One Mom's "Pinch of Cumin"

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

Chow Bella has a valentine for you. For the rest of February, we're handing out Candy Hearts -- stories of food and love from some of our favorite writers. Enjoy.

From the moment her child is conceived, a mother's love flows in the form of food. In the womb, it is delivered through her blood. In infancy, it's passed through milk or formula and the sacrifice of sleep those methods demand. Growing up, a child's taste buds are branded with his mother's cooking; whether it's the perfect ratio of cinnamon and sugar she sprinkles like magic on morning toast, the subtle tang of hickory in her honey-glazed chicken, or the bewitching sense of comfort infused in her roasted vegetable soup, no one will ever make it quite like she does.

See also: - Laurie Notaro's Dish of Death - Elizabeth Naranjo's "Good Enough" Fudge

Girls would do well to remember this. No matter how many times you hear the adage "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach," know that a mother beat you to it and you will never claim a larger share of his affection through food. I say this as my son prepares for his first Valentine's Day at school. He will come home clutching a paper bag stuffed with hologram cards and Cupid-shaped erasers. And taped to some of the cards will be carefully selected Conversation Hearts. Oh, don't underestimate these girls. They may be kindergartners, but their grasp of phonics is strong enough to differentiate between "Be Good" and "Call Me."

Three days into the school year, a 5-year-old brunette accosted me on the playground. After marching up to my son and saying, "Gabriel. I've been looking for you everywhere," she turned to me and declared, "Gabriel is my friend," before grabbing his hand and dragging him away.

Lately, another dark-haired temptress chases him down each afternoon when the bell rings. She sings his name: "Gaaaabriellll!" and tousles his sheaf of curls before scampering away like a pixie.

My son doesn't yet know what to make of this attention. His usual response is downcast eyes and a perplexed twist of a smile that also could be called a grimace. So now matter how painstakingly these dolls pick through their boxes of candy hearts before selecting the messages they want to send, their first attempts at spearing my son's heart are bound to miss the mark.

Of course, some girl eventually will win him over. And on the way, she will ply him with food, perhaps even deferring to me on the eve of a surprise birthday dinner, wanting to know whether it's a pinch or a dash of cumin that makes his beloved mother's salsa recipe so special.

Remember the episode of Everybody Loves Raymond when Ray's mother agrees to hand over her meatball recipe to daughter-in-law Debra? The meatballs turn out terrible, and Debra discovers that Ray's mother sabotaged her by sticking a label for basil on a jar of tarragon. I would never do that. It's disturbing. Pathetic. When the time comes, I will let Little Miss Valentine know that it's a pinch of cumin -- not a dash -- that makes the salsa. Besides, it doesn't matter if she has all the right ingredients and follows my recipe to a "T."

She'll never make it like I do.

Follow Chow Bella on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.