Driving the same highway my father did back home from college, I began my first break from college in returning to Gilroy, California, my family’s launching ground when we first immigrated to the United States. I sat as we drove past rows of lettuce and strawberries, the fields and low-income housing my family spent so much time in at our time of arrival. The power of the town overtook me in returning after the shooting, after the frantic phone calls and Facebook check-ins with family. It brought me back to that day but in a sense of triumph rather than terror. The stark divide in the laid paths of prestigious universities and the dirt roads of agricultural fields stood out to me as I came back to a community never fully my own. I could only imagine
I had a connection to this place, as I did to Mexico, as I did to Southern California. All familiar, yet nothing truly feeling like home. I found that sentiment so common in my family, especially at a cause of migration. For so many of us, the only home we found was in each other, in our laughter and stories, and in our food. I chose this recipe specifically due to the ongoing sense of home it provided for my father, my family, and now me.
As my father and I pull into the driveway, we are reunited with the faces of extended relatives. Tías y tíos from across California have come back to this small town just to reconnect for the weekend. Loud banda music plays in the background as the neighbor hosts a carne asada. Despite it being her 80th birthday, mi abuela takes herself into the kitchen to make my father and I something to eat, sopa de fideo. Every minute in her home is a testament to her struggles and her selflessness. From migrating across Mexico to raising eight children who would go on to college and become working professionals, every second with her is grounding, humbling. Over the years, she and my father have opened up more about their migration story and the hardships they endured, as well as the culture shock in moving from one place to another. Throughout it all, what prevailed were the values of family and the sharing of meals after long days of work. The food was maybe not the best, usually repeating traditional meals with little supplies able to be bought, but it was what they could manage and what brought them together.
It took until I was almost eighteen for my father to open up about his migration and his childhood in both countries. The family migration began with my grandmother and my father reuniting with her husband and his father in the United States within low-income seasonal housing for farmworkers and the open homes of distant relatives. My grandmother remained in the United States and gave birth to the youngest children as my father and grandfather brought the siblings to live in this new country. Fueled by the political climate and the constant attacks on our communities, he now takes pride in his migration, the work in the fields, and the challenges he overcame as the first in his family to attend college. He has straddled two worlds his whole life, be they Mexico and the U.S., studying and working, and professionalism as a Mexican-American.
As a first-semester college student navigating my identity stuck between not being white enough for the white kids, but simultaneously not brown enough for the brown kids. Not first generation, but not fully separated from the struggles I grew up hearing; the importance and power of education. So I return to a place and a family where I am almost fully free to be myself, almost fully free to exist without questions or comments. My Spanish is no longer “too academic”, my father “too American”, my interests “too white”. I am the sum of all my beautiful pieces, the melting pot’s mixture coming together rather than my ‘sides’ at war. Like the mix of things not commonly brought together in la sopa, I am the complex sum of all my parts.
My focus on writing the recipe and our family story is interrupted by mi abuelita’s Sharp "Ay! Órale!" when she has realized she left a tortilla on the stove too long. Reliving stories of the dirt roads of Villa de Obregón and spreading family gossip, I felt the sense of home which had been lost to me the past months at Pitzer. Funny enough, I had found myself attempting to make fideo in my dorm room microwave.
The meal, made of perhaps some of the simplest and cheapest ingredients, easily makes enough to fill the family- with some leftover for abuelita to guilt us into eating later. Before we go she prays and blesses us, the sign of the cross migrating across our chests with the movement of her wrinkled hands.
SOPA DE FIDEO CON TOMATE
Serves 4 | Prep Time: 5 min | Total Time: 35 min
4 T canola or vegetable oil
6.3 oz broken noodles
3 c tomato
1 chicken bouillon cube
4 c water
Salt to taste
Lime to taste
Begin by heating the oil in a medium-sized frying pan, slowly adding in the noodles once warm.
At a lower heat, brown the noodles until golden.
Slowly add in the water and tomato and increase the heat to a high medium setting again.
Let the water boil.
Once the water has boiled, set the temperature to low again.
Add in the chicken bouillon cube and salt to taste.
Let sit 10 minutes at low heat.
Serve with lime to taste.