Episode 20: Food & Culture- Latinx Cuisine Transcript

Oct. 28, 2021
[00:00:00.070] - Brandy

Hi, Dominique. It's really nice to meet you. Thank you so much for being here with us and taking the time to talk a little bit more about the Latin culture, as well as the heritage that we come from. Can you please tell us and our audience who you are and what you do here on campus, as well as a little bit about how you define the culture?


[00:00:26.830] - Dominique



[00:00:27.670] - Dominique



[00:00:36.410] - Dominique

Nehuatl Notoca Dominique Calza. Ni chane cozamayotl, Ni capolli teoxicalli, Ni tlamanalcah. My name is Dominique Calza. I am the director of the Adalberto and Ana Guerrero Student Center. We are one of the cultural and resource centers on campus, and we support Latinx students through culturally affirming programs and events that really cultivate a sense of belonging and create that kind of like home away from home for students.


[00:01:00.890] - Brandy

Thank you.


[00:01:02.630] - Dajana



[00:01:03.050] - Dajana

So I was curious how important is food your culture? And is there any kind of misconceptions about food in your culture?


[00:01:11.090] - Dominique

Food is super important in our culture. As a Mexican Indigenous person, that's the way that I identify, food is an integral part of everything that we do. Right? I think when we're speaking about Latinx culture, it's so varied and it's so diverse and food is part of the way that we can also share our culture and our identity with people that are like us and not like us.


[00:01:43.410] - Dominique

So I think to me, food is like this way that we can connect with people and each other. There's so many celebrations, ceremonies that are really guided by food. So sharing a meal with family, with friends, with community is really something that I feel is really a central part of different Latinx cultures.


[00:02:10.650] - Dominique

Misconceptions - I feel like there's a lot. So living here in the Sonoran desert, in the Southwest, right. In these desert lands. I think when people think about Latinx cuisine, they think Mexican. They think Mexican food. They think tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and even that Mexican food is really greasy or everything is fried or it's less healthy. And actually, the majority of traditional dishes of the Americas, they're vegan and gluten free. Right. If you really think about it, they're really based on traditional foods, like corn.


[00:03:01.950] - Dominique

Beans, squash, vegetables, things like that. And so I think that's a major misconception, especially for folks living here, is that anytime you think about Latinx food, you're thinking about Mexican food. And even thinking about Mexican food, there's big regional differences.


[00:03:25.570] - Dominique

The food from Northern Mexico compared to Southern Mexico is very different. So for folks that know, you can get into heated debates on is menudo supposed to be red or white?


[00:03:43.690] - Dominique

Should your tamales be wrapped in corn or banana leaves? So I think there's a lot of diversity that sometimes goes unseen and unrecognized when we're thinking about Latinx food cuisine.


[00:04:00.850] - Ashley

I have so many questions when you mention the diversity, even within the Latinx community. I don't think it's always understood how many different cultures that word even encompasses. Right. I don't know sometimes that in of itself, there's these regional differences when it comes to food. There's cultural differences. I love this concept of like there's heated debates about how to kind of prepare or eat the same recipe even.


[00:04:30.730] - Ashley

I think there are so many misconceptions. But I also think there's this maybe some unawareness. And maybe that's just in the Southwest, like I grew up here. So maybe there's also this unawareness of how diverse even the Latinx community is and people kind of identify it as one note. And maybe that's part of the assimilation. I don't know exactly why that is. Do you have any idea why that is? I'm just glad we're talking about it.


[00:04:54.490] - Dominique

Yeah. I think identity is so special and sacred and important, and sometimes unimportant to people. So it becomes not just your own personal feeling and how you identify. But what community do you identify with. So Hispanic is a term that was created by the government, and words continue to change and transform.


[00:05:26.770] - Dominique

And there was a shift to using the term Latin or Latino or Latina. And that has transformed into now a more gender neutral term of using Latinx, right. Which was birthed in academia. And when you're speaking Spanish and you're wanting to be more gender neutral, you would say Latine with an e at the end. And so there's just a lot of different ways, and we could get into the political pieces about it. And for me, it's really the way that I identify myself as an Indigenous person that's attempting to retribalize and really kind of decolonize some of those identities.


