gonzalez 2
by liz gonzález

Grandma stands at the kitchen counter
like a luchador in an apron, ready for a match.
She slaps stretched dough onto its back,
rolls a hacked-off broomstick over the top,
twists to the stove and slides
the full-moon tortilla into an iron pan.
Boiling oil swallows, spits, hisses
until the tortilla blisters, crisps.
She dips her pincher fingers in quick,
snatches the crunchy wafer from its bath,
flips it onto a paper towel lined plate,
slathers the top with cinnamon-piloncillo syrup,
and plops the sweet treat on the plastic
pink placemat in front of me. I blow on it,
pick it up with both hands, and take a bite.
The buñuelo breaks into a twenty pieces.
I lick up the crumbs, sugar, my sticky fingers
Grandma leaps back to the counter
for another smackdown.

SOURCE: An earlier version of “Buñuelos” was published in Art / Life, August 2001m and Lummis Day Souvenir Program, June 2008.

PHOTOGRAPH: lizzy’s eighth birthday, August 22, 1967.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO:  This is my eighth birthday celebration in the kitchen of my childhood home. In the picture are Grandma, my sisters Cynthia (older) and Michelle, and me. It was the last year I celebrated my birthday alone. Monique, my baby sister, was born the next year on the day before my birthday and to this day we celebrate together.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When my father died, I was three and my baby sister had just turned one. My maternal grandmother, who helped run her parents’ market as a teen and then ran her own family market, quit working at 53 to be our second mother while my mother and grandfather were at work. For seven years, even after my mother remarried and had two more daughters, Grandma took care of us during the day and remained our second mother until she passed five and a half years ago. She said that those years were some of the best years of her life. During those years, she taught us how to make traditional Mexican food, like tortillas, mole, and buñuelos. My sisters, mother, and I will always be grateful to Grandma.


liz gonzález, writes poetry, fiction, and memoir. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Inlandia: A Literary Journey, Silver Birch Press’s “Where I Live” Series, BorderSenses Literary & Arts Journal, and Wide Awake: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond. Her awards include an Irvine Fellowship at the Lucas Artists Residency Program and an Arts Council for Long Beach Professional Artist Fellowship. Currently, liz lives in Uptown Long Beach, is the host and curator of Uptown Word, a poetry and storytelling reading series, and teaches creative writing at community venues and through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. For info: www.lizgonzalez.com