This week I set the goal of meditating thirty minutes every day. I desperately need to be in a more “zen” and less “deranged” frequency. I need to create a “good atmosphere” in my home… Okay, whatever, so: day one, I failed. Day two, I failed. Mediocrely, I lowered and lowered the bar and by Wednesday those thirty minutes became five. But anyway, I sat down on the floor in a very straight position and set my alarm clock to five minutes time. I tried to think of nothing at all, a nearly impossible task for my turbulent and tormented mind. Expert meditators say that when a thought comes during meditation, just let it pass, like a cloud in the sky. With this idea in mind, I imagined a cloud passing, passing. Then, like if someone turned on a projector and the cloud were the screen, a movie was projected on the cloud. It was not Buddha, Jesus, Dalai Lama or any other interesting deity with a celestial message for me, no. What I saw were my own two hands peeling the poblano peppers I had cooked the day before…. So I just let it pass. The next cloud, first white, then again with the memory of the poblano peppers, I let it pass too. By the fifth cloud still carrying the memory of the peppers, I gave up and I decided to explore why my mind was so stubborn with the damn peppers.
I have done the recipe of Chiles Rellenos, hundreds and hundreds of times, but for the first time, the peppers did not break when I peeled them, they ended up perfect. This fact was something that my skeptical mind could not understand. I could not give credit to such an outstanding feat. That the poblano peppers came out without a flaw has become the most relevant news, the hot topic of my mind this moment. Yes, this is how profound and philosophical my thoughts are today.
In my forty-one years, I have used the same method of peeling the poblano peppers. I kept on doing it because it is the traditional method, the “proper” method. In Spanish we would say the method “como Dios manda.” I would place each pepper on the open flame of the stove until it became wrinkled with white blisters all over, then, I would put them inside a plastic bag so they “sweated” and then, with rubber gloves, I would peel them and take the seeds out. This is the method that Mexican people have done over and over. This dreaded process is one of the things I most despise. It is a major hassle and I HATE it and because of this, I only cook this recipe once in a blue moon, only on very, very special occasions like birthdays or Mother’s Day.
Last night, I decided I would cook Chiles Rellenos today. I wanted my family to be happy, not because there’s anything at all to celebrate, but because we are driving each other insane and we urgently need a dose of endorphins. But the mere thought of those awful mornings with all the shouting and stressing with homeschool and, on top of that, my kids coughing with the smoke of the grilled peppers floating in my kitchen like tear-gas? No, thank you. Wait…¿wasn´t that a method considered “educational” by the Aztecs to correct children and teenagers that did not obey?…Don´t get any ideas! I swear in this madness I´m just about to return to my origins. No. I have to be alone in the kitchen, but given the circumstances of the new era, this will be impossible. My kitchen/breakfast table has become my kid’s classroom, this is the space they have claimed as their workspace and I do not want to mess with it.
So, I watched Youtube videos with other methods of peeling poblano peppers. Hundreds of different videos appeared, of course. In one of them, a chef explained a method where the poblanos are put in boiling oil and they become wrinkled in less than a minute. This way, there’s no smoke, no coughs, no tears, nothing. So, I decided to try it, being extremely careful, because I knew that with my clumsy ways, I would end up with my hands burnt and blistered just like the peppers.
When I took the poblanos out of the oil with tongs, I removed the skin with such ease that it reminded me of my youth when of course we did not use any sunblock at the beach and we entertained ourselves peeling our dead skin from each other when we returned from the holiday. It was that easy. For the first time in my life, I skinned the poblanos to perfection and left them perfectly whole without a single flaw How in God’s name has this been possible?
Then I realized I been quite arrogant to secretly sustain that nobody makes better tasting Chiles Rellenos than me. I mean, let’s be honest, the taste of my Chiles Rellenos is superior to any other, but every time, the chiles ended up so broken to pieces that they might as well have been Rajas con Queso, instead. When one becomes arrogant, stubbornness follows. Why in the world did I keep on peeling the poblano peppers with the “proper” method if it never worked for me? Not once! Then, suddenly, I had a moment of enlightenment. I even got goose bumps while thinking: What other things in my life have I done following “the proper” method without getting good results? Even worse, what things have I forced my children to do just “because”, because that’s the way things are done so just shut up and do them! And just like that, I think of two things that I do that I do not want to do anymore. Thing one: I want to stop trying to please everyone all the time, and thing two: I refuse to wear high heels and stuff myself in any form of compression Spanx, whatever ever again. I have done these things my entire life just because I was taught to, because women in my family have done it before me. I do not want to go back to these ways, they don’t work for me, I don’t enjoy doing them and they are not necessary, just as the Aztec torture that I “smoked” all of these years… just because.
So today, spiritually, I have become more and more convinced that I want to say good bye to these habits that make no sense at all. And physically? Physically well, physically my hands and face are on fire and I have a runny nose. This was due to the fact that when I peeled the poblanos I impatiently took off the rubber gloves and I did the job with my naked fingers. I have washed my hands so many times that they look like chicken feet, they already looked like chicken feet before this, but now, even moreso. Even with all that hand washing my hands are still hot from the peppers. At least I won’t touch my face as much today. Another piece of wisdom there? Yes, of course. A little voice, not very “zen” shouts from my conscience… Listen, if you are going to reinvent yourself in this lockdown, stupidity will not be tolerated. Also, if you ARE going to give something up, please… please let it not be your common sense, even though these days, it has become quite shaky.