As I lounge in the family room with my sisters, the smell of rice and beans overcomes me. My mother is in the kitchen, molding flour into tortillas as macaroni heats in the microwave. Soon we’ll sit down at the table, our conversation lapsing in and out of Spanish and English, our meal a hybrid of American and Latin American cooking. It’s moments like this that I realize one of the best parts about being Latina in America is the culinary experience.
While my friends complain that their mothers use the same recipes, my mother’s food is always zesty and flavorful. A traditional Latin mother, she hates to see an empty stomach, especially if it belongs to one of her children. The kitchen is her favorite room and cooking her favorite activity. If given the option, my sisters, father, and I would rather eat at home because her food is that good. Instead of enduring school cafeteria food, I open my lunch box to find homemade tacos or bread soup accompanied by fresh fruit juice just like in El Salvador.
But as a Latina in America, I also have the opportunity to enjoy American foods without ever leaving my neighborhood. My mother has adjusted her recipes so that every meal incorporates both cuisines. Anyone would agree the result is delicious. But something more important results. Since my parents expose me to both cultures, I’m very accepting. Rather than scrunching my nose up in disgust and rejecting food, I try it willingly, whether Chinese, Ethiopian or German.
Food is an integral element to every culture, so by trying new foods, I demonstrate respect for that culture. My open-mindedness in the kitchen has also given me an advantage in a world where communication with foreign countries is increasingly important for political, social, diplomatic, and economic reasons.
Being a Latina in America has made me more cosmopolitan, more aware of the colorful world we live in. While it may seem simple, even childish, my favorite part is the food. Really, no one makes papusas like mi madre.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.