[00:06:19.930] - Dominique

It's really kind of looking at those traditions and going back into, where do I fit in? What community do I belong to? And what we're seeing, mostly, and this can be backed by research, is that when you ask people how they identify even within people that would be grouped as Hispanic, the majority of folks will give you a country of origin. Even if they were born in the United States themselves, they'll identify or name themselves based on the country of origin of their parents or their grandparents or their ancestors. So people would identify as Mexican or Mexican American or Cuban or Puerto Rican or Nicaraguan.


[00:07:14.470] - Dominique



[00:07:15.790] - Dominique

So I feel like it's really that there's so much diversity. And you can really see that in all the aspects of culture. And food is just one entry point, like music, right. Like film, like all of the arts and ways in which we can connect with each other on those commonalities, but then also celebrate the diversity as well.


[00:07:39.550] - Ashley

And I love the piece that you mentioned earlier about culture, and in food in particular is how we share our culture and how we kind of share that expression with other folks. And the comment around or the discussion around common misconception, I actually think it's so interesting when it comes to food. And part of this is being in the nutrition field. I think even those of us who work in nutrition, as we learned about nutrition, food got so complicated because there were all these misconceptions for these cultural foods.


[00:08:12.730] - Ashley

And I think those of us that identify within those cultures even felt like, oh, wait, is that wrong? Is my food not good for me? Is my food just this one note that they're saying? And it's like it isn't. And it's so much more than that, and it's disappointing because it almost makes you feel bad about enjoying the foods from your culture because it doesn't always align with what you're taught when it's almost like, well, there needs to be this almost decolonization of people's plates. And there needs to be this discussion of traditional foods and what it means and really taking shame away from all foods in general.


[00:08:50.290] - Ashley

But I think there are misconceptions about lots of cultural foods because they don't align with the majority or they don't align with the dominant culture.


[00:08:58.390] - Dominique

Definitely. I think there's definitely a lot of shame in diet culture.


[00:09:05.410] - Dominique



[00:09:07.450] - Dominique

Like you mentioned, there's a lot of stigma attached to certain foods sometimes, or even people's traditional foods. So it's hard to engage people using these more traditional diet type of thing, right?


[00:09:32.530] - Dominique

And those frameworks when you're talking about restricting people's ties to their culture, right. Which is embedded in food. And so if you're saying, like, oh, I can't have tortillas anymore. Or like, oh, I can't have those beans because maybe my Nana used lard in them. It becomes something that further alienates people and further moves people away from their cultural heritage.


[00:10:05.050] - Ashley

Literally nothing gets me fired up more than when we have these restrictive diets that people are given, and it's a complete disrespect to their culture and their way of living for so long. And I just, nothing gets me fired up more.


[00:10:21.610] - Dominique

And it's an erasure. It's an erasure and a forced assimilation to mainstream ideology. I'll leave it at that.


[00:10:32.390] - Ashley

I know I have a lot of words for it, but maybe we'll transition. So, I think the Food and Culture series has been such a fun way to learn more about people. And if it's okay to ask you to talk or speak a little bit to any of your family traditions around food, or some examples of how food maybe tells a story in your family or represents your family.


[00:10:57.050] - Dominique

Yeah, for sure. So both my mother and father are from Mexico, from Northern Mexico. So are both sets of my grandparents. So my relationship to food, and my culture is very much based on that experience. And for me, I have a horrible memory. Some of the earliest memories I have that are still vivid are tied back to food. Right. So I can still remember visiting my manina, my Nana, in Mexico and watching as she made tortillas in her kitchen by hand and waiting to kind of like, take those first ones that were still warm coming off of the comal.


[00:11:49.310] - Dominique

Right. I can close my eyes and picture it all. I remember my tio harvesting a goat and digging a hole in the yard and burying the meat and covering it up. And it taking all day long.


[00:12:09.210] - Dominique



[00:12:11.010] - Dominique

Being able to prepare that birria for my cousin's Quinceanera, I can remember that and how it's tied again to our traditions to our coming of age ceremonies. Right. I know that I mentioned menudo before. So for people that don't know that's like a soup, that's made from hominy and, an English word, tripe, I think is the English word for it. And it's usually served during the winter season. So like Christmas, New Year's and something that's really so dear to me is that my partner, actually through my mother, inherited my grandmother's recipe.


