Food, Family and Nostalgia

I had written before about my grandma’s taquitos and how much I missed them. Last week was a week filled with nostalgia about my family and food. I longed to spend time with my mom and my sister and grandma and the rest of the family, and as I longed for them, my taste buds began to long for Mexican food.

I love food. I LOVE food. My life in Mexico always centered around food: if we went to a certain part of town, I quickly thought of the best places to eat nearby. Mexican food is so rich and varied that it is hard to get bored. Mexico City also has a good variety of food as well so any craving, whether national or international, can be satisfied.

In the Netherlands, I am learning to cook. I already knew how to cook, but I am learning every day cooking. I am also trying to “spice things up” so that everyday food does not become boring, and I am happy with the results.

I spent Wednesday at a friend’s house and she made a delicious apple pie. Pies are a big thing in the Netherlands, and especially in the region of Limburg where I live. Helping her make the pie reminded me of my grandma’s cookies. Every once in a while, my grandma surprises us by baking something and her cookies are a big hit! It takes here longer to make them than us to fight over them and eat them all. These are the type of cookies that don’t last, and this is not due to the lack of conservatives. They are just that good!

On Friday, I was sitting in “my room” at our apartment and I thought again about those cookies. I knew all the ingredients would be easy to find except one: Crisco. I had already read in different Facebook groups that shortening is not regularly sold in grocery stores. I spent about 30 minutes at the grocery store downstairs looking for an equivalent, but was unlucky. I read all the do-it-yourself boxed baked goods for ingredients and the closest I found was “creamy butter.” Butter is made out of milk. Crisco is made out of vegetables.

At first, I resigned myself to experimenting with this creamy butter, but my need for these cookies did not allow it. I remembered the baking store nearby and headed out hoping to find Crisco….and Crisco I found!

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The cookies came out delicious! Some burned (my grandma’s recipe does not include oven temperature or time of baking so I pretty much had to wing this), but the cookies tasted like home. They tasted like family. They tasted like sitting at the breakfast table with my family, drinking coffee and talking.

By the time you read this post, the cookies will be gone, but the taste of family that these morsels gave me will still linger on.

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Poetry…a love/hate relationship

Una rosa se hizo en mi corazon.
Una rosa llamada Astrid.
Y a esa rosa yo la considero
La mejor hermanita.

I was about seven years old when I decided I wanted to be a writer and wrote this poem for my little sister. She was just born and I wanted to celebrate it somehow. I will admit it is not proof of a prodigy child or someone with phenomenal writing talents. It was simply something I wanted to share with my family and my sister. After writing this poem, I was sure writing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I had managed to understand at a very young age the power of words, the power of MY words and the power of sharing these words with others.

When I was in the fourth grade, I had a great teacher that taught me not only to find my writing voice in English, but also taught me other types of writing. Texas had at that time the TAAS test as a standardized exam and in 4th grade, the exam assessed writing. We spent all year learning about essays that described, explained how to do something, compared and contrast two things, and persuaded others. I discovered and experimented with prose and fell in love with it.

Sadly, once I found prose, I never gave poetry another chance. Poetry became too codified for me, and even in college, I found poetry hard to read, comprehend and analyze. In prose, I felt I could explain myself much better; with poetry I had to choose my words carefully. Poetry became something that I had to be in the mood for. Sometimes it even felt like work.

Today I discovered a very interesting TED Talk about poetry, and it left me thinking. Stephen Burt says that poetry helps us live with the fact that we will die. We read poems written by people who died, we read poems about death, we even feel we can be immortalized with a poem. I think Stephen is onto something. I share with you the link to his talk in the hopes that he can get you thinking about poetry, if like me, you have put it aside, or to reaffirm your love of poetry if you are fortunate enough to understand it and love it!

TED Talk: Why people need poetry

An Ideal Place to Write

While I was having lunch, I was catching up on the blogs I follow. Between visitors, moving furniture and selling an apartment in Amsterdam and getting my very first Dutch common cold, I’ve hardly had time to read posts and comment. There were plenty of posts that caught my attention, but the question in one lingered in my mind throughout the whole lunch: If money was not an obstacle, what would be your ideal writing space?

I read the responses of many people and all sounded amazing: a deserted beach, on a mountain, in Alaska, in a garden, etc. One answer made me giggle: a plane. This person said he likes writing on a plane because there are no wifi distractions, and he sits on the window so he will be forced to write and only get up when he really has to go to the bathroom. I guess idea writing places are as diverse as the books in a bookstore.

My writing space (with Mona's fave box to sleep in)

My writing space

I gave the question more thought. What would I like as my ideal place of writing, the place where I will find refuge for hours on end letting my creativity flow? I would love a beach setting simply because I love the beach, but my life right now is not in the beach. I live in a small town in the Netherlands, and have no plans to run away to the beach (at least for now). I walked into my loggia and realized I do have an ideal place to write. Our apartment has an indoor balcony that can be opened up when the weather is nice and closed in the winter. It gets a lot of sun and I have a bit of a view. I have my desk, my two typewriters, my laptop, books, my smart people (stuffed toys of Shakespeare, Austen, Woolf and Poe), a very comfortable couch with an ottoman, flowers and enough space to sit, lay, nap, write, read, meditate, etc. The kitchen is nearby with enough coffee and tea and Mona is always around to keep me company.

As Riccardo and visit new houses hoping to find “the” one for us, I constantly check where I could place my desk considering the view, the light and the space. This place is just as important as the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms.

I am sure when we find our home, it will have a great area for me to write, a place where I will spend my days with Mona and the smart people and this will become my new ideal place t write!