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.
Vanessa Mota is a cook born and raised in the Dominican Republic. She came to the U.S. with her mom at the age of 14, and as a teenager and young woman living in New York City, she became interested in tasting the great variety of cuisines from different countries, but always maintaining her passion for traditional Dominican food. This is how she learned about food.
She didn’t start learning how to cook until she was married, pregnant with her daughter and craving all the delicious homemade meals her mom and grandma used to make. Since she made many mistakes in the kitchen when she started cooking, she created her blog to help those like her who didn’t have their family members close by to teach them how to make a particular dish. My Dominican Kitchen is a bilingual food blog where she helps busy moms put together tasty traditional Dominican and Latin-inspired meals without having to spend tons of time in the kitchen.
We asked her about how she defines her cultural heritage and how it inspires her in the kitchen: “I’m born and raised in the Dominican Republic. As someone who grew up on the island, I hold many memories of my family, friends, and neighbors around the kitchen. I simply love sharing the recipes I grew up eating.”
Vanessa Mota’s fondest cooking memories while growing up
So, Vanessa, what are your favorite memories in the kitchen while growing up? “Some of my fondest memories are the moments I spent with my grandmother in the Dominican Republic as a child. Seeing her prepare ingredients for the day’s lunch or dinner and sometimes getting to help. Most of my recipes are inspired by her cooking. My favorite was my abuela’s asopado de pollo, which is a chicken and rice soup she loved to make on chilly rainy days.”
How Vanessa manages to communicate her recipes to her English speaking audience
We asked her what she does regarding Spanish denominations when she has to communicate the name of a dish or ingredient to her English speaking audience: “Dominicans have very particular and sometimes unique names for our dishes such as mangú or chapea. Most of the time, I choose not to change those names in my content. Sometimes I do offer a translation but mostly as a way to describe the dish to someone who has never heard of it before.”
For Vanessa, food is how she teaches her kids about their Dominican heritage and connects with their roots. It has definitely helped her to keep “un pedacito de la isla” (a little piece of the island) in the U.S. with her.
We love finding people that keep honoring their large history and rich heritage, even when they are away from their home countries, and Vanessa is an incredible example of this. Thank you for kindly sharing your remarkable thoughts with us!