[00:12:56.670] - Dominique

So that's something that we're able to share with our own children, because it can be an acquired taste. You can't think about it too much to really fully enjoy it.


[00:13:10.830] - Ashley

I feel like you start kids off, like with just the corn or just the hominy, you graduate as you get older.


[00:13:17.850] - Dominique

Yes. So those are things that are just really important to me. I think for my children now, right, like we're in October now. Come November, December, my own kids, they know that they're going to be eating tamales pretty regularly in these next couple of months.


[00:13:43.330] - Dominique



[00:13:44.050] - Dominique

And that in my family, with my partner and our mothers and our children, it's become this yearly tradition to prepare the tamales together and to be able to see that from start to finish.


[00:14:01.910] - Dominique



[00:14:02.930] - Dominique

A dream of mine would be to be able to grow my own corn and harvest our own meat and be able to do that from start to finish. Gardening is something that's important to our traditions and to my family. And moving so many different times, sometimes we've had a garden, sometimes we haven't. And so that's also kind of an important piece for us, to have that connection to our food and where our food comes from and why we eat certain things during certain times. And so all of those are very important for me to be able to pass on to my children and then to be able to share with others, too.


[00:14:48.950] - Ashley

And do your kids, do they participate in the cooking process or the making of the food?


[00:14:56.570] - Dominique

Definitely, it's all hands on deck.


[00:14:59.510] - Dominique

And if you've ever made tamales, you know, it's like an all day thing. It's physically exhausting. But there are so many, like in so many cultures right, the kitchen is where so many conversations happen. Where you learn so many of those oral histories and traditions from the elders in your family.


[00:15:23.990] - Dominique



[00:15:24.950] - Dominique

And so that's an important, and for us, like a sacred space.


[00:15:29.690] - Dominique



[00:15:30.110] - Dominique

Being able to share in that. And yes, some years they're more excited than others. And, yes, a couple of weeks into tamales season, they're over it. But they look forward to it, and they know it's coming up.


[00:15:45.170] - Ashley

And I even think when you don't have it as much, like I remember coming to college and not having some of those more traditional things that I maybe complained about as a kid, they're what I missed the most. And they're what I quickly figured out how to make myself so that I didn't miss them anymore.


[00:16:01.910] - Dominique



[00:16:02.630] - Dominique



[00:16:02.870] - Dominique

And then so you have those connections, and I know for myself we joke around as a family. But we rarely (go out).


[00:16:11.990] - Dominique

We like to go out to eat.


[00:16:13.250] - Ashley



[00:16:13.550] - Dominique

But we rarely eat out Mexican food because while the Mexican food in Tucson is amazing. There's so many good places. But for us, that's part of our every day.


[00:16:29.210] - Dominique

And I'll never eat a Tamal in a restaurant because I know my Nana's are the best, right? And so, like, why would I have them somewhere else? Right. My partner makes the best calabacitas. So why would I eat them somewhere else? So you kind of take ownership over some of those things, and you become a little picky sometimes.


[00:16:54.950] - Ashley

The biggest compliment and the funniest thing is my husband, who is in a different culture than I am. And someone asked him because my parents live here in Tucson, and someone asked him "Where's the best Mexican food to eat in Tucson?" And he's, like, not prompted by me, he's like, Ashley's mom's house.


[00:17:13.010] - Ashley

And I was like, oh. You're scoring me points right there.


[00:17:21.270] - Ashley

That's such a true point, too. I feel like you and I feel like going out to eat like, you kind of want to go out and enjoy food that's different, or you want to enjoy food that you wouldn't make at home. I always try to choose things that are way more complicated that I wouldn't maybe make at home.


[00:17:35.010] - Ashley

Because sometimes that's the fun part.


[00:17:36.570] - Ashley

Like, you're out anyway.


[00:17:38.010] - Dominique



[00:17:39.450] - Dominique

I love having Indian out. So, like, Samosas are my - that's where it's at.


[00:17:45.990] - Ashley

So good.


[00:17:46.590] - Ashley

Especially if they come out with the dipping sauce. You mentioned menudo. You mentioned tamales. You mentioned birria, and you mentioned one other food at the beginning, I feel like. But do you have a favorite dish?


