Q&A with is a new on-going articles series where we ask Latinx creators about different topics. This month, we’re talking about heritage and how it influenced them.
Bernie Molina is a Salvi-Mex cook and writer of the award winning book called Herencia Cookbook, born and raised in South East Los Angeles. She describes herself as half Salvadoran-American, half Mexican-American, and 100% Latina. Bernie is currently living in SELA with her Salvadoran-American husband and their son.
In her book she celebrates her cultural roots through recipes, inspired by the most important women in her life: her mother, grandmother, great grandmother and her mother-in-law.
When asked about how she defines her cultural heritage and how it inspires her in the kitchen, Bernie says: “I define my cultural heritage as “SalviMex.” In my cooking, I definitely incorporate SalviMex fusion flavors. For example, I may add curtido to my tacos. Or, I may eat pupusas with salsa verde. All in all, my cooking will always be inspired by my SalviMex upbringing in Los Angeles, and by the señoras who nurtured and nourished me.”
The women who inspired Bernie in the kitchen
Please tell us about those incredible ladies and your favorite memories with them in the kitchen: “When I think back to my happy childhood, some of my fondest memories are in the kitchen of a beloved matriarch. I fondly recall my great-grandmother, Nana Lupita, and my grandmother, Nana Isabel. However, my favorite memories are that of my own mother. I would stare at Mama Rose with such amazement and admiration. When I was growing up, she owned and operated a bakery. Despite working long hours, she would still come home and cook a meal for our family. She multitasked flawlessly, in lipstick and heels. I felt so special whenever she gave me any task in the kitchen, however small! For example, I recall her asking me to help her shred beef for taco dorados. My favorite memory, however, is anytime she would make pupusas. She would give me masa to play with. Anytime I touch masa now, or smell fresh masa, I recall those moments from my childhood in my mother’s kitchen.”
Bernie Molina’s “spanglish” experience while cooking Salvi-Mex food
We asked her what she does regarding Spanish denominations when she has to communicate the name of a dish, ingredient or technique to her English speaking audience: “There are certain terms, such as tatemar, sofreir, and palmiar, that I personally don’t translate when referring to cooking techniques in the kitchen. I feel like translating these terms would not do them justice! Additionally, I grew up speaking “Spanglish” in the kitchen. Therefore, it just feels right to hop around between the two languages. After all, when I refer to ingredients such as types of chiles or spices, I pronounce the terms in Spanish. It just feels right!”
For Bernie, recipes preserve culture. “I am so grateful to have known my Nana Lupita (great grandmother) for the first ten years of my life. I am grateful for my Nana Isabel’s influence on me. My grandmothers, my mother, and also my suegra show their love and affection through food. By showing their love for me through food, they also showed me their love of their heritage. I am so grateful to them for passing that down to me.“
We love finding people that keep honoring their large history and rich heritage, even when they are away from their home countries, and Bernie is an incredible example of this. Thank you for kindly sharing your remarkable thoughts with us!