ESTOLIA SANTANA, GRANDMOTHER
During The Mexican revolution in 1917 my grandmother, Estolia Santana, accompanied by her mother and six siblings, left their native homeland Tepospizaloya, Jalisco for El Paso, Texas. After five long years of hardship in Texas, the family set out for Los Angeles, California in search of opportunity and the American dream. Out of desperation, Estolia took a job as a cook where she created a revolution of her own and developed her legendary cooking skills while providing for her five children she raised on her own.
Estolia was a self-taught chef and learned many styles of cooking. With limited resources she always put her own spin on everything she prepared especially regional cuisine. Despite the hardship and daily struggle, preparing dinner for her children and the art of breaking bread with the one's you love was one of her true joy's in life. Simply put, family was everything.
LISA VIGIL, GRANDDAUGHTER
As a child I was a finicky eater. Clearly, my mom had her work cut out for her since I only ate a few dishes. At the age of seven years old when I went to live with my grandma, I became interested in cooking. I remember one time I pushed a vinyl seat up against the stove and began to fry bacon in a cast iron pan. Well, needless to say it didn't work out very well for the bacon (which burned) or my behind (which got smacked). As time went on, however, my cooking skills developed, and in high school when we ditched class (yes, I ditched), I was the appointed chef to feed my friends.
As an adult, I realized my grandmother was also a mentor, but as a child this didn't resonate. She taught me a lot, but two lessons stand out the most. One, when you don't have a specific ingredient, you learn to improvise: "when in doubt figure it out." The second and more important of the two, is that the heart and soul of a family is the matriarch. Without the love and strength of this woman, a family's connection and heart does not exist. Of course, I will never be able to fill her shoes, but I will continue to try.
Today, as a mother and grandmother, I'll try most food, but I'm still a bit squeamish. I still cannot eat Jell-o or tapioca pudding (the texture makes me crazy). I know what I love and the kind of food we want to share from the five styles of Mexican cuisine (Tex-Mex, New-Mex, Den-Mex, Cal-Mex, Mex-Mex, and Border food) to exciting flavors from the deep South to regional favorites of Cajun and Creole, making our way around the globe to Italy and the Middle East. Our only inspiration is searching for the "perfect bite!"
This has not been an easy road, but it is my journey. I love what we are creating in the kitchen and sharing with you.
Sharing a meal with family is my bliss. For me there is nothing more delicious than the "perfect bite." It means everything to an obsessive food junkie like myself--let's consider it my heaven on earth.
Besos y Buen Apetito