El Cumbo

I’m not easily annoyed, but the things that do annoy me can seem very random and weird – and the extent to which they have the power to annoy me is surprising.

Take for example, this red plastic bowl in my kitchen that I hate. It isn’t even a real bowl. The bottom of it says it was made in Guatemala and by the threaded lines around the lip of it, I can tell it used to be some sort of a container with a top.

This red container is what Suegra uses to drink out of. This is her cup for everything from coffee to juice. When we sit down to dinner and the rest of the family is drinking out of proper drinking glasses, she sits down with her red “cumbo”, which is the size and shape of a giant tub of butter. When it goes missing she immediately turns on me and accuses me of having finally thrown it out, only to find it buried in the tupperware cabinet.

She’s in El Salvador right now and so it’s very tempting to make it “disappear”. I could say it was in a dishwasher accident – that it fell on the heating coil and melted… but it would be too obvious…and so the red cumbo lives on, mocking me, and waiting for Suegra to return.

Note: “Cumbo” is Caliche (Salvadoran Spanish) for any sort of “container”.


  1. yep… indeed, that is a “cumbo” (also known as cuchumbo). I have to say I don’t really know why suegra drinks from it. I would have thought it could be used more as a “guacal” but not a glass/cup. Mmmmm mucho interesting. Maybe is a “Chalate” thing.

    • I can always rely on you for some additional information. Thank you, Profesora :) … As for it being a “Chalate” thing… No sé. A veces las cosas que haga la Suegra, uno no puede explicar con “Así son Salvadoreños” o “Así son la gente de Chalate” … A veces la repuesta es simplamente, “Así es mi Suegra!” … jajaja

  2. Tracy you’re right! It’s ugly and it does look like an old margerine container. The only good thing about it is that it was made in Guatemala….Chapin

  3. ROFL (dishwasher accident).

    I was thinking “cuchumbo” as well when I first saw the link. This is definitely a “asi es mi suegra” thing…LOL

    I think people out in the country side are more inclined to drink from a guacal de morro than a plastic cuchumbo like this one…this almost looks like it once contained liquid laundry detergent. lol

    • @ Cheleguanaco – I have a few guacales de morro, but I only use them as ladles for soup. I can’t stand those being drank out of either. Something about their shape seems to encourage slurping noises – and noises while eating is something I can’t tolerate. I’ve had to get up and leave the table where people are eating loudly. LOL. It drives me insane. (Don’t even get me started on the way my husband and Suegra crunch the cartilage on chicken bones!)

      • hahahahhahahahahah..I know exactly what you mean…

        One of my pet peeves is people with bad table manners. I always notice them, likely because when I was a kid, my mom was very strict about us having proper table manners.

        I have a similar issue with my suegra and it drives me up the wall. LOL. My wife had to tell her one day that I can’t stand bad table manners. LOL

  4. Eww! Cartilage crunching is just nasty. But drinking from this random plastic bowl? Why? I bet if it went missing, she wouldn’t bring it up, as she’ll (hopefully) be on her best behavior for a few weeks. You could encourage one of the boys to fill it with water for the dog, or to use it as a mudpie shovel/bowl, that never quite made it back indoors. Anyway, my MIL is an odd duck as well, and it drives me crazy when she uses my FIL’s underwear (whitie-tighties) as shorts around the house. ??? Using somebody else’s underwear is just wrong, and btw, those puppies aren’t so Whitie or tightie anymore…..just sayin’.

    • I can’t let the kids take the fall for this one. You have no idea how much she loves that stupid bowl. She would get so mad at them.

      As for your MIL … Me quedo absolutamente speechless. LOL.

