The Puerto Rican Cookbook Cocina Criolla has shaped many kitchens across the U.S. Caribbean and the World.
People often ask me where I got my love for Latin food? The answer is easy. It’s from my Grandmother Petra Gonzalez. At 93 years old she’s still sharp-witted, has a sound mind and even cooks for herself. She and I have always shared a special bond. I was her Miguelito who always loved her cooking. Until this day, I can still smell her Habichuelas cooking on the stove and me waiting with anticipation for the chance to eat them. My Grandmother Petra, whose maiden name was Prado, moved in with us when I was just 5 years old. She was a hard-charging Nuevo Rican from the Bronx, who had made her way to the United States from Puerto Rico as a young girl. She met my Grandfather Louis Gonzalez as a teenager and the pair would become married a few years after they met.
Cooking has always been in my genes. My Grandfather was a chef in various restaurants across Manhattan as a young man. He passed away in January of 2019 at 103 years old. Up until he was around 100, he was still cooking meals for himself. As you can imagine, my Grandmother learned a lot about Latin cooking – that she passed onto my Mother – who then passed on the love of Puerto Rican cuisine to me. I was talking to my Grandmother recently about her cooking influences and if she ever relied on a cookbook for her recipes. She immediately told me about a book she had on her bookshelf called Cocina Criolla by Carmen Aboy Valledejuli she had received as a wedding gift in 1948! My Grandmother often referred to the book when she had a question about ingredients involved in a Puerto Rican dish. I was so intrigued by the fact she had this book, I asked her to send it to me so I could take a look.
When it arrived I was elated that the book was still in good condition. It still has the original message that it was a wedding gift on the inside. The pages are filled with authentic Puerto Rican dishes of all kinds. The words are all in Spanish and that seems to make the book all the more charming. As I thumbed through the pages, I realized that this book, in many ways had shaped my love for Hispanic food. The Caribbean creations that are so beloved across Puerto Rico were all contained inside this cooking bible of sorts. This experience has so inspired me, that I would like to share these recipes with you. I plan to share stories of my Grandmother and her love for the kitchen and how her outlook on life has shaped the person I am today.
I don’t know how much time I have left with my Grandmother because of her age. Most of my immediate family has passed away including my Mother, Father, Sister & Grandparents. So she really is the final link to my immediate family. For that reason, I wanted to share this simple cookbook that contains extraordinary recipes. Perhaps it can touch your lives the way it has mine. In this day and age of COVID-19, stress and uncertainty we can’t forget what’s important. God, family, friends and the memories that bind us.
In the coming days, I will translate these recipes into English and take you on a Puerto Rican food journey. I thank my Grandmother for sharing these recipes with me and I’m thankful I can share them with you. Enjoy!
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