[00:18:02.010] - Dominique

Tacos. Tacos are my favorite. I could eat tacos every day, morning, noon, and night. My family never asks me where I want to eat or when I want to eat, because it's always tacos, any kind. I could survive off of tacos, for sure.


[00:18:22.350] - Ashley

Who's the best cook in your house?


[00:18:24.090] - Dominique

My partner. For sure. I have some dishes that I can make.


[00:18:31.930] - Dominique

But, it's not my strength.


[00:18:37.730] - Ashley

It's not the same. Your belly feels a little happier if your partner is cooking - all the flavors. Awesome. Well, thank you for taking us a little through your journey.


[00:18:48.890] - Ashley

I love the point on being able to close your eyes and how food can transport us and how food is such a thing to be shared and cherished. And I think the passing down of recipes, the passing down of those traditions is how we keep it alive, too. It's like how our culture stays alive in our kids and in going forward. And yeah, I think it's just so important and such a fun thing to share and connect with other people.


[00:19:16.440] - Dominique



[00:19:21.270] - Brandy

So I also love the tradition of our foods. Personally, tacos are also my favorite. If I had to pick, though, I would say the green chili chicken tacos are top notch, one of my favorites. But probably could survive off tacos as well. It's something I try to keep alive in the tradition of our home. I made them once because I was so intimidated to make it. I didn't think that I could do it anywhere near as good as my mom or anywhere near as good as my Nana. So I kind of tried to keep them in mind as I'm preparing the recipe and they came out so good.


[00:19:59.430] - Brandy

I was so proud of myself, to make my culture proud.


[00:20:04.110] - Dominique

Yes, the tradition lives on in you Brandy.


[00:20:08.670] - Brandy

It does. But it's funny because making tamales or things that are more complicated, they are intimidating. And I think because our Nanas just know how to make them so good.


[00:20:21.270] - Brandy

And anytime I ask for the recipe, she kind of goes around it, and she's just kind of, "oh, I do this. I do that. I just throw a little bit of this in there."


[00:20:33.150] - Dominique



[00:20:33.930] - Brandy

I tell her I'm like, "nana, that doesn't help me."


[00:20:37.470] - Dominique

No, it's hard because I'm not a natural cook. And so I'm very much like, give me a recipe and I will follow it to the tea. But if you come at me with.


[00:20:47.850] - Dominique

Like [foreign language 00:20:47]


[00:20:50.610] - Dominique

Like, you'll figure it out, taste it. I'm like how much is a little bit? How much is a pitch? How much is poquito? It's hard to figure it out. But again, that comes with years of perfecting this recipe and so much love and care that people put into their food. And so it becomes different. I'm sure that your recipe is just as good as your mom and your Nana's, but also very different, right. Because you're putting your own flavor and love and intention into that dish, too.


[00:21:29.850] - Brandy

Yeah, that's very true. I agree.


[00:21:31.890] - Brandy

It's wonderful to see the variations that kind of come through generations, especially when you become a little bit more Americanized or your diet kind of changes and the variety that you can incorporate to make those slight taste differences, but still stemming from that culture, that's where it's rooted. For people who are interested in having more of that taste of the Hispanic culture, are there any resources or places that you can give for students that would be willing to kind of branch out and explore more?


[00:22:16.770] - Dominique

So many! I really love the chicken mole and handmade tortillas from La Indita. Those are my favorite. I also really like Pupusas from Selena Salvadorian Restaurant. Ropa vieja plate from Patricia's Cuban Kitchen, just to kind of like mix it up a little bit. And then my go to is Sonoran Hot Dogs from Ruiz Hot Dogs. It's a cart on 6th Avenue and 22nd.


[00:22:58.930] - Dominique



[00:23:00.310] - Dominique

And then my favorite tacos are the Birria tacos from Ensenada Street Food. And they're on South Park. And I think all of them, I don't know if Ruiz Hotdogs has an Instagram, but all the other foods are on Instagram. All the other places, so you can definitely check them out.


[00:23:23.230] - Ashley

We always link to all of them in the show notes so that students can find them and look for them. And I know Aromas had the Patricia's Cuban kitchen.


