When you arrive in a new country, your instinct often leads you to try to fit into the local culture, adopt new customs, and even embrace different culinary traditions. There is nothing wrong with that because it reflects our gratitude for the welcoming community and the new land, we call home. However, it is so important to have and maintain our cultural traditions, and perhaps our greatest link with those roots is food and the traditions we have around it.
Each country has its star dishes. Even when talking about the same recipe, regional nuances emerge, with different local ingredients and cooking methods, and the most important thing is that each family has unique, very transcendental and important rituals around food and festivities. These traditions are priceless and serve not only to link us to our roots, but also to give our children a sense of belonging, connecting them to their family and their origins while creating wonderful memories through the flavors and smells in the kitchen.
As Latinos, the fusion of our cultural heritage with American customs enriches us. It reaffirms our identity in a beautiful combination that allows us to honor our origins, and at the same time embrace a new love for the country where we now live, a place where we are writing a new chapter of our history and that of our children.
In Peru, a peculiar tradition leads us to taste turkey during Christmas. Interestingly, if we compare a modern Peruvian Christmas menu and the American Thanksgiving dinner, we will see notable similarities. Our holiday tables serve roasted turkey, sweet potatoes (sometimes garnished with marshmallows or a variation of the recipe), salads, and rice. In my own home, my mother created an extraordinary turkey recipe, infusing it with incredible local ingredients such as pisco, an exquisite Peruvian spirit derived from grapes found in the southern regions of the country. Instead of marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes, our tradition calls for baking them with a blend of spices, freshly squeezed orange juice, honey, and sucanat (raw, unprocessed sugar cane). You could say we've created our unique version of Thanksgiving dinner, incorporating local ingredients while celebrating Christmas. This same fusion of flavors and cultures can be achieved in America by adopting our Hispanic traditions; we can mix flavors, unite cultures, and eat amazing, delicious food on any holiday (or every day!).
In my case, food connects me with my childhood, with my origins, with some specific recipes, and with family traditions. My husband and I also contribute to this legacy by creating new family rituals and recipes that align with our family's lifestyle and needs. Cooking brings people together, and in an era characterized by the convenience of fast food and the lack of time, we must not abandon those magical moments in which families come together not only to eat, but to cook together, create recipes, remember their origins, and create new memories that will remain engraved in our hearts.
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!
Find our Peruvian Beef and Spicy Chicken Empanadas here