learning

11/1/2015 – Day Thirty – Four.

I am not a cook. I can say that without flinching or getting an anxiety attack. I am not. I can do a variety of things; cooking however is not one of them. A lot of my cooking is based on watching other people cook, learning from the experts as I like to say. I can’t give you a recipe to make salsa, but I can show you. “I can show you”, is a motto that I have been taught on numerous occasions. No one taught me how to cook, I just learned by watching others. I can get by with simple step by step recipes, but I cannot cook for the life of me. Part of it has to do with lack of patience, and other half has to do with pure laziness. Do not ask me for the perfect recipe for the greatest salsa because I do not have one. I don’t have the best chocolate chip cookie recipe. I don’t even know how to make pie crust from scratch. I consider a lot of family and friends, the bakers, the chefs, the experts that can cook, etc. They can whip up a pie at a moments notice. They can make a variety of different meals that would put some minute meals to shame. To say that I am a bit jealous, I will admit to it. I would love to be able to make something without a recipe, or just be able to make something from nothing.

For the past couple of years I have grown an interest of knowing more about my culture. Whether it be stories about my family or knowing more about my culture itself. Being of Mexican descent, I want to know everything.  Everything in my culture is a story, with a purpose and place, which I find absolutely fascinating. Cooking is a big part of my culture, especially in my family. Every one in my family cooks; from my Abuelita (grandma) to my Tios (Uncles), Tias (Aunts), and primos (cousins). I am always fascinated by how simple ingredients can be transformed into epic feasts. My Mom has often stated “There is no reason to go hungry. If you have rice, beans, and tortillas, you are set”. She’s right. A lot of our meals have consisted of simple ingredients that make up these amazing meals. Most of the times we do not need a special holiday to make these delicious feasts, but on the day that there is a holiday they become these emotional and elaborate works of art. When I was growing up I always had a fascination with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). I loved the idea of having a day to celebrate with your ancestors that have passed on. Eating all the things they loved, celebrating life, discussing stories of the past, and my personal favorite eating “Pan de Muerto” (bread of the dead). It sounds a little morbid, “Pan de Muerto”, but I assure you it’s absolutely delicious.

While I love all aspects of pan dulce (sweet bread), Pan de Muerto has a different meaning on this day.  While breaking bread with your family members you would share a piece with your ancestors and continue this celebration of life and death. Pan de muerto would be the center piece that adorned your alter, the bread you would break and share with each family member. We have usually purchased a large pan de muerto (to share) or bought tiny individual ones to place on our alters to consume. This year I wanted to do something different. I have always depended on going to a panaderia (bakery) to purchase bread, but what if I made the bread myself? What if I put together all the ingredients and made it myself? People thought I was crazy. Honestly, I thought I was crazy. I’ve never cooked with yeast. I couldn’t tell you about kneading anything of that matter. Making pan de muerto, when I could very well just go to the local panaderia and buy it? Like are you crazy?!?

Considering that all my baking consisted of following a box recipe, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I mean, I wasn’t expecting perfection. Edible, yes. Perfection, no. I wanted to see if I could honestly pull this off. I can follow basic instructions. I can follow directions. After scouring the internet, I stubbled upon a recipe by Dariela of Mami Talks (www.mamitalks.com). Something about her recipe sounded like I was talking to a relative who was giving me instruction. I have the disadvantage of having a majority of my family members living in Mexico, so asking them for a recipe is harder with translating, language barriers, measurement differences, temperature changes, etc. Or sometimes they’ve never made it themselves, which is why the internet is amazing! After gathering the ingredients in the recipe, I started the grueling process of making the bread. Let me just state, it was not an easy process. Its a process that takes a lot of patience, which I often times do not have. A lot of waiting around for dough to rise, then kneading, letting dough rest, etc.

Whew!

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I give props to every baker I know. Especially the bakers in panaderias. There were times in the process, I would get frustrated. Was all this work, really worth it? Do they not have little canisters of pan de muerto that I can pop in the oven? WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE!?!?! You know all my little dramatics rolled into one bread. When the bread was ready to pop in the oven, I did the sign of the cross and prayed it didn’t burn. I could have taken the easy way out. I could have complained about driving 3 minutes to the local panaderia. I could have picked the perfect pan and went on to do my alter. But I didn’t feel close to my culture that way. If I had done that, I wouldn’t feel the flour in my hands, watch the dough rising from the bowl. All these processes I would have missed by doing what I normally do, depending on someone else to do something for me. I have been so dependent of everyone to save me from myself. Even simple cooking, I would rather have someone else do.

