Story by Yaxal Sobrevilla
MY father- Francisco Sobrevilla- grew up in the warm coastal town of Naranjos, Veracruz, Mexico. He brings forth memories of his childhood with descriptions of fruits, herbs, and vegetation that grew both wild and tamed throughout the landscape of his hometown.
Connected to his mother’s dishes were all of the vegetation that surrounded that land he grew up in and his family cultivated. He remembers the workdays on the land to till the soil that would nourish seedlings of maze, beans, watermelons, oranges, mangos, and sesame seeds. He recalls the family affair with fondness, “It was real work that required our strength, hoes, and machetes to cut down the weeds, but there was also always a promise of picnic at the end of the workday.”
Produce from working the land came year round, and in which some plants made an appearance for only a month during the entire year. Oranges were only in full bloom during the month of June, maze sprouted in July, and gardenias made a brief appearance during May. He pointed out the way in which the land correlated well with traditions as gardenia bloomed simultaneously with the days leading to mothers’ day. He assured me that no market was necessary to sell the gardenias at 20cents the flower. Gardenia sales were a favorite and coupled with deliveries of milk and eggs.
Regardless of the harvesting of fruits, seeds, flowers, milk, and eggs my father asserts the bountifulness of the land. With a casual smile, he illustrated his childhood travels across the land of his hometown, “never did I have to fear hunger when stepping out of my home from morning to night as the land offered trees filled with bananas, grapefruits, mangos, plums, and Jobos.
If there was any fruit that could distinguish my father’s hometown it would be the jobo tree, a fruit tree which he claims he has not reencountered since leaving Veracruz. He describes the jobo as an extremely sweet fruit with a central seed too big for its size that comes from trees too large and majestic to exist in anybody’s backyard. The local jobo trees only populated the widest and most disperse parts of the town. Apart from the success fruit trees had in the town’s open spaces, there was also the verdolaga, which held just as much prominence in Veracruz as did the jobo trees.
Verdoga is an herb that grows in large quantities without the need of maintenance. It is actually so resistant that it continues to grow all year round. My dad’s mouth watered as he explained a specialty pork ribs dish that his mother used to make. He assures me,” it’s the type of dish you can repeat over and over.”
To my father, harvesting and savoring food from the land of his hometown was a type of lifestyle he looks back on with nostalgia. For me, it is a part of my family’s history that I want to reinstate despite my urban setting.