Hispanic Heritage Month on Vocal
My heritage powers every sense of my work.
It was never an unusual sight to see my great grandmother handing out homemade papa rellena to everyone in her Queens neighborhood. The community would pitch in money to buy bulk foods like potato, rice, meat just so they can give it to her to cook it. You may have even seen my grandmother running her own concession stand in the busy bustling streets of Puerto Rico where she would put her own touch on pastelillos that would make anyone stop dead in their tracks just to taste. When I started my own food journey through The Bronx Vegan, it may have been a surprise to my family that I was taking on a new approach to food but when you look at the dedication and passion for food that runs through my family history, this work really isn’t so surprising at all.
Being of Puerto Rican and Peruvian heritage, I almost inherit an innate passion for the most worldly cuisine. What's best is that I have hands-on experience making this delicious cuisine in the kitchen growing up. All my recipes, whether it’s Vegan Lomo Saltado or Vegan Pastelillos, were inspired by the original non-vegan dishes I would prepare as a kid with my family. When I went vegan in 2017, I knew there was no way I could survive this change without bringing along the cultural dishes I’ve grown to love. This desire inspired a platform that combined an exploration of the complex world of Veganism, a look at the plant-based offerings available in my hometown of the Bronx, as well as an extension of my love for my cultural foods.
Even till this day, I am still exploring the Vegan world. Where veganism and my cultural background is concerned, the idea of plant-based foods never crossed my path. Both Puerto Rican and Peruvian food rely on a lot of animal products to produce the most iconic dishes to the culture. It has been a challenge to navigate this plant-based life, especially during the holidays where my family is still confused as to why I won’t touch 95% of the meal. However, it has been a joy to create traditional dishes, like Peruvian Tallarines Verdes, and serve them to my family with much approval. When they can have a fully plant-based meal that reminds them of the traditional meal, I know I’m creating that same experience for someone else when I share my work online.
When I look at the Bronx and the food landscape, one might think vegans could never survive here. With strings of fast food establishments overcrowding the borough and poor access to fresh and quality produce, introducing this platform felt like a way of giving back to the place that gave so much to me. In navigating veganism in the Bronx, I was able to not only shed light on the wonderful people making strides in veganism here (check out Next Stop Vegan!) but also grow a stronger sense of community with Puerto Rican, Peruvians, and every community beyond my own that lives and thrive in the Bronx.
My heritage powers every sense of my work. It gives me the utmost joy to see how sharing vegan Puerto Rican and Peruvian dishes delights so many new and existing vegans. The greatest way I honor and connect to my heritage is through food. It’s the way I can remember my family, who I am, and where I come from. Through The Bronx Vegan and all that I do, I honor my heritage so that those who connect to my heritage, be it Puerto Rico, Peru, or the Bronx, can feel a sense of belonging in the vast Vegan culinary world.