Comino is the Spanish word for cumin, a spice with a smoky flavor that is widely used in Mexican cooking. It also has this very distinctive aroma that, the way it smells, is exactly the way it tastes. Growing up I wasn’t to fond of this spicy, especially the way my parents prepared it.
When I went to elementary school, I had the afternoon schedule; meaning, I would go to school from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm, so I would stay all morning with my mom. I didn’t have to wake up to the sound of an alarm, but I did wake up every morning to the smell of comino. The smell was so strong that it would wake me up as my mother grinded the comino in the molcajete. A molcajete is the Mexican version of mortar and pestle made of volcanic stone and is used to grind spices, make salsas, and guacamole, among other uses.
It wasn’t the smell of it that bothered me that much but it was its consistency. My father insisted that by using whole comino seeds instead of pre-grinded, the food would taste much better. So they would grind the comino seeds with the molcajete. And the food did taste good, I give him credit for that. What I really hated was that when you were eating the soup, you would encounter whole pieces of cumin, and that to me, was absolutely gross and disgusting.
Many times I asked, I begged them, to please omit the comino once, only once! My pleas were in vain because all my childhood I ate my food with comino seeds swimming in it. Time passed by, I grew up, moved to the US and for a while I forgot about the deal with the comino seeds.
It wasn’t until I started living by myself, working at restaurants and eating the same food every day that I began to miss my mom’s cooking, even the comino seeds. Now, whenever I cook something, I made sure I have comino seeds in stock. And when I grind them in the molcajete, I made sure I leave them a little big so they can float in my soup and the smell spreads all over my kitchen so I can feel like I am home again.