On Sundays after church, Everardo Fonseca’s grandmother cooked for her family of about 40 people over a wood-burning stove in Mexico’s western state of Jalisco. Everardo and the other younger children balanced tamales on their knees and a bowl of guiso on their laps. As he grew older, Everardo joined his mother and grandmother in the kitchen to cut cactus or stir the guiso. Not far away in the same rural town, Karina Benavides formed patties for tortas de camaron with her mom. Through cooking, Karina’s and Everardo’s matriarchs passed on lessons of survival and independence and, of course, their love. Tired and full from the guiso, Everardo’s family would linger for hours after a meal. They stayed because of the love she cooked into the food, Everardo’s grandmother would say.
Karina and Everardo opened Abuelita’s to show a new side of Mexican food. Unlike what most Americans associate with Mexican food, Abuelita’s serves up varieties of prepared guisos that can change daily. Everardo’s mother, Victoria Hernandez, still makes the tamales for Abuelita’s on Sundays. When you walk into Abuelita’s, you may as well be walking into the kitchens of the couple’s mother and grandmother. When you are at Abuelita’s, you are home.