    • Don’t be too proud of me. I’ve been plotting how to get rid of it all day. I’ve been given many ideas, I just have to choose the least obvious one that will help me get away with it. Hee hee…

  5. i would use a pushpin, unnoticeable poke a hole on the bottom, when she starts drinking out of it. slowly the liquid will ooze out of the hole. she will then realize its time to move to another plastic container.

    problem solved. ;]

    p.s – you should have definitions for a lot of these words. im not salvadorian but it’d be nice if i knew what they meant. lol i know i use a lot of portuguese,yiddish,and mexican words. weird mix.. yah i know =/

    • You are an evil genius! … I have had friends giving me ideas all day via Twitter on how to rid myself of this “cumbo”, but this is definitely one of the best ideas so far! … The only problem will be how not to laugh when the liquid starts coming out? I am such a bad liar!

  6. Oh my gosh. You need to get rid of that thing. Maybe tell her that the thing is cover with BPAs and she’s slowly poisoning her body (which sadly might actually be partially true!) There are all kinds of “bad plastic” studys out there right now to “prove” yourself right. ;-)

  7. I love the tiny hole idea…. even a dribble lip hole might be annoying enough to have her reliquish it.

    If she loves it I think you must put it in “her” room in a drawer or closet so at least you don’t have to look at it while she is gone.

  8. You are so nice. Really. My mom saves random bottles or cups that I dislike around in the house and many times I throw them away and don’t say anything, she sometimes even forgets! Or that’s what I think at least. Of course they’re not as “queridos” as this cumbo (never heard that word before!) of your suegra!

  9. I’ve been a fan of your blog for a while now, specially the food/drink and suegra categories, hehe From what I read about your suegra I picture her as a very traditional salvadoran abuelita (demanding, grumpy, attached to traditions/old memories and also a little childish).
    Taking this into consideration, let me tell you why the cheese trafficking and this cumbo issue look pretty normal to me. I’m salvadoran, btw, in case you were wondering.

    You see, all abuelitas that come from a very humble backgroung have similar behavioral traits, such as the tendency to preserve old customs that might look obsolet to the eyes of modern generations.As an example, back then when a household couldn’t afford a dozen of drinking glasses, cumbos or guacales de morro were the way to go – even if it didn’t look pretty. Likewise, even these days cheese and tortillas are one of the cheapest foods available for the majority of the population and it’s easy to guess that once you were fed with cheese and tortilla all your life it isn’t a habit you’d quit easily. I know my mother hasn’t, lol.

    Keep in mind that abuelitas were taught to see tradition in a very romantic light but were also taught to keep them alive no matter what, even (and most commonly) if being rude was the alternative. Sorry for the abuelita psychology disertation, but even though I don’t like the way your suegra behaved while she was living with you, I sort of felt like she needed to be better understood.

    • Hola Donovan,

      Thanks for reading my blog and taking the time to comment. I appreciate the perspective, and believe me, I always tried to be very compassionate and considerate with my suegra – the problem is that I was never repaid in kind.

      I never did get rid of that cumbo – we still have it, though I boxed it up when she moved out and I no longer have to see it in my kitchen… but I hope it says something about my character that despite my annoyance when I wrote this post, I never did damage it, hide it, throw it out, or otherwise destroy it.

      Unfortunately, my suegra has a lot more issues than just those of being a Salvadoran abuela in the United States with a gringa daughter-in-law. If that was the only issue, I think we could have made things work but her tendency towards being emotionally abusive takes it to another level.

      I respect very much the culture and traditions, if that isn’t clear by the things I share on my blog – and I never wanted my suegra to abandon them… In fact, I wish she could have found a way to live peacefully with us, without causing drama, so that she would be here to pass those traditions onto the kids. Now that responsibility falls to me and my husband. Obviously we’ve lost an amazing source of information and family history when we lost our relationship with suegra, but that’s the way it had to be, and ultimately it wasn’t a decision I made.


  10. […] When my suegra would make oatmeal though, she didn’t even attempt to decipher the directions on the can; the result was more like soup than anything I previously recognized as the thick, lumpy oatmeal of my childhood. I told her many times that you aren’t supposed to add that much water or milk, but she would only look at me like I was stupid and sip her oatmeal out of her favorite cumbo. […]

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