So on Friday night, I came home from a Southern Hub reunion at our Spanish placement exam geeked. I didn’t realize how much I missed everyone and I think it recharged my soul (as cheesy as that sounds). I was very happy coming home on the bus with my neighbor, Shukura- while at one point I thought I was lost because I didn’t recognize where I was but I figured it out like the future engineer I am. When I got home, I walked into the kitchen and saw my naña preparing some shrimp. She asked if I’d like to help her and I could hear my mom inside my head saying, “help with whatever you can” so I agreed. We shelled and deveined the shrimp for about an hour and then the rest of the family popped into the kitchen.
My host mom was preparing the vegetables and then I heard a knock on the front door. I opened the door and it was my host uncle and cousin. They ran into the kitchen and started moving the stove and fridge. The day before, my host family got a shipment of a new freezer for the restaurant so they came over to help install it. My host dad showed up at some point to also help install the freezer but I am not really sure when. My naña and I moved from shrimp to cutting garlic when out of nowhere water started blasting from all faucets in the kitchen. My host dad didn’t shut off the water that ran into the ice maker in the fridge and he bumped into the pipe, breaking the pipe. Water was literally everywhere. We started passing pots and pans to fill with water and after about 5 minutes of that, my host dad was able to shut off the water valve. There wasn’t running water for about another 20 minutes but we made it work with the pots we had filled with water.
During this entire time, there was live crabs in the kitchen (because it was, of course, soon to be Seafood Saturday). While water was spurting left and right, the crabs had managed to crawl out of their bags and get all over the counter. Now crabs, in the States at least, usually have some rubber bands or some other apparatus to keep their claws together, these crabs did not. I was lucky enough to have to put the crabs back in the bag. Now, as many know, I am from Chicago. I’ve had may experiences of losing fingers- including blowing up illegal fireworks, dumbly working with power tools, large office cutters, etc.- but I have never been more of afraid of losing fingers. After successfully putting all the crabs back into the bag and keeping all ten of my fingers, we cleaned up the kitchen and sat down for some dinner. We had some soup and I was very happy because this was the first meal where I felt I wasn’t stuffing my face to clean my plate. We washed dishes and cleaned up, like we usually do and soon after I got ready for bed and went to bed.
At around 5AM, my host sister came into my room saying “we’ll be in the kitchen”. I, being the lazy American I am, slept till 8 and then went downstairs. I drank my breakfast juice and then ate some bread and coffee. I went into the kitchen to find everyone in my host family- including cousins I had yet to meet- doing something. People were washing dishes, taking orders, cooking, cutting vegetables, cleaning crab, and I felt so bad. I really went back to sleep instead of helping out. I started with cutting some carrots but then I got put on dish duty but then I was moved to organizing vegetables but then I went back to dishes but then they needed help bussing tables but then I would go to measuring drinks to cleaning again and eventually I lost track of my duties. At some points, I felt really dumb because everyone knew what they had to do and I felt like a burden when I didn’t know what to do or I felt nervous to ask for help when I didn’t know where something was. I really appreciated my family for being patient with me and not getting upset with me when I didn’t understand something. Lunch hour was probably the worst because I really had no idea what was going on but I eventually found myself apart of the cycle instead of an awkward foreigner in my family’s kitchen.
Here’s a good song to dedicate to all my people who know about cooking: