"Working the land or living off the land is degrading, it’s below what you should aspire to in a sense, and I think that goes all the way back to colonialism, you know where people are trying to appear to be of the colonizing versus the colonized."
by Sarah Hernandez
I spoke about how it’s interesting because I’m a vegetarian too and I’m also half Puerto Rican and then also half Cuban, so being a vegetarian in those cultures is very weird. It’s like there’s no knowledge - it’s sort of like, ‘Why are you doing that you’re going to make yourself sick from not eating meat’ and eating only vegetables, and so there’s just a huge misunderstanding.
It’s central to the culture. Meat eating and the food that is typically consumed, the traditional food, is sooooo important to maintaining their identity because, and I then again I’m gonna go back to this because I just think it’s very central to why things are the way they are now, being a colony for so long and struggling with cultural identity and preservation of who Puerto Ricans are as a people, as a culture, as a nation, whatever it might be. Food in a sense is one very tangible way that they can hold on to those values and that sense of community and that sense of what their nationality or culture is, and when you try and change it or veer away from that, it’s just beyond the comprehension, you know? So yeah, everything they eat is meat, every meal has some kind of meat.
Then we spoke about specific kinds of foods. She told me that when she is home, she focuses her food intake on tubers - root plants, because that’s very typical.
Yucca, there’s mamey, there’s all sorts of different ones that are delicious, I absolutely love them. Batata, which is sweet potato, similar to sweet potato, and they’re delicious and you can have them boiled. They like to fry food.
We spoke about the importance of rice as well.
Lots of carbs! Rice is very – and it’s curious to me though because rice was never grown locally. So at what point did rice become such a staple item? And why has it never occurred to anyone to produce rice locally? Because in the Dominican republic they eat a lot of rice, but they have for a while now been producing it. I think they might export a lot of what they produce, and that whole dynamic is interesting to me. But everything is rice and no vegetables really, besides the root plants, not at all really.
I told her how my grandmother, after growing up in Puerto Rico, she started developing a lot of stomach problems, and that changed her whole idea of food - she always have to have things fresh and she has to have vegetables in all of her meals. Nicole told me how every time she is home and she is at the dinner table or out at a restaurant, it’s always such a challenge because everyone is trying to fatten her up or feed her.
What I took away from this conversation is that many times, people tend to make assumptions and judgments about a person’s practice moving through their life because of their culture. I think my friend Nicole showed that even though she feels connected to the Puerto Rican culture, the meaning she makes for her own life is her own unique experience.
Compiled by Sarah Hernandez
Green Plantains (however many you want depending on how many tostones you want to make). Salt and Pepper to Taste
1. Slice the plantains in quarter inch thick chunks and peel off the skin
2. Fry each side of the plantain for a couple minutes for each side until golden
3. Take out of the pan and dry
4. Flatten each piece of the plantain with a tostonera (pictured)
5. Refry each side for several minutes until golden brown
6. Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately
*For 1 serving
Pestle and mortar OR Food Processor OR Spoon and Cup
Knife and board
glass and straw
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 Tbsp sugar
60 ml white rum
20 ml of sparkling water
4 sprigs of mint
Cut one disk from the cucumber for garnishing and dice the rest. Muddle the diced cucumbers with three sprigs of mint and the lemon juice. Use a pestle and mortar if you have one, but using the back of a spoon will also work. Pour the muddled mixture into a cup (not serving glass) and pour in the white rum and sugar. Mix. Pour the mixture into the serving glass through a strainer. Fill the cup halfway with ice. Pour in the sparkling water. Place the cucumber disk in the glass, letting it float at the top. Garnish the drink with a sprig of mint and the lime wedge. Enjoy!
Collected by Christian Alfaro
Summer didn't start until my mother made her tropical fruit salad. I remember five year old me trying to sneak in a spoonful of sweetened condensed milk and always getting caught by my mother.
Medium Sized carton of Heavy Cream
1/2 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
Small jar Maraschino Cherries
1/2-1 cup of shredded Coconut
Wash all the fruits and peel the apples, peaches, pears and pineapple. Dice these fruits and put them into the bowl. Cut the maraschino cherries in half and add them into the bowl. Add as many grapes to the bowl. Pour in the sweetened condensed milk. Fold it into the fruits. Pour in the cream and continue mixing. Finish the salad off by adding the shredded coconut. Let it chill in the fridge overnight and share and serve the next day!
It was real work that required our strength, hoes, and machetes to cut down the weeds, but there was also always a promise of picnic at the end of the workday.
Story by Yaxal Sobrevilla
MY father- Francisco Sobrevilla- grew up in the warm coastal town of Naranjos, Veracruz, Mexico. He brings forth memories of his childhood with descriptions of fruits, herbs, and vegetation that grew both wild and tamed throughout the landscape of his hometown.
Connected to his mother’s dishes were all of the vegetation that surrounded that land he grew up in and his family cultivated. He remembers the workdays on the land to till the soil that would nourish seedlings of maze, beans, watermelons, oranges, mangos, and sesame seeds. He recalls the family affair with fondness, “It was real work that required our strength, hoes, and machetes to cut down the weeds, but there was also always a promise of picnic at the end of the workday.”
