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Home Again

(by Andrea Vernetti)

My mother has always been a great source of inspiration for me, although there are some things that set us apart. She makes decisions and does things very quickly, while I take more time.

Mom is an English teacher for ages eight to 12, in the public school where we live in Esperanza, in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina. She was my teacher when I was nine years old, and for me it was a nice experience—she was well liked because of her pleasing personality. I am dyslexic, and she helped me to read long texts, explaining things I could not understand, even taking special courses so she could teach people with this kind of learning disability.

After high school, I moved away to study theater, and had been living on my own for two years when pandemic hit and I moved back home. Mom was sensitive to our changed dynamic, and always attentive to what I needed, but some tensions arose. On my own, I bought prepared food and put it in the microwave, or I ate crisps (aka potato chips) and ice cream instead of healthy food. I went to bed very late because I liked to watch films on TV. I often spent time talking with friends or playing video games. I felt free to tidy my flat every 15 days because there was nobody telling me what I had to do. But back at home, it was a return to childhood; my mom would tell me to clean my room, wash my clothes, or get up at a certain time. We’d really lost the habit of living as a family, of everyone having their own space and some independence, but taking time to be all together. And that is how we decided to organize a family cooking contest.

Each of us would prepare a nice dish once a week, using recipes from different cultures. Our city was colonized by European immigrants, and my mother has Spanish, Italian, and Swiss ancestry. So we’ve always been interested in various cultural traditions, and eaten different foods than are typical in Argentina.

We wrote each family member’s name on a piece of paper and picked one to see whose turn it would be to provide the meal. It was a serious competition, the prize being a special coffee mug with glitter.

But when it came my turn, I bought the food because I did not know how to cook. With my mom working most of the time, she’d never really imparted any culinary skills, and besides, I was not so interested in learning, preferring to be with my friends.

The contest was a new opportunity, and my mom stepped in, once again as my teacher, to show me how to cook. We spent many happy moments together in the kitchen, remembering my childhood as well as giving me some tips for my future life. We talked about the importance of being a good companion, knowing when to listen to others, respecting different ways of doing things, and following the kind of rules that make for a civilized society.

I generally tried to follow the recipes, but my mother was more experimental. Her way of being is getting extremely organized and prepared with all the ingredients, but then letting creativity fly.

When pandemic regulations eased somewhat in our small city, we could start grocery shopping together, and I realized that my mom talked to everyone who worked in the store, because most of the employees had been her students. It made me a little jealous because she was my mother, but today I am proud that her former students still treat her sweetly and with respect.

I think the pandemic brought our family closer together and showed the unique qualities of each person. Despite being locked up for a long time, we learned to tolerate, understand, respect, and value each other—an unexpected pandemic bonus.


Andrea Vernetti is an actress who lives in Sante Fe, Argentina. She can be found on Backstage.

Argentinian Empanadas

2 T. sunflower oil

1 onion, chopped

1 tomato, chopped

1 lb. chopped beef

12 olives, pitted

1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

salt, to taste

dough for one pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Heat oil in a large skillet, and brown the onion with the tomato.

Add the chopped beef and cook, stirring, until lightly browned.

Remove from heat and add olives, egg, and salt.

Let mixture cool.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough and cut into 4-inch disks. You should get 12.

Place 1 T. of the mixture on each disk, and fold in half.

Moisture edges with water, and press together to seal.

Place in an oiled roasting pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.


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