It is raining in Los Angeles. Our parched and drought-ridden earth rejoices and starts to feel alive again. Somehow that shift, that change in ozone, the sounds and smells of the city I love speak to me in memory – a memory of food, family and love. I take a walk outside to feel it on my skin and the wind whips my hair into a tangled mess while it caresses my neck and whispers one word – pozole.
My Grandma Lupe made pozole all through my growing up. Rainy days like this one meant every door and window were flung open to let in that good clean smell; the wet, flowery-herbal breeze from her gardens. We bundled up, but the doors and windows remained open to let in all that goodness. Buckets outside were placed to catch the rain water, while in the kitchen good things were happening.
A painted clay pot sat squat on the back burner, slowly cooking beans. A larger pot sat proudly up front, bubbling away. Pork neck bones, cubes of pork swam in the pot with quartered yellow onions, cloves of garlic and spices. In a bowl in the sink were dried chiles soaking in water. Later they’d be deveined and seeded, tossed into a blender with a bay leaf to make a smooth and silky red sauce. Nixtamal was soaking or a large gallon-sized can of hominy was opened by my grandfather and drained.
The sound of the rain hitting the driveway coupled with the merry, busy sounds of the kitchen were music to me. The sas, sas, sas of my grandfather’s mighty rolling pin swiftly rolling out floury and huge tortillas, stark white against the tomato-red of the kitchen table was the drumbeat of my young life.
Towards the middle of the day, the smell of the pozole would be driving me crazy with longing. My grandmother would dip her spoon in to check the meat. If it was soft enough to fall off the bone, then it was ready for the chile sauce. She’d pour that in, add the hominy or nixtamal and start the process of slicing and shredding. Lettuce was sliced thinly, radishes even thinner, onions diced, lemons quartered and they all went into pretty little bowls. That’s when I really started to get excited because I knew it was coming.
Finally, my grandmother deemed the chile had cooked into the meat enough and she’d scoop out ladles full of the rich and very tender pork, red-dyed hominy and the delectable, spicy broth. We’d top our bowls with handfuls of thinly sliced lettuce and radishes, sprinkle a little oregano maybe, add diced onions to semi-cook in the hot broth and then squeeze lemon over the whole thing. A spoon would stir that mixture together and then magic happened. I’d lift that spoon of spicy, meaty, crisp, lemony goodness to my lips and eat. So many flavors, so many layers and textures – just the universe in a mouthful.
In a word…heaven.
Today I’m making a bit of that heaven for my grandchildren. The door to the balcony is open letting in the rainy air, there sits a bucket catching the rain water, a huge pot of pozole is simmering, chiles are soaking and two children are practically dancing in anticipation. All is right with the world.
*All photos in this post were taken with the #DroidMini on the #Verizon network. I am not being compensated in any way for this post.