The Journey

Personal reflections

I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. From a culinary perspective, it is a place where you find food that encompasses a wide range of cuisines unique to geographic regions, like the American Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah). Many principal dishes from this region were served at our family dinner table, special feasts and celebrations.

 

My ancestry shows that my family lineage is linked to the Canary Islands (mother’s side) and Texas, Spain, Italy and France (father’s side). My family’s heritage has allowed me to experience a variety of foods, introducing me to the cuisines of America, Berber, Spain, Mexico and France as well as Southwest cuisine and TexMex! TexMex is a term describing a fusion of American cuisine and Mexican cuisine. Many Texans believe the TexMex cuisine originated hundreds of years ago when Spanish/Mexican recipes combined with Anglo fare.

 

My taste buds have been exposed to just about every ingredient under the sun. In terms of Latin dishes, calabacita con pollo (squash with chicken), caldo de pollo or de res (chicken or beef soup), chile rellenos (stuff pobalno peppers), posole (stew with hominy), copa de fruita (fresh fruit cups), hochata (rice milk drink with cinnamon), pico de gallo (fresh salsa), arroz y frijoles a la charra (rice and beans) are some of my favorites. These dishes are delicious and good for you, too.

 

Our family’s recipes were loaded with vegetables, and the recipes were introduced to us at a young age. I remember my mother telling us, “Eat your fruits and vegetables because they are good for you.” Honestly, we just ate them because they tasted good. Somehow, my mother’s recipes made the most difficult-to-eat vegetables, like kale, collard greens, eggplant, broccoli, spinach and papaya, taste so good.

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Common Staples Found in a Latin Kitchen

My family recipes consists of wholesome ingredients, such as dried and fresh chilies, tomatoes, cilantro, onions, avocados, dried corn and beans to prepare such dishes as salsas, guacamole, tortillas and frijoles a la charra. We also use fresh ingredients, like limes, mangos, papayas, bananas, squash, cucumbers, celery, cabbage, sweet potatoes, eggplant, rice, pecans, coconuts, creams and cheeses, to make many of the popular Latin foods.

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food photography by www.waxmanphotography.com

 

La Cocina (The Kitchen)

If you visit my home, you will notice that the majority of the fruits and vegetables in my kitchen are fresh in the “raw” form. We love bright colors, so naturally we display our fruits and vegetables in the wire, multi-tiered baskets hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen or in a decorative bowl on the kitchen table or counter.

 

In my kitchen, you will also find lots of spices. Spices are also a common staple in the Latino kitchen – everything from cumin seeds, oregano and parsley to cilantro and garlic. Spices are healthful because they are low-calorie, and with spices, you can use less salt and fat to flavor food. Spices also add a lot of bold flavors any dish.

Authentic Family Recopies

My Latin recipes have history and depict a process of preserving a culinary skill/technique passed down from my abuelas (grandmothers). To me and my family, these recipes are special, creating a true cultural experience that helps us connect with our culture and affirm our Latino identity. These factors help to influence our entire family’s eating practices.

 

Today, with advances in medicine, we now know that fruits and vegetables are our primary source of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that protect us from chronic diseases, like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. We also know that fruits and vegetables are naturally high in fiber and low in fat and calories. Eating a variety of them may help maintain a healthful weight and control blood pressure. Experts recommend that we should eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Unfortunately, low fruit and vegetable daily intake is a national problem where three out of four adults in the United States are not eating the recommended five or more fruits and vegetables daily.  One small step is eating good authentic Latin cuisine that is rich in fruit and vegetables.

 

My Personal Journey

Like many Latinos, I also believe that meals prepared and served to friends and family must be of the highest quality, using fresh ingredients purchased at the local farm or grocery store. I go the extra mile to use as many fresh ingredients as possible. Choosing healthful options when eating away from home is also important.

 

In our neighborhoods, we have good health initiatives, access to farmers markets and lots of great Latin restaurants that offer healthful menu items.

 

Like others, I will continue to enjoy the authentic Latin cuisine at my home. Why? Because these Latin recipes are loaded with delicious fruits and vegetables, which can help me and my family meet our recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables every day of the year.

 

I encourage you to try lots of healthful Latin recipes for your daily meals, family picnics, Sunday brunch, birthday celebrations and fiestas.  Also, talk with your doctor to learn more about what your dietary needs are.

 

Together we can help keep people healthy. ¡Salud! ◆

 

Nutrition Resources:

fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov

fruitandveggieguru.com

cdc.gov

buylocalpa.org

Oralia Dominic

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