by Fredrica Duke
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freddemomMy mother had a lifelong, deep obsession with everything Mexican. I mean, obsessed. Is there a word for it? I looked it up just now and it’s Mexicophile.

We never knew where my mother’s fixation stemmed from. Perhaps, her Texas roots. She was raised on a small farm in Sweetwater. Or, could it have been the Spanish house she was so proud to own? My mother would wax poetic about every detail of my childhood home. The beamed ceilings. She could stare for hours at their beauty. The stained glass window. The tiles in the foyer. The black wrought-iron railing leading up the tiled staircase. The big bay window. Her pepper tree. Even the French doors were, to her, so very Mexican. Trust me, this woman was so proud of her two story, 3,500-square foot Spanish house you might have assumed she was the architect.

She was WAY ahead of her time in this Mexican love because these were the 1950’s and 60’s. Mexican Americans were not as ubiquitous as today, where every other Californian seems to have a Latin background. I just heard on NPR that in the 1700′s the first settlers in Los Angeles were Mexicans. My mom would have been in Mexican heaven, had she stayed in L.A. And, of course, had she not died so young. Today, she’d be all over the immigration law changes.

One day in my childhood, mi madre obsesionada Mexicana (my Mexican obsessed mother) commissioned a painting. The painting was of four Mexican men, their faces all various shades of guacamole green. She was proud of her posse of Mexican guards. It was displayed in her home until she died — at which time I inherited it, but, not quite getting its beauty, donated it. Sorry, no tan hermosa.

freddecatWhen I was 16-years old, my mother adopted a kitten. A little black and white boy she named General Rodriguez. We don’t know where she came up with this name. He might have been someone she found in one of the Encyclopedia volumes eternally strewn across her bed after late night sessions of furthering her education. She called him The General. Or Rod. He became the love of her life — and the only man, I might add.

A real Mexican man finally materialized in the form of a next-door neighbor at her new home in Palm Springs. It was like she manifested Ray Gonzalez. He watched over her property, making sure this woman, living alone in the desert, was safe. Ray’s passion was his Mariachi Band. After my mother’s untimely death, he would send me DVD’s or postcards with invitations to his gigs. Or, he might call every six months or so, just to check on me, until his own battle with cancer ended his life.

A few years after my mother died I was eyeing these green, not avocado-colored vintage chairs at a swap meet. I just had to have them. I didn’t even haggle on the price because I agreed they were a steal at $75 dollars. But, I only had a check. The guy selling them told me a check would be fine. I wrote it, handed it over, and he looked down at my name. Then he asked me if I might be Evelyn Duke’s daughter. I was floored because all roads lead to my dad but rarely even a dirt or back road leads to my reclusive mom. He then told me what a treasure she was because once, when he had nowhere to store a bunch of antiques, she gave him the whole garage of her beloved Spanish home on Roxbury Drive. 

Evelyn Duke’s Famous Guacamole

Ripe Avocado’s, smash into bowl, adding chopped onion, chopped tomato’s, tabasco sauce to taste for spice, dollop of mayonnaise, lemon.

My Guacamole

Smash avocado into a bowl, adding chopped onion, serrano chili peppers, chopped tomato’s, cilantro and lime to taste.


Fredrica Duke shares how she discovered her love of food while growing up in Los Angeles on her blog Channeling the Food Critic in Me.  



#3 Augie Duke 2013-10-10 09:45
Great read. Learning about my grandma is fun...
#2 libbie lane 2013-10-02 08:12
Love this story! I am a Mexicophile and so is my mother
#1 jennifer dudley arbs 2013-10-01 08:05
Oy! Ole! I am not a Mexican food fan. An occasional soft taco or enchilada ...I guess it makes me a born in raised Beverly Hills failure. Does it count I was madly in love with a Mexican man???? U DO RECALL BABE???!!!! You mama was a beautiful senorita xxxx Jenn Still in Charlevoix

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