When the weather was fair my mama cooked outside. There was an old wood stove in there. It may seem primitive by our modern standards, but that stove could cook anything. It could fry and it could bake. My mama would bake bread on the stove top in a cast-iron pan.
We had a table in there where we would have our meals. If it got a little cold, the heat from the stove wood warm us up. We lived close to the ocean but there are plenty of summer and autumn days when we needed their shade from that vine.
Near the back fence grew an old nopal. That is the prickly pear cactus that Mexicanos and Pochis like to eat. Back in Texas when things get dry and there was very little grass for the cattle they eat, the ranchers would cut the nopales down then burn off the stickers. The hungry cattle would eat them up. I guess that was the same for us people. My mama would cut the nopales, that is the tender leaves. With a sharp knife she would cut the stickers off, dice them up and then cooked them. There were different ways of serving them. One way was cooked with some onion and served as a vegetable. Mama also scrambled them with eggs in the morning. She cooked them with a spicy red sauce. Here in Mexicali the vendors and restaurants make a tasty juice out of it.
We always had cilantro growing in the backyard. My mama used that a lot in different things that she cooked. We had a lemon tree, so we have a lot of lemonade to drink. The leaves of the lemon tree can be boiled to make tea. We had a lot of that. Of course we had lemon meringue pie quite often for desert.
Along the fence we had growing a chayote vine. The chayote is a lot like a squash and one vine plant fed the family all growing season. Look closely in your local supermarket and you might find the chayote there.
Blackberries grew on another part of our fence. Mama would make preserve out of them and pies. The preserve was good on top of pancakes and cornbread.
We always had venison to eat. John’s people liked to hunt. We had rabbit, and wild Spanish goats from up in the hills. We had duck and geese. Quail was plentiful and we often ate them. John’s people like to fish. We often had trout from the local rivers. There were clams on the beaches from Hueneme to Point Mugu. They would catch grunion when they came ashore to spawn. Halibut, rock cod, sand dabs were also common at our dinner table. I went with him to fish when I got older.
Almost everybody in town had their own chicken coop. We had fresh eggs and fresh chickens. We also had fresh poop. That was my job to take care of.