Where I Come From
I am a first generation Latin-American woman. But honestly? I have a lot more in me than just that. I’m probably more Italian-Irish-Peruvian-American. It’s confusing, I know. My mother was born in Peru. Her father was Italian and her mother was Italian-Peruvian. My mother came to America in her early twenties to work for an international organization. She met my father, and American-Irish-mix of a man, and married him in her late twenties. See what I mean? Confusing. So — This makes me a really crazy mixture of Italian-Irish-Peruvian-American.
When I was a small girl, I vividly remember my parents entertaining frequently. My mother loved to cook, bake and entertain, and honestly, she became an accomplished cook in her own right by reading numerous cookbooks — Julia Child, Bon Appetite magazines, The Joy of Cooking and her Peruvian cookbooks (I still have one!) were some favorites. She often made formal meals for our small family — my mother and father, me, my sister, and our nanny, as well as numerous of our beloved cousins that lived with us — because she wanted to teach us manners, and the importance of eating together in an informal AND in a formal manner. We spent all our meals around the table, together, talking, laughing, stealing food off each other’s plates, and enjoying family time together. That was our family time.
Alternately, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Easter, birthdays… they were all celebrated in the dining room, with a formal three or four course meal, all served on my mother’s vast collection of beautiful china, sterling silver flatware, delicate linens, beautiful crystal goblets and glasses, and her girls dressed in their pretty dresses. It was mandatory, expected, and we loved it. When she invited guests or had parties, my younger sister and I helped in the kitchen and served the guests in the formal dinning room. I must confess, I didn’t like that too much, but it taught me how to set a formal table, which side to serve and clear from (which has changed now), and planted a love in my heart to cook, entertain, collect cookbooks, china and serving pieces, and discover new foods and recipes.
So much laughter, chatter, clanking of china and flatware, mmmmm’s and aaahhhs, ooooh’s, and more laughter. Clusters of friends and beloved family chatting, singing, guitars strumming, piano clanking, dancing, the smells of food, music, more laughter, tears of joy… some tears of sorrow… friends and family comforting each other, bolstering each other, eating with each other, and holding each other. Thats what I remember growing up. They are beautiful memories of an enormous, beautiful extended Peruvian family that came to America one by one, and they ALL love each other through food, drink, music, gathering together, loving each other, laughing, singing and eating together. And it all started in my moms kitchen.
What is entertaining to me today? It’s not just food, or cleaning the house, or the financial cost of purchasing everything. It’s those special memories that just blur into each other with sounds, smells, feelings and emotions. Its the joy of having a house full of people that we love, or that we’re just meeting; its the sounds of laughter, or even tears, music, clanging flatware, clinging glasses; it’s the smells of food, garlic, bubbling tomato sauce, a sweet smell of chocolate, or strawberries, the tart tang of lemon in the room; it’s the sounds of children running through the rooms. Serving my friends and family, cooking for them, being there for them… that’s my love language, and it makes me very happy, with a huge smile on my face. That’s who I am, and that’s … According to Giselle.