Unfortunately, cooking wasn’t really my mother’s thing. It’s not that her food wasn’t good; she just wasn’t all that creative. Almost every meal was based around rice: rice and beans, rice, chicken and vegetables, rice and soup. On Sundays, she served rice with a Spanish pork and potato stew, which to me was absolute torture. I hated the saffron-y seasoning and even more, I hated the way the soupy stew turned the rice into a soggy, orange mush.
There were some dishes I eagerly looked forward to though; her magical dishes. My mother's tuna salad, for example, was one-of-a-kind. I have endlessly tried to copy it, but always fail. Maybe it was the way she cut her onions and tomatoes (never on a chopping board, always in the palm of her hand), or maybe it was her mayonnaise. My tuna salad has never come close. I recently tried some tuna salad from my local butcher and miraculously enough, that one came very close. I am getting hungry just thinking about it and at the same time I am reminding myself to serve it over hot rice, just the way she used to.
Lentil soup must have been my mother’s most wonderful culinary creation. She used good beef stock, green lentils, a mix of Colombian spices, onions and diced bits of potato. I remember those days when I came home from school and smelled it cooking. The soup had depth, it tasted of South American flair and it was the biggest treat. Her magical lentil soup is also something I’ve unsuccessfully tried to recreate. I have a recipe that comes close, but unfortunately, no cigar.
When I first went back home, shortly after I moved to the Netherlands, I remember thinking about the soup while I was on the airplane. That same afternoon, I especially requested that my mother make it. Words fail me when I try to describe what that very first spoonful was like. How I missed that flavor! This time, however, it wasn’t so much the warmth that came from its heat and spices; it was my mother’s touch. It was the taste of good memories and the taste of a time gone by.