When I grow old I hope I will be as sage as my grandmother .
Her full name was Leonor de Montoya. She is not a very big woman and in her fragile body she has avivacious soul.
By the time I knew her she had gray hair, but today her hair is white like the snow. My grandfather told me that when she was younger my grandmother had beautiful long brown hair thatilluminated her beautiful white skin. He said she was the envy of all the women because of her natural beauty. However, the “Tita” Leonor, I knew represented none of the sensuality that my “abuelo”liked to brag about.
What really made her special to all of us was what in Spanish is called “sazón” that she had in her hands. You see, my grandmother had a special gift with food. She could cookanything and everything and it would be perfect. She never used a recipe; she simply added a pinch of instinct and a dash of magic to every dish. I remember when I was a child she would call me intothe kitchen and say, “Maria come and learn.” She would take my little hands into hers so that I could learn the delicate motions needed to make a perfectly shaped arepa. She taught me that a burningcandle could take away the bad smell of an onion. She had me taste her food before she was done to see if I could determine what special ingredient was missing. If my senses were sharp enough toknow she would reward me by making my favorite arequipe cake.
Leonor never called me “Mafe” like everyone else; that would have been too informal for her fine social upbringing. If food wasimportant to her good then manners were an essential companion. She made sure I knew exactly how to pick up my utensils, how to sit, cut meat, and speak at the dinner table. “Your spoon strokes should goout, as though you were feeding a baby, and then once your hand is in the air incline your spoon making sure you don’t slurp” she would say. “Spoon to mouth, not mouth to spoon” and “Silverware at...