My husband and his family are from Nicaragua. Growing up in Miami I was surrounded by various Latino cultures and amazing food. Beside morning trips to the Cuban bakery for pastelitos on the way to school, I didn't venture too far off my Americano roots.
Then enters my husband in to my life at the tender age of fifteen. I'll never forget a night I was invited to dinner, the meal being served was la lengua (cow tongue). While this was a special occasion and dish, the teenager in me was freaking out. I was polite and tried some, it wasn't bad but I couldn't wrap my mind around the visual. What I did gain over the years was a deep love for amazing food from all different cultures.
When we travel back to Miami, food is all I can think about. I can taste the Ropa Vieja with black beans and rice or Carne Asada. I dream of such meals, it is almost what I miss most of my old home. Fast forward sixteen years, dragging kids of my own to a new Cuban restaurant that opened in town. My mouth watering for croquetas and yuca frita, for a medianoche sandwich to follow.
"We are going where?" Jack says. His eyes are already making kid food judgments.
"We are going to the new Cuban place, KennTico. I think you'll like it!" I replied.
Pouting and sulking continued until the appetizer came out. His entire face changed when he tasted the ham croquetas.
"Mom, this is really good. I change my mind, this was a good idea." he said.
I realized consistent exposure to different foods helps tremendously. I so want to give in to the macaroni and cheese, chicken nugget lifestyle required and provided everywhere in kid world. It only takes one bite, one new taste to change it all, even for this fifteen year old french fry lovin' girl.
Check out the new Kitchen Explorers blog for more kid cooking goodness.
What do you do to get kids to try new foods? Share your tips and tricks in the comments.
His English is all but gone, just a few words here and there. He isn't sure how it happened exactly, but said he just can't remember anymore. Maybe it was his retirement this year, or no daily practice. But for whatever the reason, he is returning to where he started; the language that is closest to his heart.
As I try to jog my own mind and revive my Spanish, I wonder exactly how I am going to do the two week long visit. I pretend we are in an exotic land on a sort of linguistic adventure, even though it is just my kitchen. While I fumble through, my daughter seems to have no problem at all.
He sits beside her, and she brings him her beloved red boots. She climbs on his lap as if she's done it a million times before even though this is only the second time she has ever seen him in her short little life. He gently slides each foot in, and she wiggles off, and then holds out her hand.
She leads him by his first finger all over the backyard for close to an hour. She stops. He stops. She picks up a rock or picks a forbidden flower, and he smiles so patiently like any abuelo would. When he tries to sit, she pulls him up, and he laughs, in total servanthood to the power of her cuteness. Her insistence mixed with a deep instant connection; there is no language required. Love is the only necessity, and they both have truck loads of that.
I am in awe of the way they seem to know each other, with no words, no history. There is some kind of old generational love, a knowing that this person knew you before you were ever born. It is unconditional, given so freely, so pure. I wonder how we lose this part of ourselves and maybe find it again as we age. The place and time where everything becomes so simple, everything peeled back, all that really matters remains.
While I sit from my kitchen table and watch them, I am overwhelmed by the power of love. How far and wide it can travel, how nothing can stand in its way, even when there are no words.
Do your children have a special connection with their grandparents? Do you do something to cultivate it or is it just there? Do share your favorite grandparent stories in the comments section today. We would love to read them.
It has happened with each of our children around the age of four.
"Papa, you are brown!" Lucy proclaimed while she stroked his arm the other day.
"What color are you?" he asked.
"I don't know..." she giggled. "I'm cream." she finally replied.
"You aren't brown?" he returned playfully.
"No, I'm cream." she decided.
We looked at each other from across the room, the same look of surprise it was happening again. When Josiah was four, he lamented that Jorge wasn't gray like the rest of the family.
We chuckled over the color gray and tried to figure out where or why he came up with it.
He seemed genuinely sad over our differences in skin tone.
I have felt a little more uneasy each time it has come up wondering if we have failed in helping our children identify with the beauty of our bicultural family and more importantly, their Latino heritage. Was their interpretation just a literal observation completely appropriate in their development or was there more to it?
My obsessive parenting brain went straight to analyzing. We moved from Miami when Josiah was only 8 weeks old. We left an extremely diverse area with full immersion of the language and culture that had been so familiar to Jorge and I for so long. We found ourselves in the place that was the capital of the confederacy, north for us yet so more the south than we had ever experienced in our lives. Sunday dinners of our favorite Nicaraguan food from the fritanga and greetings of kisses cheek to cheek were very much over. While Jorge spoke some Spanish to our kids here and there, but with no local family to help fill in the gaps it was hard to keep the bilingual train going. Even with all the excuses, it just came down to a lack of intention and effort to stay connected to all the parts of who my children and husband are.
How much does our cultural identity shape us? What happens if we lack the exposure and immersion of a particular heritage? So here we are, brown, gray and cream, wondering what to do next. Is it too late?
If you are part of a bicultural family or of a different race or culture, how have you preserved your roots? Even if you are not, what are your thoughts or suggestions on the subject?
Please share in the comments.