Produce from working the land came year round, and in which some plants made an appearance for only a month during the entire year. Oranges were only in full bloom during the month of June, maze sprouted in July, and gardenias made a brief appearance during May. He pointed out the way in which the land correlated well with traditions as gardenia bloomed simultaneously with the days leading to mothers’ day. He assured me that no market was necessary to sell the gardenias at 20cents the flower. Gardenia sales were a favorite and coupled with deliveries of milk and eggs.
Regardless of the harvesting of fruits, seeds, flowers, milk, and eggs my father asserts the bountifulness of the land. With a casual smile, he illustrated his childhood travels across the land of his hometown, “never did I have to fear hunger when stepping out of my home from morning to night as the land offered trees filled with bananas, grapefruits, mangos, plums, and Jobos.
If there was any fruit that could distinguish my father’s hometown it would be the jobo tree, a fruit tree which he claims he has not reencountered since leaving Veracruz. He describes the jobo as an extremely sweet fruit with a central seed too big for its size that comes from trees too large and majestic to exist in anybody’s backyard. The local jobo trees only populated the widest and most disperse parts of the town. Apart from the success fruit trees had in the town’s open spaces, there was also the verdolaga, which held just as much prominence in Veracruz as did the jobo trees.
Verdoga is an herb that grows in large quantities without the need of maintenance. It is actually so resistant that it continues to grow all year round. My dad’s mouth watered as he explained a specialty pork ribs dish that his mother used to make. He assures me,” it’s the type of dish you can repeat over and over.”
To my father, harvesting and savoring food from the land of his hometown was a type of lifestyle he looks back on with nostalgia. For me, it is a part of my family’s history that I want to reinstate despite my urban setting.
Collected by Jinyoung Chang
8 ounces pork, chicken, or beef*
1 cup kimchi
8 ounces medium or firm tofu (1/2 package)
1 each green onion
2 tablespoons fine ground red chili pepper (DO NOT USE THE MEXICAN CHILI POWDER BLEND)
1 tablespoon coarse ground red chili pepper
4 cloves fresh garlic
2 cups water**
* Omit meat for vegetarian soup
** Replace water with 2 cups vegetable, beef, or pork soup stock for a richer flavor
Cut meat into small pieces.
Cut kimchi into 1/2 inch by 1 inch strips.
Thin slice the garlic from top to bottom
Cut tofu in half lengthwise, then slice into approximately 1/4 inch thick slices.
Cut green onion diagonally in 1/2 inch lengths
Place kimchi, meat, and water in a medium pot or large stone bowl over high heat and bring to a full boil.
Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 15 minutes.
Skim any oil/foam from the top.
Add tofu, garlic, and red chili pepper, return to full boil, and cook for about 10 minutes.
Add green onion just prior to serving.
Collected by Christian Alfaro
This is the recipe used during the Hull House Museum's Preserving Peace Dialogue. Museum visitors have the option of scheduling a dialogue (Immigration, Social Change, or Preserving Peace) which is an hour long conversation that takes place in the Residence Dining Hall. Preserving Peace is a facilitated hands on dialogue where the conversation happens while pickling some fresh vegetables. We talk about ways we preserve communities, culture, and food. I've facilitated a few of these pickling dialogues and it is really interesting to hear the diverse stories and experiences that folks share.
Wash the veggies and herbs. Cut the veggies in long strips or disks and place them in the ball jar.
Add a couple sprigs of dill and 3 cloves of garlic. For the perfect amount of heat, add 2 serrano peppers sliced.
Add a tablespoon each of salt, sugar, and pickling spices.
Fill 1/4 of the jar with vinegar and the remaining 3/4 with water.
Seal the ball jar and shake.
Leave in the fridge overnight and it will be ready the next day.
Note: The longer you leave it to pickle, the stronger the flavor will be. The pickling juice will last up to 3 months, so once the pickled veggies are eaten, cut up some more veggies and put into the jar.
Collected by Karl Novak
Depending on Serving Size: 1 Serving = 4 Bruschetta
2 whole tomatoes
1 garlic clove
4 basil leaves
Remove seeds to remove excess water and dice tomatoes.
Add chopped fresh basil, 1 clove garlic, and salt. Mix thoroughly.
Serve on toasted baguette.
Collected by Karl Novak
Fresco Sauce: 1/8 cup fresh chopped garlic, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar,
1/8 cup sweet white wine, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil.
Cook a package of bow tie pasta and drain. Heat 3 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan until very hot. Sauté 1 cup cubed roma tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes, 1/3 cup chopped red onion, and pasta. Add 1 package fresh spinach and cook until wilted. Serve with freshly shaved parmesan cheese.
Collected by Karl Novak
4 cups sliced rhubarb
1/2 cup water
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 pint halved strawberries
Cut rhubarb into 1 inch pieces. Combine the rhubarb, water, salt and sugar in a large sauce
pan. Simmer covered for 10 minutes, or until tender, stirring once or twice. Just before removing from heat, add strawberries. Cool and chill. Pour over vanilla ice cream or your favorite dessert and serve.