It was a languid and hazy San Diego afternoon, the sun lowering behind backyard trees and glimmering through windows, when I became acquainted with Doña María mole at my friend’s house. We were sitting at the kitchen table, talking to her mom, when she announced mole was for dinner. I loved mole, but I had no idea how to make it.
I sprang up to watch her hands work, my eyes dancing as she simmered and whisked and doctored this complex, rich, mysterious sauce—turning a paste into a feast. She laughed when I asked “peanut butter?” as she spooned some into the sauce. It nicked the heat and gave the flavor some backbone. Sugar was folded in, encouraging the mole to sweeten, balancing the nuttiness and spice. The Doña María jars, with their signature octagonal base, were rinsed and reused for water, juices, licuados—the iconic mark of a home that regularly delighted in this comforting paste.