When my parents bought their home 30 years ago, the front and back yards were barren. I don’t remember that, because by the time I came around the yard was lovely. The trees, plants and grass Papá Chepe (my grandfather) planted had grown perfectly.
As a gardener and former farm worker, he was quite experienced when it came to working the land. In the front lawn, he planted grass, several small pine trees which divided our lawn from our neighbor’s property, sávila, bushes, flowers, maguey and the prized mulberry tree known as La Mora.
In the backyard, we had cactus, an almond tree, a lemon tree, a fig tree, an avocado tree, a green apple tree, chile plants, roses, flowers, ferns, grass, several bushes, and small pines that served as an additional barrier to the busy street behind our home. Our yard was a hybrid of the typical suburban lawn with grass and flowers and the immigrant yard full of tasty “organic” fruits and vegetables.
Our garden is much smaller now. In place of the fig and lemon trees, we laid cement and expanded the house to make a private bedroom for the grandparents. The nopales are gone now, so is the almond tree (it caught tree cancer, according to Papá Chepe). The apple tree is gone now too. Que lástima.
Those apples were delicious.
I have plenty of memories of helping my Mom in the kitchen, but 98% of those times were for some meal. She hardly ever baked except for the usual birthday cake or rare fruit/vegetable based bread. She still leaves most of the baking of sweets to my sister.
The apples must have just looked good on that day many years ago. “We should make a pie,” she told Papá Chepe. He began to help her — which is rare, you know division of labor and gender roles — and peeled dozens of apples with a potato peeler. Soon, my mom had a bigger pile of apples than she knew what do with.
I walked in to the kitchen, hungry for a snack and grabbed a few slices before she could scold me.
“Those are for the pies!”
Huh? Pies? Really?! I began to help her mix ingredients. Mom followed the instructions faithfully and a few hours later, the first batch of pies were ready.
As soon as they had cooled down, she sent me over to Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni in the living room where they were watching their novela.
“Les traigo pie,” I said.
They gladly took the plates from my hand, never the type to deny something sweet. They dug in to the tender crust and gooey apples.
“Ahorita les traigo leche,” I reassured them.
I returned a minute later with a tall glass of milk for them to share.
“Comó les gusta?” I asked.
Mamá Toni just nodded her head. Papá Chepe looked up, gave me a mischievous grin and said, “¡bueno sabori!”*
[Note: Since I was a kid, Chepe always would indicate that he found something tasty by saying “Bueno sabori” which literally means “good flavor.” I guess he added the “ee” sound to “sabor” to amuse us kids.]