I grew up on Calle Convento in Santurce, PR right behind the San Jorge Children’s Hospital and about five minutes or less from Condado beach. A tourist subsector of San Juan more lived in by bohemian professionals than the worldly, unruly crowd of Old San Juan it was a pretty lively place to grow up around. But due to my mother’s inability to stay put; I also spent a good portion of my younger years shuffling between the Caribbean and a part of Maryland right outside of our Nation’s Capital.
The contrast between the two places was apparent, but my love for both was even more so. From walking the streets of one the oldest cities in the Americas and sailing the waters surrounding it to climbing trees and running through corn fields deeply rooted in the development of the United States, I knew the two places were different, but I was aware of my fortune of being able to enjoy them. It wasn’t as apparent then as it is now, but food was the forefront of my passion as was absorbing the contrast in cultures. I have a very American side to my family as well as a very Spanish side. Puerto Rico was my home, but my blood is Spanish and French and those cultural inherent traits are what drive my family’s personality, but it’s the Afro-Caribbean diet that fulfills us daily.
In Maryland I loved the bounty of fresh caught crustaceans from the Eastern Seaboard, the locally grown corn and the fact grocery stores were stocked full of goodies not found at my local Pueblo Super Market back home. I couldn’t believe that the Giant grocery store on Goshen Rd. in Gaithersburg, MD had a self-serve ice cream machine which thrilled me and that McDonalds served the very foods advertised on television as that wasn’t true for “McDs” outside of the Continental US. My aunt and uncle were and are great cooks and I loved being nourished by them and all the other great places around them. I also really loved the site and sounds of the ice cream truck that was a great part of the American public pool experience and even though I didn’t love the school’s cafeteria, I loved the fact that it had one.
Although life in PR has become even more modernized than ever before, when I was a child most schools did not have a cafeteria like the one I knew from MD. One of my schools did have a window where you could buy pizza, nachos, donuts, frozen drinks and sodas for a dollar or less. You could also purchase a “plato” which was a Styrofoam take-out container filled with homemade food for about 4 dollars, but I never had the desire to do so. The main reason as to why a cold drink and snack was all I ever wanted, was because I was guaranteed a full meal cooked by my paternal grandmother, Aya, as soon as I got home. Rice and beans were a constant in my life as was boiled Kalabaza squash as a side and flan for dessert. Aya was raised on a Coffee Plantation were women were not permitted to cook, but times had changed by the time she had children and she struggled to provide a meal as my father and uncle grew up. By the time my brothers and I had come around the American food revolution had just begun and a desire to learn how to cook like a chef had struck my grandmother. Her attempts were often met with disappointing results from her viewpoint, but from mine they were delicious and joyful.
Fast forward years later to a day where I was getting ready to eat dinner at my University in PR and I as I was trying to choose between what kind of rice I wanted and if I wanted “sancocho” or oven roasted chicken as my protein and I suddenly realized how incredibly different that was from when I was trying to choose a sandwich from a vending machine at my college in Maryland. As I sat down to eat memories of my childhood between MD and PR and my high school years in Los Angeles were fast food restaurants sold their foods inside the school, I realized how wildly different each place was from each other. A few months later the reality of my upcoming graduation came near and I started to think about what I wanted to do with my degree and that is when I decided that I wanted to marry my passion for absorbing the world through the eyes of a Journalist and feed my desire to cook and learn about knew foods and thus my search for a culinary school began.
I could go on forever with all the stories that my life has had so far, but I’ll stop for now. I do realize that short posts filled with glossy photographs have become the expected standard for food blogs, but I don’t often get a chance to photograph what I cook. I do have a camera, but not the exact right set-up for food photography. And quite frankly, I more often like to share the stories lingering in my head than a picture of the plate of food sitting right in front of me. The blogs I follow tend to be wordier than they are visually colorful and thus I may just go on the same route. I hope to get some loyal readers along the way and if I don’t then I don’t. We all have a place in this world and mine is in the kitchen no matter what city I may be in.