If you were friends with the little girl version of Lisa Adams, you probably have watched The Wizard Of Oz with me. It aired every year around my Birthday and my family would host slumber parties that involved puppies, porch swings, and this classic film. I think my little girl sweet dreams were full of images of Judy Garland singing to me, of munchkins, and good witches. My childhood nightmares were full of flying monkeys and a melting Margaret Hamilton interchanged with her freakishly riding that bicycle through the cyclone. Just like the famous line from the movie claims, there truly is no place like home. I write about growing up in the Midwest a lot. It’s one of my favorite subjects to share and of course all of my culinary roots began at home.
I’m in Missouri again, helping out with family care as well as helping my sister throw a surprise 50th wedding anniversary for our parents. I’ve lived in New York City for 22 years and spent only 18 in Joplin, MO. Going ‘home’ to my NYC apartment is one of my all time favorite feelings ever, but coming back to the house I was born in and looking out at my dad’s pasture is home. I don’t often say the phrase ‘home is where the heart is,’ because my heart goes with me wherever I am and I’m only home in Missouri twice a year. I know it’s just a silly phrase, but hearts and home are serious business. Coming home changes each time but this visit is really throwing me for a loop. My mom is out of town, my sister lives in her own house 6 miles away, and my dad has permanently moved into my childhood bedroom. I don’t feel like a stranger or a visitor, I’m just smacked with how different life is.
I‘ve been thinking a lot about who I would be if I lived here again. Or who I would be if I never moved away from Missouri. Trick thoughts! I would be ME, just in extremely different circumstances. This always brings me back to one of my favorite ways of thinking. We are not our circumstances. Who we are is how we react to what is happening around us. I look at my dad’s circumstances (and why I’m here while my mom is away.) His health is failing, he’s nearly 80, and there are more bad days than good days. Who is he? He’s Sam Adams, dad to Jules and Lisa, and the husband to our mother, Rita. My first true love and the measure of all men in my life. The bar is high, gentlemen, my dad is a bonafide superhero.
Whenever we talk on the phone when I’m in NYC, I try to get his mind off how rotten his body feels and remind him he’s my dad. I ask for advice, he knows all my dating woes and triumphs, and he usually hears all of my good news/bad news before anyone else. I remind him that he is needed, that his opinion matters to me, and that I’m still his little girl. Being his primary care giver this week has been a dream to have such intimate time with him. One of the things we do together when I come home is cook, and I’ve insisted on kitchen time this trip especially. One afternoon we spent hours pouring through his recipe files and decided on jerk chicken for dinner. We made a vat of his BBQ sauce to give to friends. And the big event was New Mexican homemade tortillas and sopapillas!
Dad and I hosted a little New Mexican dinner party of our own this week and I made him work! This was his specialty when we were kids and it was a family affair, kneading dough, rolling it out, watching the tortillas blister with black spots, and then slathering them with butter as they came off the griddle. We had our own little tortilla factory going; we both had a bowl of dough, and then we pulled and formed our own dough into balls. He rolled all them out like a champ while I cooked them, I think we had 34 total. We chatted about me learning to make bread in India, about foreign villages we’ve both traveled to and how fortunate we are to live in the US, and we retold every favorite story we knew. It was such a sweet afternoon. The greatest part is that he didn’t mention being in pain even one time that day.
I don’t know how many more visits I’ll get like this one, but I’m tucking the memories and pictures from this one away to relive again and again once I return to NYC. This is my favorite captured moment. The dew on the grass, the sun rising over my dad’s pasture; there’s no place like home.
Here is the recipe for the Tortillas and Sopapillas. I also made Charro beans that night so I’m giving you that recipe too. My mom always had a crockpot of beans and New Mexican red chile cooking to pair with dad’s tortillas. I changed it up a bit by adding green chiles and beer to my beans.
New Mexican Flour Tortillas
adapted from Tortillas and Honey
8 c. flour
2 Tbs salt
8 Tbs baking powder
1/2 c. lard
2 c. warm water
- Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Then add in the lard and knead with your hands until small clumps form (kind of like cornmeal or a little larger). Be careful not to overmix.
- Add in warm water a little at a time and knead well until a ball forms (you might use less than the 2 c. of water or a little more, just see as you go).
- Once the dough forms into a ball, separate dough into balls (a little larger than golf ball sized). Place these between damp towels to let them rest and so they don't dry out while you're preparing and making the tortillas.
- Heat a large cast iron skillet or griddle on medium heat.
- Roll out a ball of dough with a rolling pin. Starting from the center of the dough, roll the dough toward your then working your way around the dough (starting from the center each time) until a disk forms. Take the dough and turn it over, then do the same. Do this until you get the size and thickness that you want. Don't worry if they don't come out perfectly round!
- Immediately place the rolled out dough on top of the griddle or whatever you're using, then flip the tortilla over after a minute or so when it puffs up a little and when brown marks start appearing on the bottom (there may be some bubbles on the top). After flipping the tortilla continue to cook for another minute or so until it is cooked through.
- Continue rolling out the dough and cooking the tortillas until you've finished with all the dough. Makes about 1.5-2 dozen tortillas, depending on size.
Make the tortillas above but instead of griddling them, cut the rolled out tortilla balls into fourths. Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil and shallow fry the dough pieces. They will puff up and turn golden, flip for even cooking. As they come out of the oil, quickly drain and toss in a sugar and cinnamon mixture. Set aside. Finish all the sopapillas and serve drizzled in honey.
adapted from Rancho Gordo
- 1 pound dried heirloom beans
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 slices bacon
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 fresh serrano chiles, minced
- 1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled, and chopped
- 1 can of beer
Cook the beans and broth in a slow cooker for 4 hours on low. In a skillet over medium-low heat, cook the bacon until the fat has rendered. Remove the bacon and chop it into small pieces; set aside. Add the onion and serrano chiles to the skillet and fry until softened and fragrant. Stir in the roasted poblano pepper. Cook for 2 more hours on low.
Once the beans are cooked, add the beer, the reserved bacon, and the sauteed vegetable mixture. Let simmer for 30 more minutes to blend the flavors.