Dinner Time / by Rebecca Bustamante

My mom hates cooking. Seriously.

There are no days that she slaves over the stove just for the thrill of it.

And yet, she has had these crazy, unexplained, completely erratic-yet-phenomenon moments of joyful cooking.

“I have the biggest craving for grilled cheese,” I mentioned one fall evening after the sun had already set. The next thing I knew we were at Jewel buying three loaves of bread, butter, and handfuls of single sliced Kraft cheese. My mom turned on the stove and spent the next hour as if she was in a grilled cheese factory. She plopped butter in the pan and twirled it around by it's handle until it was completely melted, then she dropped the already buttered bread down on the pan, topped it with a slice of cheese and another buttered slice of bread and smashed it down. The sizzling butter yelled whenever she put her force down on the grilled cheese sandwich to make it as flat as paper. Flip, and smash. The next side of buttered bread received the same scorching heat to it's delicate buttery flesh and also hardened into a crispy buttery surface. As soon as a grilled cheese was done, it was gone, me and my brothers had formed our own assembly line of grilled cheese devour-ores. My dad had his own plate right next to my mom and neither plate was empty for long. I think I must have eaten six grilled cheese sandwiches, easily. And that sounds like a lot for an 80 pound girl but the truth is, we hadn't eaten anything that day, or the day before. So it made sense.

Once, my mom made a giant bowl of fruit salad because my brother Cesar said he was hot and didn't want to eat anything heavy that night. She must have spent $80 dollars on this giant fruit salad, and the equally giant bowls she bought to house the fruit. Another assembly line of fruit chopping was created on this day, and every fruit the grocery store carried went into this fruit salad. Chunks of watermelon, slices of apples, loose grapes, slimy kiwi, pieces of cantaloupe, slivers of mango, halves of strawberries, diced pears, segments of oranges, bits of bananas, everything.

Another time, my dad mentioned liking the Burger King original chicken sandwich after one opened up in our neighborhood and my mom bought Burger King, whenever we had money for dinner, for two months straight. She didn't stop until she found me outside crying when she came to take my order.

“I hate Burger King mom!”

That was the end of that. Whatever we wanted was what my mom made or bought. Chinese food? Popeye's? Burgers? Grilled hot dogs?

“What do you guys want for dinner?”

That was the million dollar question.