By Abe Villarreal

This heatwave has me wanting to stay indoors wishing for cold mornings and comfort food. At work, I play Christmas music and on my computer screen the scene of snowy neighborhoods and colorfully lit homes is on display. Anything to make me forget about triple digit weather.

All this thinking of the holidays reminds me of childhood. When I was a kid, mom used to make buñuelos every New Year's Eve to celebrate the año nuevo. A buñuelo is a fried fritter of sorts. It's light and flaky, breaks into a hundred pieces as you try to eat it, and best of all is smothered in a delicious homemade syrup.

At least that's the way mom made them. In other homes with bigger families, you can walk in on a cold winter evening, during the last night of the year, and witness large bandejas, or tubs, filled with layers of buñuelos. Covered with a large towel to keep their freshness, you didn't have to know what is inside the bandeja because the smell gave it away. So did the trail of cinnamon and sugar surrounding the tub.

Latina moms are good at making anything shaped into a tortilla. Their hands are built for creating these delicacies. Their feet are strong and can take the hours of standing. They have backs of steel. Most powerful are their hearts and minds because their labor is driven with a purpose to provide for loved ones.

No matter how long it takes, and no matter how little they may have in provisions, they make enough for everyone. They must have some kind of superpowers.

I remember one December night when mom told me to get close to the stove so that I could learn. I thought I was helping but I remember mostly watching. She was making the syrup which is created from piloncillo, that Mexican brown sugar that is often sold in funny cone shapes. I watched and listened.

Speaking mostly in Spanish, and in between directions on how to make this annual treat, I heard stories of what it was like when she was growing up watching her mom make them. I pictured her as a little girl wanting to learn what I was learning on that day. In her words and in her actions, she was passing along something to me that someone important passed along to her.

I don't think I'll ever really be able to make a perfect buñuelo. Even with a lot of practice, I don't have the ingredients needed. Special hands, a back of steel, and the heart and mind of a mom who has perfected a tradition that has been passed down for generations.

Whether the day is really hot or the night is extra cold, I am comforted when remembering the delicious confections and savory meals made during holiday seasons. From buñuelos and tamales, to atole and arroz con leche, these kinds of treats are all designed for special occasions, meant to eat around loved ones.

They are made by a special kind of superhero who carries with her all the right ingredients. A Latina mom.

Abe Villarreal writes about the traditions, people, and culture of America. He can be reached at

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