Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fancy eats for the holiday? No, tradition rules the day

My vastly improved culinary skills notwithstanding, we will stick to tradition for our main Christmas meal. That means home-made tamales (no mean culinary feat in and of themselves); hours-long, pot-simmered beans; spiced-up rice; two kinds of enchiladas, gorditas dipped in red chile sauce and rolled with cheese.

With two terms of culinary school behind me, I have the ability to put together at least the basics of a classic French-inspired meal. But I'm not even tempted. When it comes to the holidays, we want the food we grew up with, the food that nourished not only our bodies but our spirits, food made with loving hands in the traditional way.

Don't ask for recipes. As in many culinary traditions, these are hand-me-down methods, developed over generations of a handful of this, a dash of that, enough kneading of the masa until it feels right, somehow just knowing that it is cooked enough or that the chile has the right consistency.

Cooking this food transports me mentally and emotionally back in time, to the kitchens of my mom and tias, where no pair of hands was idle and no one -- even the most distant of drop-in cousins -- went hungry.

Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo.

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