Friday, May 14, 2010

Memory Lane Friday - The Foods I Loved

Today's Memory Lane Friday topic is "The Foods I Loved" and you know I'm going to have to talk about my Oma and her cooking. Her cooking is what I always consider "comfort food." Her food is what I always crave when I want something good. If I need Mexican food, hers is what satisfies the craving. As a matter of fact, Oma's cooking is what I craved when I was pregnant with Liv. Oma's cooking and tamales.

Oma has always had this amazing cooking. It was always homemade. It didn't matter if it was breakfast or dinner. 

But since breakfast is the first meal of the day, I will begin with a typical Oma breakfast. I am salivating, just thinking about it. She used to make huevos con chorizo for us sometimes - once a week, or sometimes even twice a week. Or more, if we asked her for it.

She had these great flour tortillas that she'd warm up on this round cast-iron thing on top of the gas burner. You could smell the flour tortillas warming up, with a warm, cozy, bready, flour-y scent wafting through the air. And the chorizo? It was the Mexican type, not the Spanish or Portuguese type (which was more of a hard salami type of sausage). The chorizo she used would come out of the casing before being cooked, and as it browned, would crumble like ground beef. It was the Peyton brand chorizo that apparently is only available in West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and a handful of military commissaries (which included Hanscom Air Force Base, where Andrew and I were stationed for 4 years).

And then you'd hear the sssssss of the chorizo links as they sizzled and browned in the skillet. This is when it started smelling divine. Mmmmm. Spicy (like cumin, not burn-your-mouth-with-chiles spicy), sausage-like, and mouth-watering.

While the chorizo was browning, you'd hear the tsk-tsk-tsk of Oma's fork as she whisked the eggs in a bowl. As soon as the chorizo was browned just right, she'd pour the whisked eggs into the skillet over the chorizo and begin to scramble them all together.

And then it was all ready. A heap of huevos con chorizo on your plate, flour tortilla folded in half on the side of the plate. Fork in hand, I remember scooping the huevos con chorizo into the unfolded, warmed flour tortilla, rolling it up into a burrito, and then taking a bite. Mmmmm. It was eggy, full-flavored (because of the chorizo), and full of carbs (the tortilla) to balance out the protein (and fat) from the eggs and chorizo.

This was pure breakfast heaven. And now I'm very hungry.

When I lived in Tucson and New Mexico (and when I realized I could get the same chorizo at the commissary in the Boston area),  I'd make huevos con chorizo, too. Sure, I watched her make this dish, and it tasted basically the same, but hers was always better. I think it's because, as she always says, she "made it with a lot of love."

Then there was lunch or dinner. She used to make cheese enchiladas on occasion, and while I loved her red sauce for its rich flavor and thought that her enchiladas were tasty, I found that they were a little heavy on the chopped onion (which she always kind of rough chopped - the onions were never really chopped finely enough) and I'd get heartburn. It was weird. I could always handle spicy food, but too much onion? My stomach and esophagus couldn't handle it.

My favorite lunch or dinner menu in Oma's repertoire? Homemade tacos and homemade beans. She told me step by step how to make her tacos, and while I tried to make them on occasion, they NEVER came out right. I'm not sure I had the technique just right.

Oma would brown ground beef, season them just right (salt, pepper, cumin), saute them with diced potatoes, and then stuff the mixture into corn tortillas (fried briefly in oil and then folded while still warm and malleable). At least, this is what I remember.

After assembling a bunch of tacos and setting them on a cookie sheet lined with foil, she'd stick them in the oven for a little while to make sure they were all warmed and hot enough to eat.

And the beans? Mmmm.

Making her world-famous beans was a process. Not hard - just time-consuming. She'd soak pinto beans overnight. The next day, she'd cook them in water seasoned with garlic salt and onion powder. When they were soft, she'd drain some water, saving some so that when she mashed the beans, they wouldn't get dried out. Then she'd brown some chorizo in a big skillet. When it was browned, she'd add the mashed beans and cook them all together so the flavors would blend. And then she'd add shredded Monterrey Jack cheese on the top.

Two or three tacos topped with shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and a side of her world-famous beans. Oh, and her delicious rice. I have now idea how to make that. Note to self: get her rice recipe from her next time I see her.

So there it is. There are the the foods I loved growing up . . . and the foods I still love. And now I am hungry.

Okay, so I don't have any photos of my Oma while she's actually cooking something. But I have a number of photos of her, so I'm going to add a few here:
This photo was taken way before my time, but here's my Oma when she was a young woman.

Here's Oma at the Blue Ridge Circle house. This must've been in the early '70s - maybe '73?
My Uncle H. used to say this was Oma's "Ann Landers hairstyle." By the way, I don't know why/how the couch turned out that funky maroon color in the photo (it was actually an olive green), and how Oma's dress turned into such a vibrant purple. Ah, well. At least it's a great photo of her smiling.

So here I am with my Oma and Sir Rafa. We're not in El Paso, but we're together. I believe they were visiting us when we lived in Wilmette, IL.

Here's Oma and baby Livie in Oma's kitchen. This is in the beloved Mountain Walk Drive home in El Paso.

Please click on the box below to read this week's other Memory Lane Friday entries:

After checking out today's other entries, be sure to come back next week when the Memory Lane Friday topic is "A Ceremony."


Shannon said...

Yum. I'm going to invite myself over and you can cook up some of your Oma's food for me, ok? :)

Sonya Heilmann said...

Come on over, Shannon! The great thing about my Oma's cooking is that when you make it, you can't just make a little - you gotta make enough to share!

varunner said...

Drooling, straight onto my keyboard here.

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