The Folklorist Next-door: Remembering Abuelos
Remembering Abuelos: History Through Recetas was released Dec 23, 2022, as Episode 4 of Texas Folklife's Podcast Series The Folklorist Next-door.
Read Gianna Elvia's Blog Post
Remembering Abuelos: History Through Recetas
By Elvia Rendón
[00:00:00] Elvia: Tepache. Caprutada. Machucado. Migas. Pecan pie. Pickled pork feet. Enchiladas.
These are some of the recipes my grandfather left to us when he passed away.
My name is Gianna Elvia Rendon, and this is Remembering Abuelos: History Through Recetas.
[00:00:32] Priscila: My name is Priscila Piscina. I'm from San Antonio, Texas. Lived here my whole life. My family's lived in Texas and San Antonio for multiple generations. This is home. Everything of my family revolves around food. It doesn't matter if it's a birthday, if we're just gonna have a movie night or every holiday event.
It always revolves around food.
I asked Priscilla if her family had any
[00:00:59] Elvia: recipes that they consider traditional Mexican food that aren't considered traditional to the rest of the population.
[00:01:08] Priscila: Like my, my favorite one as a kid growing up is crispy dogs. You know, it's the American hotdog, but wrapped up in a corn tortilla and fried, and that's just what you live off basically when you're under the age of 10 in San Antonio.
My grandma was the best at making all of that crispy stuff. The crispy dogs, the flautas. So fun. I think it's, it's actually the, for my family, it's the last meal that my grandma was able to cook for me when she still could cook.
[00:01:39] Elvia: So I wanted to interview Priscilla because I've known her for 15 years.
We met in high school. Her family is from the west side, just like mine. She studied anthropology from Texas State University. And like me, she's very interested in preserving cultures, especially the cultures of San Antonio. I'm sitting at Priscilla's kitchen table and I ask her about the pandemic. I started this project with the idea of archiving people's Covid-19 food stories.
I was inspired by the massive amount of people posting their recipes on Instagram live. Priscilla also shared with me a traditional food her family made when they were sick.
[00:02:24] Priscila: When it comes to getting better from just about anything you could imagine, it's always menudo and pozole that my mom's like, "that'll knock it out."
She does a very spicy pozole, so it literally clears out your sinuses, like all the way, your whole face. You feel like it's been purged, but it's true. It works. And with the menudo, my family, they make it the traditional way with the actual tripas and everything. But we don't like to eat it. We're part of that new generation that doesn't actually eat the tripe part.
My mom will fill it with hominy and just eat it like that. It's basically just menudo flavored pozole as well.
[00:03:03] Elvia: I asked Priscilla to share with me about one dish that was special to her and her grandmother in particular.
[00:03:12] Priscila: So with cooking in the kitchen, just – it was just sort of this organic thing that happened with my family.
My, my grandma would be making migas and at some point she's just, you know, she tells her daughter, my mother, "Cynthia, you go ahead and make the migas." It's just something that you had to do after hanging around seeing her in the kitchen work and you know, usually bothering your mom. Or in this case, my grandma, like, "what are you doing?
Is it ready yet?" And she's like, "well, if you want it so badly here, you help."
And that's sort of just how you learned in the kitchen. It's was out of necessity, out of growing up, out of, you know, getting a kid to stop being annoying. The usual family way, I guess that things just happen, just one day. And then you're cooking it by yourself, thinking about them.
Migas for my family is just that easy, big portion breakfast that you can make, you know, Saturday morning. And then you eat it all day till the pan, till the pan is empty. Cuz you make it all in one big pan and you leave it in that pan and you serve out of that pan until the pan is empty. And at the end of the day you wash it. But it was just always a real comfort food go-to again. The weekends of all of us together, everybody is just enjoying their day. My mom, my grandma, having their coffee with their migas. Me, I'm putting extra cheese on my migas and then running off to go watch cartoons. It's just one of those, everything is good in life family breakfasts. Unfortunately, during the pandemic is when my grandmother passed away.
Uh, not from Covid or anything, but it just happened during that already stressful time. And the day after she passed – she was already gone – and the dish that my brother made to feed us all was migas. Cuz my mom was beside herself. She was not gonna be able to cook for us. And I just couldn't believe my grandma was gone.
So my brother went into the kitchen, he fried up some tortillas and made some creamy eggs and melted the cheese, and we just, we had migas. It was something that was easy for all of us to eat when we weren't feeling that great.
