Living the Dolche Vita

When J. Miguel and I first started dating nearly three years ago, one of the earliest rituals we formed was weekly dinner at my place. I’d cook a homemade meal, he’d bring a bottle of red wine, and we’d spend hours eating, drinking and talking. In fact, we often remained at the dinner table long after the last crumb of food had been consumed, just telling stories, debating and finishing what was left of the wine.

Being the typical American woman that I am, there was one thing missing from these dinners that J. Miguel eventually asked me about: the absence of bread. At the time, I was (and still am) on a low-carb diet, avoiding things I tend to over-indulge in like rice, bread and pasta. This isn’t unusual for many Americans of my demographic circle, but coming from South America, this was a surprise for J. Miguel.

Upon my explanation as to why bread was not part of my weekly homemade dinners, he exclaimed with concern, “But baby, a house is not a home without bread on the table!” Immediately, childhood memories of Midwestern family dinners that included warm baskets of bread filled my mind, and I knew, sadly, that he was kind of right. Continue reading

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What is Latin America?

“Is Puerto Rico part of Latin America?” J. Miguel asked me the other day. “How about Florida, Texas and California?” he wanted to know. “They all have large Latino populations.”

Hmmm. Is Puerto Rico part of Latin America? My initial reaction would be to say “yes,” and “no” to Florida, Texas and California.

“But what makes Puerto Rico different from the others?” J. Miguel asked.

“Because it’s not part of the United States,” I said to him. “Isn’t Latin America Spanish-speaking countries outside of the United States and Europe?”

“But Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory,” he reminded me. Continue reading

Argentina vs. Donald Trump

Forget that I spent Tuesday night staffing one of the hottest award dinners in DC this week; forget the fact that I got this close DC’s glitterati which included the likes of General Petraeus, Secretary Bob Gates, the great Vittorio Grigolo and even shook hands with Gov. John Huntsman (all at the same party). Just for a moment, ignore the fact that I even made an offer on a dream condo yesterday (and that the offer has been accepted) and that for the first time in my life I am this close to being a homebuyer in one of the nation’s hottest real estate markets. Never mind all that big news for a few seconds, and think instead about what else happened in the world this past week.

First of all, Ted Cruz dropped out the U.S. presidential elections Tuesday night. Secondly, John Kasich quickly followed suit. That leaves us in a rather uncomfortable position: Donald Trump being one step closer to the White House. Of course, for anyone closely following the race, this should come as no surprise. We, including some of us traditional Republicans, have all been in denial that he could actually make it this far. However, for those realists among us, despite what the Internet and TV would make us believe, his candidacy stopped being funny a long time ago. Continue reading

Comfort Food from Peru

There is something about food, no matter what culture you come from, that evokes such strong emotions in people. I can think of few other things that people will happily spend hours of labor preparing, only for it to be devoured in mere minutes, sometimes without appreciation for the one who cooked the meal. And what is it about cravings? What is it about cold, rainy days like today, that drive people to seek out their favorite comforts, even if they are settling for something less than the best? It may not be like how Mom or Grandma used to make it, but at this particular time, it’s somehow good enough.

Today was one of those days for J. Miguel. He took me to a hole-in-the-wall Latino restaurant in Arlington, Virginia called El Puerto Restaurant, located in the Columbia Pike area and specializing in “authentic” Bolivian and Peruvian cuisine.

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Before I go further, I have an embarrassing confession to make: I’m not a huge fan of Latino cuisine. I like Tex-Mex just fine, but I know it’s far from traditional. I think the few true Latino foods I have come to appreciate can be limited to papusas, salteñas, fried plantains and fried yuca. And trust me, I’ve been adventurous, having even tried anticuchos (cow hearts). There is that one time I had a fabulous Cuban lunch in Miami, but other than that isolated experience, I tend to like the fusion dishes, such as what José Andrés prepares, although those come with a pretty hefty price tag attached to them. Continue reading