treasured secret flavors
We are colleagues, comadres, team mates, friends and women who care about our families, friends, traditions, heritage and each other as well as our community and country.
The three of us, Maria “Tonette” Carbajal, Zulema “Sue” Echerivel-Felix, and Patricia “Guera” Taylor, met decades ago while employed at Hughes/Raytheon. Each had her roadmap of success within the confidential and top secret environment of the Missile Systems Company and held responsible executive and professional positions for numerous years. The company grew to be and remains the number one leader in the world of the technology created and produced within the multi-site engineering, production, and business environments. The culture was one of accountability and team performance. Continuing education and professional development was fostered and expected. From this technical background and culture, we learned to approach projects with a disciplined mindset: “Say what you do and Do what you say.” Our vocabulary and thought processes are still peppered (no pun intended) with terminology reserved for engineering and project based outcomes: Process, Quality, Lessons learned, Results, Evaluation, Proof of Test, Continuous Improvement, Specifications, Matrix and many others used in our prior arcane world.
We were and are grateful that during our employment, our professional talents and leadership skills were recognized by mentors who supported us with appointments to higher level positions, projects and committees within the company as well as members of boards of directors supporting the Tucson community and National organizations. Our contributions and assignments led to a respectful business relationship with our teammates. We, in turn, assisted, supported, mentored and guided others to gain from our experiences.
We describe ourselves as three strong and independent women formerly employed within a Fortune 100 Company, who share and honor a common Mexican heritage with separate cultures of history, food, and traditions. We agreed to create a combination of culinary traditional recipes that originated from Chihuahua and Sonora, Mexico, and the Arizona/New Mexico border. The recipes are as diverse as our professions. We found that differences between the Sonora and Chihuahua cooking influenced the taste and flavor of each recipe differently. We noted how much in common many recipes had, yet adding a different spice and using a different cooking technique resulted in a distinct flavor.
As our friendship evolved, we became part of an extended family and shared many turns of fate…from births, baptisms, communions and passings, laughter to tears…and all the in between. Each knew that the other two were a text, a call, a drive or an email away.
Each year, we make Green Corn Tamales, a northern Mexico and Southwestern Arizona delicacy. The annual tradition of making tamales, using recipes passed down from one generation of women to the next one continues. We spend time by communal cooking, sharing stories, legends and reaching back for memories of our respective mother. We listen to music, dance, dutifully and happily work a full day of bringing field corn to steaming husk wrapped masa, combined with cheese and roasted green chile. “White Gold” as the great grandmothers baptized the tamale. While cooking, we connect with each other, talking about specific and revealing insights into the history of each other’s family. We know and believe that each respective “Madre” and all the other generations of authentic tamale makers stand behind us and watch our
every move on that traditional day. The one phrase spoken at the end of the process as we tasted the first proof of test is, “just like Mama’s tamal.” Victory! The legacy continues.
We began to think about a book to collect these many treasured and secret family recipes. At that point, our project management background surfaced along with our DNA, to guide the concepts for the development and selection of recipes to include in the cookbook. A focus on process development coupled with the cooking expertise provided a disciplined approach to prepare, cook, taste, test, critique and deliver a quality dish without altering the taste of the food we love.
Tucson is a food community and has an abundance of Ethnic foods and includes Mexican food served in different styles, with different names and recipes in different homes and restaurants. Many who live in Tucson know that this is a city of food. The people of the area have been inventing, preparing, tasting and serving food for decades and recently acknowledged “Tucson “Our Work City of Gastronomy” Arizona. Many of our families have grown their vegetables, produce, and livestock for generations. We have walked the land in pursuit of nopales, herbs, greens and medicinal herbs. We followed our mothers and grandmothers into the fields picking corn and chiles for the traditional tamale making. We walked with our “Abuelitas/Nanas” into the gardens that grew the chiltepin, oregano, and cilantro and learned how and when to pick them. We observed and were taught to grind white wheat and corn into heritage food on metates or by hand operated grinders. These practices represent a strong influence in our cooking and the passing down of the authentic recipes. In the cookbook we have included the information to prepare 29 different dishes made from red chile and 22 different dishes made from green chile. We understood how efficient and economical it is to spend the time to prepare red chile paste or roast green chile and then take comfort knowing that various fresh, unprocessed, and tasty recipes can be cooked for your family. “We create do-overs, not leftovers.” To our ancestors these foods and practices were essential in their everyday life. Modern practices, cooking utensils and technology provide us with a different methodology but our ancestors passed on to us the heritage of the food, the art of blending spices, and the respect for unprocessed food for our family cuisine. We have been involved in this traditional cooking and food chain our entire lives and know that Mexican food is elaborate, founded on corn, beans, chile and unique cooking processes and one of a kind utensils. We honor the legacy given us as we grow or purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, use ingredients from our dry pantry, refrigerator, and freezer pantries to serve economical, home cooked comfort food.
From our history, our goal is for others to become more knowledgeable about cooking Mexican inspired food by trying our regional dishes with systematic processes, ingredients, hints, alternatives, terms, definitions, and photographs of the plated dishes for you and your family. The recipes are legacy driven and tested with proven delicious results!
As to the publication of ¡Buen Provecho! Treasured Secret Flavors, we have no idea what our mothers and the generations of women, standing behind us, are thinking! We believe that they are applauding as we pass their and our legacy on to you.
Our wish is that you enjoy and add our flavorful and economical home style cooking to your family recipe collections, too.