“In life there are romances that never can be forgotten.” That’s what a popular song says, by the Cuban Julio Gutierrez. In the same way, in life there are pleasures of our Hispanic gastronomy that we can’t forget. Those flavors and exquisite aromas imprinted unforgettable memories about our childhood around our family. Just as important are those that watched us grow and became an influence in our lives. I should also remark that most of those events in our lives were always accompanied by our delicious food. Moments like a graduation, baptism, birthdays, the purchase of a new house, the welcoming of a new member of the family, or the return of the loved one that once went far away looking for a better future were all celebrated by a meal.
When I was a child, I watched how my parents got prepared with anticipation for each special event. For example, for my father’s birthday we hosted the party and awaited the arrival of his friends and co-workers, also my uncles, cousins, godparents, and neighbors.
Prior to the 80’s in Peru, like many others in my community, we didn’t have a telephone. So, predicting how many people were coming was always a game and a challenge. But, our home was always open for anyone who wished and decided to come and join us in the celebration. Nevertheless, I learned that it was better to be prepared with extra food and drinks than having little to share. On top of that, we had to choose carefully what kind of food we were going to serve. It had to meet high standards of goodness and deliciousness, for the goal was to leave a great impression about the taste on our guests. That is so when they leave, they will keep a good memory of having enjoyed a wonderful meal with us.
“In the house of two, three can eat.”
If somebody comes to visit us, we would always share the meal and make sure there is enough food available to serve. If necessary, my mother would prepare more food; and yes indeed, nobody ever left our house with an empty stomach. For my parents, it was a way of showing appreciation towards the visitor and also a way of showing honor towards their families by not leaving them unattended.
The preparation of the meal was always a feast to be fully enjoyed by those who came to share. At that time, it was almost unheard of that someone had an allergy to a food. I don’t recall seeing or hearing from someone who had to go to the emergency room because they ate something that hurt them a lot.
There is no doubt that food is an important part of our lives. Food not only meets our need for hunger, but also provides us a source of energy. However, the wrong food can negatively affect our health. For those of us who suffer from or are in charge of someone with food allergies, it is a challenge to maintain health and well-being; but we must do it for the ones we love and want to protect.
Translated by Kimberly Colula.