucado’s Oak Hills, satellite church.

After service we traveled on Farm Road 965 through Enchanted Rock to Llano. The drive is absolutely breath-taking and we saw many mountain climbers/hikers. Near Enchanted Rock we encountered the most amazing sculpture (picture above). Llano was quiet and uneventful, just what we like. Mi Corazon and I enjoy country back roads. It’s not about arriving, but the ride, the people we meet along the way, the memories we make.
Where memories roll like the hills.
Enjoying plenty of countryside calm.
No rush; no stop lights or sirens
The beauty of dried out cacti, all of a sudden I’m craving something refreshing from Dairy Queen.
Views forever of contrast;
Dry and green
Humble small homes to gigantic spreads with beautiful homes.
Thank you Father.

Abrazos y Besos

Comida Con Amor #2

This is a continuation of previous post.

I don’t think it is a generalization to say or think, most Americans exposure to Mexican food is limited to tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and enchiladas. Some have ventured a little more with pozole, carnitas, fish tacos and chiles rellanos.
My paternal roots are from Jalisco, the birthplace of mariachi, tequila and tortas ahogadas, pozole and birria. So, good food, tequila and mariachi music run through my veins, it’s in my DNA.
I recall I must have been about 12 years old, I was visiting my father in Guadalajara. I saw a man leading his donkey straddled with two rustic jugs on each side. Of course, I had to ask, “Papa, what does he have inside the jugs?” My Dad said, “pulque Mija, want to try it? I then said, “what is it?” By the time I knew it, I was tasting pulque. Pulque is made from the fermented sap of the maguey (agave) plant. I did not like the bitter milky taste. I scrunched my face! My Papa found my reaction, cute. Although, my family prepares a regional delicious dish named Bote, a stew made with beef, pork or chicken, with vegetables usually cooked in pulque and served in a thick sauce. I have never seen Bote anywhere else.
I wonder how many persons have had tongue, nopales, quelites, chapulines, cesos or buchis?
The best regional food came from “campestre” style restaurants. When visiting my Papa we would always gather at these restaurants. These are huge restaurants that seat hundreds, even thousands of people on Sundays for family dinners. Most cook in big open fire pits. My favorite food from these is birria. Birria is a pit-roasted version of goat or beef. I prefer the goat. It can be served wet (meat in a thick soup) or dry (with a consomme on the side). You also receive tortillas, refried beans, and some salsas. If you like, they’ll place a tequila bottle on your table. It will be marked where the previous table left off drinking, and you pay for how much you drink below the marked line.

How do you know if Mexican food is good? How do you measure or grade it. Typically it is based on what you were raised with, or many many years experience of cooking and eating. But, admittedly I am wary of the many non-Mexicans who have anointed themselves as ambassadors for Mexican food in the United States. I do not proclaim to be an expert, but it’s what I grew up with every day of my life for over 20 years. And once I left home, it didn’t stop there. I sought it out, I researched and studied it and I cook it. It runs deep in my blood! If you recommend a good Mexican restaurant to me, I need to know YOUR credentials! How do you know it’s good, what are you basing your answer on. Since I have been disappointed with most Mexican restaurant food. To the point, I rarely eat at Mexican restaurants any longer.

We all want to think our Mama’s were the best cooks. And you’re right, they were. I can honestly tell you my Mama could cook a mean meal, she was an excellent cook and not only Mexican food. Only other woman I can ever tell you matches up to her is my stepmother, Lupe. Who has an extensive repertoire of Mexican food. Which is kinda funny to me.

