Avia una vez una...The daily reminder of the love shared by my teacher, my father. We discussed Puerto Rico constantly, it was the island dream he left to be in NY and live a better life. I knew the true meaning of this freedom my dad needed early on. The freedom embedded in me. Talking about island childhood, recipes and traditions was a way of life in my home. My father being 100% boriqua he expected to eat, " Arroz, habicuelas y Carne todos los dias". which means, " Rice, Beans and Meat every day. " AND so it was.
The kitchen was our sanctuary. From making Coffee en la Greka to metiendo fuerza con las latas to make tostones ( using cans to mash plantains for tostones), every moment has a story. Stories of JIbaro Life: Family, Food & traditions. Ciales Puerto Rico being a tiny mountain town where the Oliveras started with my grandpa, Neco a man stern and strait forward, took no punches gave it to you like it was. They had prize winning roosters (cock fights), chickens, cows & pigs, went fishing at the local sweet water river for crawfish & always had fresh vegetables from the garden. Having these memories recited to me daily made me fall in love with Puerto Rico and Cooking. Fresh Chicken cooling on the little windowsill of the tiny white house on the hill, my dad and his siblings stealing pieces while Abuelita Milla isn't looking. Finally, she runs after them through the yard with a wooden spoon once she realizes most of the chicken is gone. Guanabanas almost falling on your head off trees as a child, fishing with your bare hands under rocks in the river, eating star fruits off the trees, mistaking passionfruits for frogs floating on the river (that was me), curing a whole pig with a small fogon. These are the stories. The ones that made me fall in love.
My Dad and I always cooked together for the family. It was our time together. My job since I was 4 years old has been to marinate the meat. So, first off instrumentos: Pillon, cuchillo, tabla y Ingredientes: Sal, Pimienta, Adobo, Aceite, Ajo, AJi Dulce (si es puerco o carne roja). " Prueba todo!" my dad yells as I try to pound on the already half beaten garlic cloves, he had just helped me out with. Tasting as I go the delicious smoked cumin, creamed garlic & oregano. Mashing (with Dad's help) till it became a delectable paste. Slather thus paste on EVERYTHANG. Pork, beef, chicken, cornish hens, blue crab stew, arrozitos, habicuelas. Cooking has always been my therapy, my teacher, my best friend, and my damn enemy. It has allowed me to focus on what I truly love. To see the clear picture.
Island Life Kitchen came from this love of cooking and Puerto Rico. Growing up eating Plantains, Panapenes, Guanabanas, Achiote, Recao, Pimienton, Cangreja, Pulpo, Bacalao,Lechon and Arroz con habicuelas was the norm even in NYC. The flavors, the fresh ingredients it is something I knew I needed to share. I created Island Life Kitchen after much time and preparation. Always discussing where our ingredients come from, how to use them and what recipes have them are my three key components of this kitchen. To educate about what I know, Jibaro Life and cooking. I have had the pleasure now of running this business for almost 3 years now. Day 1, one student and Me, enough food for four people. Cocktails, Music, and a new friend later I realized, I can do this.
Always incorporating healthy cooking, know why? Because I knew that in our community many of the Jibaro, organic and healthy ways of eating had been grossly Americanized. By doing this, mainly because of socio economic reasons we had created unhealthy patters and health risks in the community. Diabetes, Thyroid, Cancer, Heart Disease, Mental Health issues all points I wanted to target. How to make our food healthier and still acceptable in flavor to picky island folk? Better ingredients, New Recipe ideas & Healthy minded cooking. NEVER taking away the essence of the food. Because if there is one thing about a Puerto Rican, they won’t eat your rice if it doesn't look right.
So here we are, almost 3 years in endless recipes, clients and lots of love. I have been blessed. I want to continue sharing as the world has turned and Covid has given me less one on one time with you. Share recipes, "Cuentos de Ada", anecdotes and Taino Traditions. I want to take a moment to thank anyone who has supported me in this venture. It is my dream to be back on the island home of my ancestors and all these steps are to get me there to share more from my Island Farm to all of you. Esto es para Puerto Rico.