There was really no choice. No options, no “How would you like yours?”
Except for the occasional addition of a meat option, it was always the same: rice & bean burrito with a fair amount of melted cheese. My father would double park the Oldsmobile Cutlass in the red zone on our way from my Nana’s house in the Mission District in San Francisco. My mom waited patiently in the front seat, ready to move the car if asked. He would return armed with a plastic bag full of foil wrapped Mexican sleeping pills, as they have been dubbed by a close friend. Monstrosities dwarfing any frozen burrito I had ever had, these things were not to be taken lightly. Although they were something to be appreciated, and that, I did. I mean, it was no surprise to me that I was being raised by a Mexican man proud of his ethnicity. A constant pot of refried beans with a stack of tortillas within arms reach was the a given. It would seemed strange if it wasn’t there. Shopping lists started with salsas, then the other condiments. He also had his little quirks, his comforts. “Why the hell does he keep a ziplock bag of my mother’s fresh baked cookies in his car?”
All of the things that may not make sense, nor ever noticed to a certain level, become the moments that shape our upbringing. Food & music are very similar in this capacity. After working years in the music industry, I can now hear a song by Sia, and be transported back to a city in which we toured. A meal I ate in that town, amongst a crowd not even knowing she was there, or who our group was. Tupac comes on, and I’m taken back to the 90’s, vividly remembering things I haven’t thought of in years. Ok, fine, maybe there were a few other reasons for a memory lapse or two, but I’m finally starting to grow up, maybe. November Rain begins to play, and at first, I sometimes tear up with it’s attachment to personal loss I’ve experienced. By the end of the song, I’m lifted with memories of seeing them live at AT&T Park, before heading to San Diego, CA, to cook for Guns & Roses at their show two weeks later.
So, to me it’s simple to relate these two wondrous aspects of life. What else transports you? For me, I know when I hear someone speak of clam chowder, my Godfather, Fred, may he rest in peace, is right next to me at Fishermans Wharf. I’m realizing my disgust for clams is totally made up & fabricated in my head. This shit is delicious.. And, although I may or may not have had better chowder since, is not the point. That’s where it was lodged into my psyche. Like the first time crab became Dungeness crab. Then became fresh, cracked, & picked Dungeness crab. Who knows? Maybe I’m just weird. Maybe, I’m just a wildly obsessed food lover who found his calling in the world of all things to be eaten, and that’s just who I am. Or, maybe there’s something to be said about the balanced smells of vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, and pork running through my mom’s kitchen that led me decades later to follow that nostalgia all the way around the world, to the Motherland of the Philippines. There, I would enjoy adobo with my Lola, in her home in the village of Tolosa, on the island of Leyte, shortly before she’d pass. Close your eyes and think. What is the dish that brings you back? And where are you now, even if for a moment?
Alright, enough with the sidestepping. Today started a bit heavy for me. But, once a day like this becomes recognized, that weight can become emphasis. The energy can be transformed as you see fit. Two years ago, today, my father passed. Not getting into the details, and although it wasn’t sudden, it still remains an experience in which my grief has morphed into a complex set of stages. A relationship of two hard headed stubborn individuals, who rode roller coasters of ups and downs, almost as literally as the coasters he made me join him on at Great America as a kid. This, years before my balls were ready for that fear, regardless of my size meeting the minimum height requirement for the amusement park. We were the closest, then we weren’t, before we were again. Alzheimers took him years ago, then eventually his body left us, too. Through growth and experience, though, I get to be with him. And honestly, we are closer than ever.
Yesterday, I sat with my brother & his family. We ate burritos from a local taqueria. Our Papa was there.. The tales of the SF burritos came alive as we devoured these tortilla wrapped piles of deliciousness. After I left, on my drive home, I reached over and grabbed a chocolate chip cookie from a bag my mom had packed for me on an earlier visit. Not even the question of ‘why a bag of cookies in the car seemed so normal’ crossed my mind. I can’t be the only one who tries to not be like their parents, to inevitably find out that, yes. You see where I’m going with this.
We’ve all grown up eating whatever it was that our families saw fit. At home, out on adventures, simple, traditional, whatever. Some more common than others, but that’s beside the point. The idea, though, is basic. It’s a given opportunity to remain close to the times of your life that you enjoy looking back on. A bond with the memories of loved ones that may or may not still be present.
Going forward, its an awareness that I can now have as to what opportunities I can provide to those in my life, professionally or personally, that may stick with them, decades later, thinking to themselves, “I remember the 1st time I had seafood fideua..” (Go ahead, Google it, I’ll wait).
Cheers, to wherever your palate & memories take you.