It may sound trite, but we all know that the secret ingredient to a perfect and delicious dish is love. Love, tenderness, and more love. That’s why in Latin America, most traditional recipes are passed down from generation to generation thanks to abuelas and abuelos (Spanish for grandparents), parents, or even friends.
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is all about that. Embracing memory, culture, and discovering the secret ingredients that make us who we are as individuals and as part of a larger community, as part of a heritage. Culinary traditions tend to be the epicenter of this celebration since it’s through food that we can taste the history and heritage of a particular culture, connecting us to the past and fostering a deeper appreciation for the present.
Food is a universal language that transcends borders and brings people together. And no one knows that better than Latinxs. It is between dishes that they find the perfect excuse to gather around different tables, share different flavors, recipes, and experiences. Sharing food ends up being the ritual of storytelling and heartwarming starings that endure.
The Importance of Sharing And Remembering
When I was a kid, every weekend my mom used to teach me how to make “masitas” (a sweet similar to shortbread or cookies). It was during the morning, after breakfast and before lunch, that my mom and I would stand in front of a black marble table and mix the flour with the butter, the sugar, the vanilla essence, and the stories I had to share and the ones she’d saved for that moment.
She would share how her aunt taught her how to make the “masitas” when she was a child, and I would ask how they turned out to be so delicious, and also share what subject was my favorite and why kindergarten was the best. After baking, we would eat those with my brother and my dad. But sometimes, it would only be the two of us, while Mom told more stories about her aunt and how the secret to a mouthwatering masita was the extra vanilla drop.
Families all around Latin America and Hispanic and Latin families that live in the United States, hold a similar tradition to the one I’ve shared. That moment, the in-between, in which secrets are spilled, recipes are shared, and stories navigate between flavors.
After all, sharing food and the table in Latin America is a deeply ingrained cultural tradition that reflects the region’s strong sense of community, hospitality, and family bonds. It goes beyond simply eating together; it’s a way of fostering connections, expressing love, and celebrating life.
Food is the universal language of love, of caring, of exchange not because of what it is in itself but because of what it represents. It is a warm soup on a cold day shared between strangers, a cup of a foreign flavor tea to alleviate the pain, a tamal or a taco served as a courtesy for you to know the food that represents a culture, an asado in which strangers, family, and friends find the perfect excuse to meet and embrace the hot meat, salads, and fire.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, dishes like fajitas, arepas, and anticuchos (among many others) are not there just to satisfy our taste buds, but as a powerful expression of where Hispanics and Latinxs come from, a catalyst connection between land and people, a reminder of how beautiful and educational diversity can be.
From COCINA, we invite you to share a plate, a story, or an experience, and see food as an opportunity to build memories but also to pass them on. To find the secret ingredient of your favorite recipe, and gather around the table with your favorite people to embrace what Latinxs and Hispanics have taught us: celebrate where you come from (and where you are at the moment, too).