By Helena Rodriguez
You’ve heard about “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” compilations of warm, inspirational stories and messages that make you feel all mushy inside. My daughter Laura and I love to read them, and most recently, my niece, Marili Diaz, has discovered the warmth of reading these books.
There are many versions of Chicken Soup: “Chicken Soup for the Kids’ Soul,” “Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul” and so on. There are even some trendy ones in the works, such as “Chicken Soup for the Latino and African-American Soul” and, get this, “Chicken Soup for the Hip-Hop Soul.” I am not making this up.
In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, which began Monday and continues through Oct. 15, how about some “Menudo for the Soul?”
Before I explain “Menudo for the Soul,” I should note that the U.S. Congress made Hispanic Heritage Month an official observance in 1988. Major Hispanic holidays during this timeframe include Diez y Seis de Septiembre (Mexican Independence Day) on Sept. 16 and Dia de la Raza on Oct. 12.
Now back to the subject at hand. “Menudo for the Soul” is my Hispanic version of Chicken Soup. Like Chicken Soup, “Menudo for the Soul” consists of inspirational, soothing and comforting thoughts brewed straight from the heart, just like my dad’s big pots of menudo. It is the ultimate comfort food for me. Coming in from the cold, menudo always hits the spot.
Menudo is a spicy stew made with tripe, hominy and red chile and is garnished with lemon, cilantro and onion and is served with corn or flour tortillas. It warms the tummy and is also a proven cure for a hangover.
Menudo always stirs up great memories of Grandpa Chico and is also great for creating new memories.
Now, for a little “Menudo for the Soul,” here is my list of things that make you go “Aaah!”
• Making tortillas, tamales or enchiladas with your mom or abuela (grandma) for old time’s sake.
• Seeing a macho man gently reach out and stroke a little child so he does not give it el ojo or “the evil eye.” (This Mexican superstition requires one to touch a child or say a kind word when admiring it so it does not get sick).
• Hearing your mom belt out an old Yolanda del Rio song.
• Hearing an old Ramon Ayala song that reminds you of your grandfather who passed away.
• Watching parents walk their daughter to the church altar during her quinceañera mass.
• Listening to a classic Little Joe album over and over.
• Seeing a primo (cousin) you have not seen in so long and recalling favorite childhood memories together.
• Seeing a young person courteously give up their seat to an abuelito (grandparent).
• A young person helping care for their elderly parents or grandparents.
• Dad’s banana nut bread.
• Watching a vintage Vicente Fernandez or Pedro Infante movie.
• Grandma Chaya’s tasty empanadas with pumpkin filling.
• Getting a frozen treat from the paleteria (Mexican ice cream shop).
• Leafing through a family photo album with your tias (aunts).
• Listening to comedian George Lopez’s CD, “Right Now Right Now” or watching his Wednesday night sitcom on ABC.
• Being serenaded with “Las Mañanitas” on your birthday.
• Watching a “Selena” video with your daughter and nieces or listening to her collector’s editions.
• Seeing a tio (uncle) you haven’t seen for some time and hearing him still call you “mija” (little one).
• Saying “I love you” in one of the three different ways there is to say it in Spanish: “Te quiero,” “Te amo” or “Te adoro.”
Helena Rodriguez is a staff writer for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. Her e-mail address: