DOÑA PILAR Y SAL-LIMON, Tuesday, September 7, 2010 –
Sal-Limon. All sour, lemon and salt. No sugar, color or spice. Just tiny white grains condensed, compressed, and stuffed into tiny green packets no larger than the palms of our tiny little hands. Doña Pilar would sell them to us at 10 cents a pack, three for 25 cents if we had a quarter, at the Bali Hai apartments. We’d knock at her door, she’d yell at the kids she was babysitting inside to be quiet, hobble over to open the door, and demand: Que quieren! At well over sixty, Doña Pilar was all grunts and groans all of the time – with us kids anyway. She’d snatch her quarters, nickels and dimes from our hands, turn around to the jumbo jar of pickles now stuffed with all sorts of candy from tamarind to lollipops, dig for just the right amount of Sal-Limon packets – never more – and hand them to us before slamming the door behind us. We never really liked her, but she was our supplier back then. Yet when I heard about her passing a few years ago it did make me sad. R.I.P. Dona Pilar!
REMEDIOS, Monday June 21, 2010 –
For mal de ojo, an egg rubbed around the head of its victim, usually a child, by the staring perpetrator, if not around, an item of clothing from them would also do the job. You weren’t supposed to stare at a child for too long, much less stare longingly at them for any amount of time or the mal de ojo would make them extra irritable and restless. For dolor de panza, hierba buena boiled into tea. Burning fever, va-po-ru rubbed on the chest and feet, if it was really high, socks stuffed with tomatoes placed on our feet before we were wrapped under covers to sweat it out. When the witches, also known as owls, persisted with their who-ing every single night, prayers and holy water cast in their direction to make them go away. In those days we had a remedy for everything. There were very few things we couldn’t take care of at home ourselves without having to go to the doctor. Life was simpler then…or maybe we were just less skeptical in those days.
TACOS DE SAL, Wednesday, June 9, 2010 –
No meat. No pico. No guacamole. No lemon. No cheese. NO CHILE! Just a freshly made corn tortilla, slightly dampened with water, sprinkled with salt, squished together by bare hands to look like a small colorless churro. When money was tight that’s what we’d eat along with Quelite from our personal harvest of edible plants, built more out of necessity than personal choice. But it was better than having to string a single piece of meat through several tortillas to make the flavor last…which is what my parents had to do as children in each of their homes in Mexico when hunger was more abundant than the almighty peso. I guess in a way we were moving on up!
SOMBRERO, Saturday, June 5, 2010 – My father very rarely wore a sombrero out. Instead he’d wear a cap or nothing at all. For him, the sombrero was a tool like any other, a hammer, a nail, a rusty set of pliers, used to shield his eyes and face from the scorching heat. A game sometimes, when we were all at home playing ‘sorilla.’ It was my brothers and I that wore the hat as a statement for a short time as teenagers – the same reasons my sisters would wear it for Tejano dances and Norteño clubs, quinces, weddings, baptisms, and anywhere else we could sneak it in. It meant something, even if we didn’t know exactly what.
JABON ZOTE, Tuesday, June 1, 2010 –
There was an art form to the way my mother used to wash clothes. No spin cycle, no quarters, no softeners, just a washboard, her strength, and our clothes. When we had money, jabón Ariel. When we didn’t, a jumbo bar of pink ZOTE, which we’d often split into smaller portions. A little for the clothes, a little for t…he hands, and the rest for shampooing and bathing. Needless to say we were all happy when we bought our first lavadora!
REBOSO, Saturday, May 29, 2010 –
Recently I’ve been thinking about rebosos and what they mean to our cultura. My mother wore one only in the rancho when we’d go to Mexico, usually in the early morning hours and after dark, when it was cool outside, never in the States. The other ladies living in Mexico, especially mi abuela and my Tia Nino, seemed to …wear them round the clock, although the young girls and ladies now don’t seem to wear them as much… *pensando*
LEALTAD, Friday, May 28, 2010 – Remember the days when we were free? When time was slow and days were endless, fear a thing only of monsters lurking in the closet, sadness the frustration of being told NO, happiness just the existence of playing and feeling loved. Now days are fleeting, years unyielding, love is hard. Life is harder. Promise me that when I’m down and broken you’ll see me through. That when we are once again dust and ashes you will be there, waiting for me once more.
MI NOMBRE, Monday, May 24, 2010 – What an AWFUL name!!! Who names their son after a patron saint!? Why was I born on San Juan’s Day instead of some other Saint’s Day with a cooler name? I’d lament. At school nobody ever knew how to pronounce my name, my teacher’s preferred calling me Alanis instead of San Juan, and the idea of having to ENUNCIATE my name for the rest of my life led me become JUAN, not John or Johnny, which I still hate being called, just Juan. In time and age though my name became UN ORGULLO: San Juan Martin Alanis Maldonado Turrubiartez Torres…Wheew, I know!!
MOLCAJETE, Sunday, May 23, 2010 – Molcajete, made of stone, timeless, traditional; in our home used more often than the microwave, even the electric blender, which we used instead for licuados. Red, yellow, or green peppers, large or small, garlic, and finally tomatoes or tomatillos, whatever was in our kitchen. Moliendo y moliendo con un poco de agua,… slowly but surely, salsa BRAVA, verde or colorada!