[00:05:43] Elvia: I asked Priscilla to walk me through how she makes her family's migas recipe.
[00:05:49] Priscila: So you just take corn tortillas and they can be like a day old or a little bit sale, it doesn't matter cuz you're gonna fry them up with oil, so they're nice and crunchy and basically, you know, tortilla chips. And then after that you cook up some of the egg, nice and creamy, but a little bit firm and you fry it up.
My mom, she liked to put bell peppers, tomatoes and onions and fried up altogether, but. Me, of course, when I was young I was picky and I was a kid and it was just the egg, the migas, and then finished with cheese.
So what my mom taught me specifically to do when making migas was after all the corn chips have fried and they're crispy, and you got some soft, some nice and crunchy, you push 'em all off to the side of the pan. And you make a ring and leave a well in the middle and in the well, you put an obscene amount of butter and then you crack in six eggs. Gently cook till all the eggs are curled and fluffy and glorious.
Cook the eggs halfway and then, when they're halfway done, you add in the vegetables. You add your onion, your bell pepper or tomato if you like, and then you keep stirring 'em gently on low heat till they finish cooking. And then finally, you just incorporate the egg and the veggie mixture with the rest of the crispy tortilla strips.
[00:07:37] Elvia: I'm sitting outside in the South Side of San Antonio, Texas. Next up, I interviewed Kimberly Rendón. She is the creative behind Callejera Thrifts and Prints. She is a photographer and an artist, and she's here today to talk to me about her grandma.
[00:08:00] Kimberly: Yeah. I always compared anything I ate to her, her food, and if it wasn't up to par, it was no good
It was like, it's not as . No, they're not that they're not as good as, oh, my grandma, the tortillas. Mm-hmm. , they're not as good as hers and stuff like that. Cuz my grandmother was like the best cook, we felt. Growing up, she would make all the home cooked meals and so my family migrated to Houston, I wanna say a couple years before I was born.
So they did not have that much time, specifically like my grandparents. Um, but my, like my dad being from San Antonio, they found work and we, everybody moved. So I'm talking about my, you know, my parents, my uncles, my cousins. So we had a big family and every time my grandmother would cook, everybody would come over.
That would be like the meal. And so the things that I can remember growing up were the tortillas. Everybody wanted her to make tortillas. So she make tortillas, tamales, everything, I can think. Like almost every food that she made, she like just made it perfect. It was so good. I, I used to help her a couple times.
You know, once in a while in the kitchen, but she never wanted to have me in the kitchen. Me and my sister. She would always say, you're not, you're you and your sister. Um, don't need to be here because y'all are gonna be really smart and y'all are gonna be doctors, or y'all gonna make a lot of money and this is the last thing you need to worry about.
It's like, too good. And so that was her, her, like, she didn't want us to be in that space. And that's it. Like that's where we were gonna be. You know, she, she was like, you guys are smart. Y'all are gonna, you know, be great, you know, individuals. . So for me it's been difficult, um, because we haven't documented a lot of the times those recipes were on the spot with whatever was available.
So it was never the same. It always changed, but let something was a little bit different or something was added extra. We had like garden this time, right? If we had, um, extra like ingredients like vegetables, you. So every, every time it was so different. She never documented. And I remember when she was like, she was literally on her deathbed, like she, she was sick from cancer.
And so I asked, I said, "oh my god, grandma, you never taught me how to make tamales."
[00:10:25] Elvia: Kimberly explained to me that even though there is a loss of her grandmother's recipes, she has been re-envisioning and adapting these foods for her own family.
[00:10:36] Kimberly: I recognize the importance of like documenting, right, the recipes and trying to remember.
So I'm like talking to my moms like, what did you know, "what did grandma do to make this?" Or what did you know, what ingredients to, to make that? And then I'm learning that I'm adapting whatever I have and kind of like, you know, playing with flavors and things like that. And so for me it's been a challenge to, to really remember, oh, how did she make this?
And it's probably never gonna be the same right? But at least it's gonna be close to it, you know? And, and me trying to honor what, what she made for us.
[00:11:14] Elvia: Kimberly shares with me a dish that her family makes when they're sick.
[00:11:19] Kimberly: I think caldos have been something that I'm, um, you know, learning to incorporate a lot more, um, whether it's like even, you know, chicken or beef or even just like shrimp, like seafood, you know? And how to, how to bring that back. Cause I remember growing up and my mom made this likes delicious like seafood soup. It's so good. And, you know, using that, the broth, right, the bone broth,. and you know the chicken stock and stuff like that. And incorporating that into to what we eat and what we cook. And I think it's been challenging in the pandemic because of access. Right?