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It may not have been the prettiest pan de muerto, but it sure was yummy. All that anxiety, all that complaining, proved that I could do it. It may not have been a recipe passed down from generation to generation; I may not have perfected the art of pan dulce. After making this recipe, I felt like I could cook anything. More importantly, I didn’t feel dependent of having someone else clean up my mistakes.

I made this and it was delicious!

Shout Out to Dariela of Mami Talks for your amazing recipe of Pan de Muerto. I cannot wait to make this next year and share this with my family.

 

 

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Suffocate on eternal bliss.

I am done.

Exhausted, drained and every exasperated feeling. My emotions are on over drive and I can’t think straight. I have no energy for the same repetitive things and gentle formalities. Living in a world full of “Yes” people, with people so afraid of hearing “No”. When did we become frightened with the truth, and become discouraged with unfamiliarity? We’ve been lied too. We’ve been told to follow our dreams, because they always come true. No one ever tells us to work hard and then watch our dreams unfold.

No. Instead we all bite the hands that feed us and expect more from the next person. We are all in for the using and taking of everyone’s resources. We stop asking for help and instead ask for people to do for us. Do this, because I can’t. Do this, because I don’t know how.  Do this, because I fucking desire it and for the rest of the world to follow. All these materialistic needs with superficial tendencies. Generations of “likes” and who can make things easier for us. A thousand moonlight superficial “yes”  are prettier and better for our complexion. Let me love you more, until I have used you. Until I have sucked all your resources dry to fall in love with the next big thing. That is all that truly matters, what you see through a filtered photograph that claims to be truth. At the risk of running my mouth, I can’t lie. People expect so much and yet want to do so little. The bare minimal of life instead of setting out to live their own adventures. Learning and experiencing, doing everything for yourself. I don’t mind helping but when does helping become doing everything? We say “yes” so often, everyone is afraid of doing things themselves. We say “yes” so often, that hearing “No” can be discouraging. If people only knew we are entitled to nothing and the world owes us just the same. The world should never be handed to us. We all have to work hard to get what we desire. People make it look easy but only they know the true struggle of maintaining a dream.

Dreams are only easy when we are asleep. Easy when everything is within our reach, when we lay our head  down at night. If only it were that easy. If only everything I truly wanted was right within my grasp. Instead I watch my dreams go further from reach and completely out of my grasp. The sweet is never truly sweet until we experience the sour. The sour has overtaken my sense of taste, that everything has remain a bitter embrace. Still I solider on, still I keep going. Because one day dreams won’t seem like dreams anymore. The blood on my fingertips will be worth it in the end. At the end of the day I will be grateful for the thousands of “No” words I’ve heard, instead of the deceitful “Yes”. In that moment I will feel I truly earned it. I can’t lie to you. Some days I wish everything was handed to me. That everyone would do everything I asked of them and that I wouldn’t lift a single finger. That being so bold would get me everything I wanted, without doing a single damn thing. I want to use people as they have done to me. Use them until they have nothing left inside. Until they are dried out and drained, left unresponsive. I want to hear a thousand “Yes”, instead of the “No” I always receive. I want to believe that all these lies I’ve been fed can be some aspect of reality. Only in dreams do these things exist. Only in dreams can I be showered in riches and my talents praised from every rooftop. Sometimes doing things for yourself hurts. The hardest thing is life is doing things for yourself, even if it hurts, even if kills you in the end.

I am not afraid to do things myself, neither should you. Do things yourself and the rest will follow. There is no harm in asking for help just don’t expect everyone to do things for you. For every “yes” you hear, next time you’ll hear a thousand “no’s”. When you use people enough, they will stop helping you. It’s time to do things for yourself, even if it hurts, even if it kills you. Because when you least expect it, something beautiful will come from all this pain. For once in your life, the sincerity of accomplishment will mean more than anything in this world.

I guarantee it will be worth it in the end, trust me.