Flashback to 15 years ago: I'm sitting at a plastic table with a Corona napkin holder in the middle and some empty plates with limones and napkins scattered about. We are in an outdoor, tent-covered dining area of the Inmaculada, where food is cooked outdoors and sold most every night to raise money for the Catholic church and it's surrounding community. My then-boyfriend, now-husband is sitting beside me, and our friend Wicho, across from me. They are discussing a subject so sacred to Mexican culture that an interruption would be considered a grotesque misdemeanor on my part. They are discussing the passion-inducing topic of food. I have long since passed the point of feigning interest. They are oohing and ahhing over an endless amount of dishes and the subtle nuances brought to each masterpiece by different relatives and neighbors throughout their lives.
I am simultaneously bored to tears and on the brink of despair.
You see, at this time, I am 23 years old, I'm new to the Mexican culture, and I barely know how to make spaghetti, out of a box and a jar. I am witnessing my boyfriend showing extraordinary interest in something which I know absolutely nothing about. Cooking. And not just "cooking", but cooking Mexican food. What the heck am I going to do? He's obviously extremely entranced with the complexities of Mexican cuisine. I know nothing of this art. Never in my life have I heard a man discuss at such great detail the taste and technique of such a variety of culinary offerings. How will he ever want to be with a Gringa as clueless as I? He and Wicho have been going on about this topic for well over an hour and a half. I'm teetering between being pissed and bursting out in tears.
On our walk home I am quiet. After a time my then-boyfriend dares to inquire about the elephant who had hitched a ride on our date. He asks the obvious question. What is wrong? The tears come. Readily. I blubber that I would never be able to compete with Tia or Abuelita in creating whatever dish he had been worshipping with such reverence and revelry. I don't know a chile de arbol from a bowl of chilli.
That evening he said all the right things. Years later, convinced that my lack of cooking skills were not going to deter him from smiling at our wedding, I accepted his hand in marriage and we've spent the last 8 years in the peaks and valleys of sazon and the lack thereof.
FAST FORWARD to about 6 years ago. Our friend Wicho, is visiting us here in Minnesota. We are in our apartment sitting at our kitchen table late at night with Halloween party makeup still applied, and with an unprecedented amount of food set before us. My husband has prepared a multitude of delicacies, anticipating the healthy palette and appreciative Mexican appetite that our friend would bring with him.
In semi-drunken conversation, I declare, "One day I am going to make a really, really great Mole."
I will never, ever, be able to convey to you the amount of laughter that spewed forth from my husband in the moments and HOURS that followed. Tears, rolling around on the floor, side aches, begging for mercy, hilarity to the point of a near breakdown; it all came gushing forth from Mr. Husband. I laughed along with him, for awhile. Then Wicho and I each took turns getting ready for bed, and actually had turned the lights off in effort to gather some restful shuteye, all the while Mr. Husband rolled around and pleaded for someone to relieve him from the painfully funny thought of his wife actually making a delicious Mole.
Hmmf. I'd show him.
Nope. Still haven't shown him. Turns out that a really, genuinely wonderful Mole takes over 24 hours to prepare, and a real knowledge of chiles as well as great sazon. I will need to do my homework, and then some.
Tonight we watched a show from a series called "No Reservations" where a talented chef and lover of world cultures tours around and enjoys food from different countries. As we watched the episode about Mexico, I reminded Mr. Husband of the time we hashed out the importance of cooking that night after eating at the Inmaculada. "After all these years, I get it now," I told him, "and I wouldn't be nearly as bored or upset with the conversation if it took place today. But I'm still going to make that Mole someday." He begged me to not continue, lest a laugh attack overcome him once more.
For now, I have learned to tell the difference between about 4 or 5 chiles. I can make a mean refried beans and few great sopas, rivaling those of my talented chef of a husband. I'm almost to the point of making a good and flavorful arroz. When my mother-in-law was here for 2 months, I cooked 9/10 of the time and drew little to no embarrassment from the experience. I'll get there.
I'll have the last laugh, even if it takes me another 15 years.
In the meantime, I am grateful for Mr. Husband's willingness to keep a sense of humor.