Um, a lot of times, I know a lot of folks I know for me personally, just like focusing on like wellness and my health has been a challenge with everything. You know, all the trauma, all the stress that's going on around, it's really difficult to focus on it, um, because we're stuck in this like cycle, right? That's not necessarily healthy, right?
And so for me, that's been a challenge.
[00:12:23] Elvia: Kimberly shared with me a little bit about her relationship with Tex-Mex food, as well as her relationship and stories of quote unquote "struggle meals."
[00:12:33] Kimberly: Definitely weenies and bologna, or even spam have been things that we've incorporated.
I was thinking about my, my grandmother and incorporating these, she wasn't accustomed to using these ingredients at all. Right. She's more like, you know, frijoles and arroz and so when I remember she would make these like crispy dogs, with the, some of the weenies. Right. And, you know, and, and make that for us. And to see like how she adapted to, like even TexMex, right? TexMex food is something that we, you know, I didn't necessarily grow up with, um, until I maybe got older. Um, but certain things like that, yeah. And our charro beans, we would put weenies in it because it's what we had and what we could afford.
Growing up, you don't even recognize that like maybe you're in a struggle. This is like normal, right? And so I know my grandma would incorporate weenies in like charro beans and we always thought that's how chow things were. And I, and I remember going to a quinceañera or a wedding and they had this like big batch of charro beans and we're like, no, wait, hold on. We've been eating the wrong thing. Like these is charro beans. These are like, bomb, these are so good. Like, or it's a special occasion we can afford, you know, the more expensive meat . But like during the week, you know, well we use weenies and bologna and like, chopped ham. Um, you know, to eat with huevos cause it's like a lot cheaper and you can make multiple meals throughout the week with that. Right.
[00:14:13] Elvia: I'm gonna take you on a journey now to the east side of San Antonio, Texas to Sunshine Bakery, where Kayla Matta will be talking about her family's panadería.
[00:14:28] Kayla: Pan de polvo. Conchas and empanadas. Polvorones.
Basic sugar cookies. Like every – all the like, traditional, um, pan dulce that I make is because, um, my grandpa tell me how to do it. Mm-hmm. My name is Kayla Matta and I am the owner of Sunshine Bakery on San Antonio's East side. My grandparents were the original owners.
[00:14:55] Elvia: Before Kayla's grandparents started Sunshine Bakery, they worked at various baking jobs. Her grandfather worked at a colonial bakery factory, and her grandmother was a cake decorator at grocery stores.
[00:15:07] Kayla: And they said whenever they were driving in the car, they would drive past this building. And my grandma would be like, that's gonna be my bakery. That's gonna be my bakery.
That's kind of like how Sunshine Bakery came to be. One of my earliest memories with baking is just, um, hanging out here after school. I would just like be able to get whatever I wanted and I would always get like, um, he doesn't, um, we don't make them anymore and he doesn't make them anymore. They were like these croissants. But they weren't like the flaky French croissants.
Like, it was just like something that he would make, um, like with like, he would just stick a bunch of butter between them and like roll them up to look like croissants. That was like my favorite since I was like little. My daughter's age. Um, my grandparents used to get like really big like wedding and quinceañera orders.
I mean, weddings and quinceañeras are a lot of money. So she would be like, here, I'll give you $20. Just go pass out like cake to people on plate. So I was just kind of like, Ooh, money. Like, and I'll just, I have to go give people their cake. So it was kind of like I started doing that, just watching and then just helping at like bigger, um, parties that they would do.
[00:16:22] Elvia: As an adult, Kayla followed in her grandmother's footsteps and also worked at a bakery in a grocery store. Her first scratch baking project was making vegan conchas and pan dulce for her friends. In 2017, her grandparents retired and she took over the family panaderia.,
I'm reporting this last part of my narration on the kitchen table, drinking a cup of hot tea, and I hope that this reaches you in your kitchen table.
Thank you for joining me on this food journey.
My name is Gianna Elvia Rendón, and this has been "Remembering Abuelos: History Through Recetas."
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This episode was hosted and produced by Gianna Elvia Rendón, a 2022 Community Folklife Fellow.
The Folklorist Next-door is brought to you by Texas Folklife. Our technical producer is J.A. Strub. Our executive producer is Jeannelle Ramirez.
You can learn more about the fellows and their projects at texasfolklife.org. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.