My name is Lila and I love to cook.
Growing up in a Dominican household, we celebrated special occasions with arroz con guandules y sancocho. Mami’s days off, which were few and far between, meant mangu with salami, fried cheese y una salsita de cebollas rojas. Mami showed her love through food. Memories of helping her en la cocina- limpiando el arroz and prepping the chicken, moleando el ajo, poniendo el agua a hervir – all taught me how to cook and feed myself. At the time I complained of my responsibilities but eventually really appreciated that she passed down her cooking processes and kitchen wisdom.
When I moved away, I found myself reaching for los sabores de mama, trying to recreate ese toquesito, that reminded me of home.
I love the process of making a pot of beans. Reaching back to memories of watching mami make them, I try to recall her tips along the way. I’ve added my own touches. I don’t add sopita maggi to my food, which mami probably deems blasphemous. In my opinion, there’s way too much sodium, and it’s really not worth the risk of hypertension. Instead I go heavy on the cilantro y limon. Add a little kick, cayenne or red pepper, which I’ve inherited from my time living in New Orleans.
I have incorporated lots of vegetables to my diet, and don’t really eat much meat these days. I love to make power salads- with sauteed veggies like sweet potatoes and mushrooms, add super rich foods like avocado and blue berries, on a bed of spinach or kale. I try to use products that are in season- berries, tomatoes, greens, squashes. I love to layer deliciousness on pieces of toast and tacos. Like any good millenial, I take lots pictures of my creations. Here’s a taster, “The Purple Mermaid Salad”!
A birth story: Mami says that her water broke as she was standing in front of la estufa. A believer in perfect coincidences, I like to imagine this moment. My mother’s hands, her soft touch cradling me in her belly.
Both of us, suspended in a quiet knowing of loving safety. A release as her water broke, the anticipation of life. It was time. No matter how hard life got after that, Mami’s soft embrace has always reminded me of this knowing: I am safe. And inside me, an opening that has fueled my own exploration for how we nurture ourselves and our beloveds, has inspired my career in family and women’s health and wellness. Coincidence?