Tomorrow is Cheesefare and Forgiveness Sunday; the day before Clean Monday which begins Great Lent for Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Christians. I just finished making two trays of cheese and onion enchiladas. The red sauce is one I have been making for years; the recipe was my grandmother’s.

I decided on making my grandmother’s cheese enchiladas for Sunday’s church potluck because cheese will no longer be an acceptable food at the monastery until Pascha (Easter). In my home, we might have some cheese for quick and easy snacks or meals, but I won’t make something as lovely as enchiladas in my home either until the feast.

I love to cook. I have been cooking since I was a kid. I taught myself by watching The Frugal Gourmet cooking show with my dad and then reading the same chef’s cookbooks cover to cover when I was in elementary school. Some of the only memories from certain times of my life often involve cooking or food.

My father’s mother, whose recipe I used tonight, would make tortillas and add red chile powder to them. I remember her teaching me how to roll the tortilla’s out. I was too young for the lesson to stick but it is a good memory. It was such a joyful treat if she made her red tortillas and dropped them off at our house. It was special. Just like having her enchilada sauce recipe is special. It’s a connection to her and the past.

As I cooked the sauce, some of the kids made their way into the kitchen lead by their nose. Each was asking the same question, “Mmm…what’s that smell?” I repeated a few times that I was making my grandmother’s enchilada sauce and shared (again) her secret ingredient and how my dad had to stand next to her and watch her make the sauce one day because she wouldn’t give up the recipe.

I wasn’t close to my grandmother. I’ve made the recipe numerous times with my dad, but never actually made it with her. Still, I feel connected to her when I make it. Tonight especially, I had many memories running through my mind as I stirred the sauce, grated the cheese, chopped the onions and rolled each tortilla up. I could hear her voice clearly in my head and see her smiling.

I haven’t seen her in many years now, and she passed away a couple of years back. With tomorrow being Forgiveness Sunday, I am glad I made her recipe. While cooking, I prayed for her over and over again. I prayed for God’s mercy and prayed she would enter paradise. I prayed for each of my deceased grandparents. I thought about how sins pass, from generation to generation. How what we do, for better or worse, has a ripple effect. I thought about those I need to forgive and those whom I need to ask for forgiveness.

I also thought about my kids and grandkids one day making the recipes I will pass on to them. I hope they will think fondly of me when they cook my recipes, and when I am gone, I hope they pray for my soul too.

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