Some of my happiest childhood memories are of my mom preparing some amazing feast while I was also in the kitchen doing my homework or getting into mischief or when — oh joy! — I was old enough to help her conjure up that gustatory magic. She was the first one who showed me the beauty of delicious cooking, how different foods work together, and especially how we all come together during dinner to spend time together as a family with no interruptions. Phones and the TV were a hard NO. This was our time to catch up, listen, help, share.
Flash forward a few decades and my favorite times with her still center around food. After Joe and I switched to to a whole food plant based lifestyle, she stressed about what to cook for us, because feeding us deliciously enjoyable meals is one of her core expressions of love and devotion. And man, I felt homesick for getting absolutely stuffed with her food. Stealing a taste here and nibble there, it has been an ongoing challenge to satisfy myself with just a taste instead of a meal, especially when she cooked our native Puerto Rican foods.
Yesterday she decided to try to veganize some of our Puerto Rican favorites. She made sancocho – typically a beef stew with yuca and plantain dumplings. She simply substituted the beef stock with veggies and swapped out the beef with extra veggies plus calabaza. She also made mofongo (mashed fried plantains), and to accommodate our preference for little to no oil, she used just a dash of Goya olive oil when lightly pan-frying the plantains. I tell you … Goya olive oil has such a lovely flavor that other brands of oil simply do not have. She also made rice and beans (no pork or oil) and a simple but lovely salad, the greens for which came from my garden. It was a spectacularly tasty meal. Chowing down on those rich and familiar flavors brought back so many happy memories and my taste buds are finally satisfied.
I’m SO HAPPY she sent us home with TONS of leftovers (a habit which I’ve picked up from her over the decades … a habit which my guests LOVE lol).
My sweet mom is such an inspirational woman, an exceptional friend, and the bestest and most caring and loving mom I could have ever have wished for.
Not to mention … she’s a damn fine chef !
P.S. Stay tuned! Yesterday’s dinner was such a success that I convinced her to join me in my upcoming videos to veganize several Puerto Rican dishes!