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.
Jeremie Serrano is a freelance artist, vegan recipe developer, LGBTQ+ activist born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and raised in the United States -more precisely in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Nowadays, Jeremie lives in Memphis, Tennessee, where he spends his time working at his art shop, curating plant-based recipes, collaborating with brands, and openly advocating for underrepresented communities.
He formed his personality around two very different countries that influenced his cooking and art style, and made them the creator that he is today. We asked him a few questions about his views on being a Latinx creator.
When asked about his cultural heritage, he is very clear that it plays a huge part in his personal identity: “Whether you describe that as Latinx/Latine/Latino or as one of the most Boricua-est guys you could ever meet; one thing you can count on is me being super proud of my heritage and how connected I feel to it. This is why I aim to highlight it in much of my work as much as possible.”
So, how does his cultural heritage play part in the making or creation of a new dish? “I feel like being a part of the Caribbean community and a Boricua that grew up in the North East definitely plays a huge part in deciding factors when creating new dishes or recreating traditional ones. As a vegan chef who wants people to not only try plant-based recipes but wants them to experience these flavors the same way you would if you were eating the traditional non-plant-based dishes – it’s important to me to use as much knowledge as I can from my ancestors. This means pulling from the same flavors, ingredients, and methods to recreate the most realistic versions of some of our most famous dishes from la Isla del Encanto (Puerto Rico). And I am always up for that challenge.”
Latin family matters
From his earliest memories, Jeremie recalls being in the kitchen and watching his relatives create magic in the kitchen. “I’ve always been attached to the hip with my welita (grandma) and mami. But it wasn’t until I reached the teen years that I got into cooking and creating those very same recipes. This is when I got even nosier and kept bothering my mom and grandma to teach me, feed me, and instill in me these methods to make the same magic that they were creating with their hands in the kitchen. These moments are the ones I hold onto forever and look forward to continuing to make.”
While on the family subject, we wanted to know if he’d “inherited” any tips or traditions from them. And here the ‘eyeball method’ makes its grand entrance: it’s “when you ask my grandma for the measurements of one of her delicious recipes she always responds, ‘yo no mido los ingredientes, solo lo miro y pruebo todo cuando lo cocino’ -(‘I don’t measure the ingredients, I just look at the recipe and try everything together while I cook it’). “When teaching others to cook my recipes I try my best to teach them with measurements, but honestly, the best way to cook and learn to cook is to get into the kitchen, taste and feel those ingredients and enjoy the process all the way to the final product – that is how you get a beautiful end result and learn to love cooking.”
Being a bilingual Latinx creator
Since Jeremie has his cultural roots in Puerto Rico, he learned many of the recipes he knows or ingredients he uses with their Spanish/Boricua names. When asked if he translates some of them into English names to communicate his knowledge with his followers, he explains: “My community is a very diverse group and I always try to stay aware of this. After all, I want to be able to connect with every one of my supporters. But one thing that is very important for me is teaching others about my culture, and that oftentimes means translating the very Boricua and Spanish sayings that I say. I honestly prefer to leave it up to people to do the research and learn on their own, because I think ‘intention’ is very important when learning about other cultures. I mean we all have access to Google and the interweb. But I also know that it’s important for us to work together as a community which is why you’ll find that I try to translate things like ingredients and other stuff that they’ll need to know if they’re shopping for ingredients or products… but again I want people to learn so I try not to handhold anyone.”
For Jeremie, cultural heritage is at the root of all of us and all that we do: “Whether that’s cooking your ancestor’s dishes or the way you live or the way you dress. We all in some way honor our heritage and for me, that is through my work in food and art. I want to continue to educate others on my Boricua identity and how important it is for others to know more about it. We owe that to our ancestors, to keep their history and culture alive for generations to come.”
We love finding people that find new ways to honor their large history and rich heritage, and Jeremie is an amazing example. Thank you for kindly sharing your remarkable thoughts with us!
For more stories, check out Our Heritage Month – Cocina’s new take on representation & Hispanic Heritage Month .