Sunday, March 15, 2009

This is Why?

It was part of everyday life, the routine of going to the market late mornings to buy the freshest groceries for that day's lunch and dinner. This is how I grew up, accompanying my mother to one of Lima's open air markets, Limonsillo, to help her carry bags of meats and vegetables. Soon as we got home you could hear pots, pans and wooden spoons moving and shaking on top of an old stove, all in a hurry to get everything ready for noon or one o'clock. The smell at first was always the same sweet aroma of onions, garlic, salt and pepper. This is the "base," as my mother calls it, for everything you want to cook. Not knowing, at a very young age, this is where my passion for food and art began.
I was always around watching, and sometimes I would get in the action by helping stir, or looking over the stove so that things don't burn. Everything was prepared from raw components. We had no microwave, or pre-packaged food, even the term "take out" does not exist in our vocabulary. How could it when you always had to pinch your pennies in order to survive and have enough money left for the week to put food on the table. In such cases you learn to cook out of necessity, and if you haven't yet, you will learn to like it. Mom was not always in the kitchen. There were days when "the men" got in the kitchen and served up the family their own delights. I remember, and this is still a tradition being practiced by my family in Connecticut, that after a nice long party on a Saturday night, men go into the kitchen on Sundays to prepare Ceviche. I've seen all my uncles and father do it. I'm assuming this is a way of giving mom a day off from hard work.
All these memories still live in me. They are also part of my present everytime I visit my folks. Many lessons learned from mom have had big impact in my life. I listened close to everything and it is now part of my identity. "Siempre ten tu tomatito, cebollita, tu ajito...", always have a little tomato, a little onion, a little garlic, she would say. This is what can be found in my kitchen, reason this is why I paint them. The subject of my still life paintings have been all about the onion and tomato, and many wonder why? Why not some apples or other fruit, why this? These two things are what I identify with, they're tradition, reflections of my life. So what I paint is not randomness, my onion and tomato still lifes are self portraits of different stages in my life.
The beauty about them, aside from their colors, is how necessary they are in other kinds of cooking. Again, using tomotoes, oinons, and garlic as a base I made Linguini with Vodka sauce tonight. Italian, Peruvian; this is the beauty about my little onions and tomatoes, they have the power to unite different cultures through the enjoyment of good food.

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