I recall having an acquaintance, whose favorite dish to prepare for her four children was to cook a pound of hamburger meat, add a cup or two of flour and water. She didn’t brown the flour, she didn’t add any spices, like onions or garlic. Nada!  It was the nastiest play dough mixture with speckles of hamburger. Her kids seemed to like it! If that’s all you have, you will eat it with pleasure and love it.
I had posted this on a previous post.
Awhile back, Mi Corazon and I went into a surfer Mexican restaurant in Cambria. Which will remain unnamed. I ordered a chile verde burrito, which was in a red sauce with peas, diced carrots, potatoes and zucchini. I complained and said, ” I had gotten the wrong order. ” He responded that, ” I hadn’t.” That, that was their family recipe. Well no disrespect, “Mr. My Family’s Recipe!” If I add wieners to spaghetti, is it still spaghetti?”
Chile verde should be green! And, I have never had it with vegetables. Hamburger meat with vegetables is picadillio! If that’s what it is, then call it, what it is!
When I eat re-fried beans, I can tell if your manteca/grease was hot enough, I can taste it and I know my sisters are the same. Too much cumin in sopa de arroz and I want to eat it with a chapatis. All cooking is a dance of passion interwoven to a fine balance.
My Mama took such pride in serving her food, the placement of food on her dishes was important, also.
When my family slaughtered a pig, they made morcillo or moronga (blood sausage) and ate it on corn tortillas, I did not like it. I saw real carnitas made, which is truly an art. I also had the honor and pleasure of seeing birria made in a pit that cooked overnight. Now I hear that people make birria on the stove top. I have tasted it, it is good, just not the same. I grew up on pickled pigs feet.  I recall as an adult having breaded pigs feet (not pickled). They were delicious, what a treat. Growing up we also ate tongue, tripas and menudo.
Needless to say, I will not be running to Taco Bell to taste their Doritos Locos tacos, anytime soon.

Abrazos y Besos

Comida Con Amor

Susanna Marie Elena Thank you for sharing Sonia’s Mama’s Picadillio Con Papas. I was flooded with many memories. Picadillio is such a simple comfort food.
I like to jokingly say I grew up on hamburger meat and kool-aid. If it wasn’t tacos, enchiladas, lasagna, hamburgers, meatloaf, casseroles; with hamburger meat, veggies and pasta mixture, spaghetti or picadillio night. It had to be Sunday when we always had chicken, very similar to my Forest Gump hamburger meat menu existence. Every Sunday we had chicken either; in mole, chicken soup, chicken salad, fried, baked or barbecued.
One of my favorite all time dishes are nopales, the simplest of flavors. I don’t need any cheese on them; just simple fresh chile, onions, tomatoes y cilantro with a squeeze of lime juice and sal. Place on a charred corn tortilla and I’m near heaven. In second place would be tacos dorados de papa or flautas de papa. I recently made some for my sister, brother in law, Ben and Adelita while she was recuperating from shoulder surgery. My greatest pleasure is in watching people eat “con sabor.” Nothing fancy, nothing pretentious, just simple good food, served with cariño.
One of my close friends recently told me they did not consider Mexican food “gourmet.” Initially, I was offended, not because I think Mexican food is the best, but because I believe food does not have to be expensive nor “gourmet” to be good! I also believe Mexican food can be gourmet! I have tasted so much “lifeless” foods at expensive, high-end restaurants. I’m still trying to figure out the “foam” fad! I have eaten some of the tastiest foods at someone’s humble home or taco trucks prepared with love and it darn well wasn’t fancy nor “gourmet!”
I started thinking of dishes and foods of Mexico. I started thinking of the countless moles in every color possible that take days to prepare, authentic carnitas (not fried pork chunks passing as carnitas). Fire-pit roasted borrego (lamb) and cabrito (goat) or barbacoa I was raised on. My Mama made a beautiful chile rellano en caldito de jitomate dish that would make you want to spank your Abuelita. The fresh seafood ceviches, fresh fish and fish soups I ate in Puerto Vallarte. Fresh homemade corn tortillas with homemade pozole. Although, I did not grow up with huitlacoche (a corn smut fungus) it is considered a delicacy. I tasted it as an adult, personally, I did not consider it a delicacy! And, it hit me, what one person may consider a delicacy or gourmet, another may not, it is so subjective!
I do not consider nachos, Frito bowls nor enchiritos foods of my ancestors!
So please do not talk to me about Mexican food not being “gourmet!”
My people’s food is flavorful and delicious comfort food. On second though, I would rather have tasty comfort food than gourmet!

Abrazos y Besos