[00:23:35.230] - Dominique



[00:23:35.770] - Ashley

And it was so good.


[00:23:37.030] - Ashley

I had never had her food. And it was, oh, my gosh. It was so good. And you got so much. I was like, oh, my goodness. My belly is so happy and such a fun - it was a beautiful day, too, with a little rain.


[00:23:50.470] - Dominique



[00:23:51.130] - Dominique

I'm glad that you mentioned Aromas. So with the Guerrero Student Center, Aromas is an event. Right now I'm looking at doing it, maybe bi monthly.


[00:24:02.110] - Dominique

So the last one we had was in September. I'm looking to have another one mid November, but it's really an event that is centered around food. So we have food from local Latinx small businesses, and the food changes each time. So we've been really intentional about one, using this event to be able to highlight different Latinx cuisine.


[00:24:29.930] - Dominique



[00:24:30.110] - Dominique

So it's not just Mexican food, but you can try Indigenous food. You can try Cuban food.


[00:24:38.450] - Dominique



[00:24:40.250] - Dominique

And so it's kind of also an opportunity to show that diversity within our cuisine and also support Latinx small businesses. And so during that time, we have a plate people can take. People can also stay.


[00:25:01.370] - Dominique

And besides the food, which is always great, the other big part about that event is that we invite our Hispanic alumni. Some of which we interact with us like abuelas, abuelos, tios, tias and to really sit and enjoy a meal with students. And so using that time to be able to connect with them, to do this short term mentoring with them, and kind of be able to lend advice or just hear a story. And so it's really an opportunity for us to be able to engage intergenerationally that way through food.


[00:25:47.070] - Dominique



[00:25:47.970] - Dominique

And being able to again really foster that sense of having this home away from home. Where you can enjoy this meal and also engage with your elders with community members.


[00:26:02.610] - Dominique



[00:26:02.850] - Dominique

For so many of us, maybe growing up, we were used to multigenerational home.  Used to engaging with our grandparents, with our parents, with our younger siblings and cousins and all of those things. And so Aromas is really an event where we're able to kind of provide a little bit of that familial connection to students on campus. And so that's something that we're really proud of, an event that has been going on for over 20 years because as an undergrad, when I was here at the U of A, I went to Aromas.


[00:26:46.830] - Dominique

And so as a student that came from, I grew up in Mesa, Arizona, and so I came to the U of A on my own right. And I remember the Guerrero's center being that space for me and Aromas being a place, a time where I could connect to those elders. And I could share a meal that was familiar to me, in a space with people that had similar experiences to me. And so it's really beautiful. And I'm happy that I'm able to continue that tradition as the new director of the Guerreros Center and be able to share that with students, not just our Latinx students on campus, but also campus wide as well.


[00:27:31.950] - Dominique

And so our next one will be like I mentioned in mid November. And the best way to kind of follow up and know what we have going on is to follow us on Instagram. And we'll put notices of when our next event, when Aromas would be, or when our next events would be as well.


[00:27:50.490] - Ashley

That's wonderful. And this episode will be scheduled to go out in November. So we'll be sure to put all this information on there.


[00:27:56.910] - Dominique



[00:27:58.050] - Ashley

We were lucky enough to, some of us, to go to the September event. And it is, I think, beautiful. It is the perfect world to describe it. It's just really welcoming. Everybody was so kind and welcoming. I met a first year student who was there all by herself just like jumping right in. And it's such a welcoming space, I think for so many students. And I think campus is so lucky to have you all.


[00:28:22.710] - Ashley

It's really such a great program. Are there any other things going on at the Guerrero's center that you'd like to highlight or mention if folks have never moved over there?


[00:28:33.870] - Dominique

Yeah. So we have a student lounge.


[00:28:37.410] - Dominique



[00:28:37.770] - Dominique

So there's opportunities. We're located on the second floor of the Cesar Chavez Building, which is kind of like adjacent to Old Main. And students can come in between classes, hang out, we have a fridge, people can leave their food, you can heat up your food. We also have different events that happen throughout the year.


[00:29:04.170] - Dominique

And we also have, that's new, and some of the other cultural centers have as well is we have a CAPS embedded counselor this year. And so students are able to access mental health support directly from the Guerrero's Center, which is great. So those are some of the things that we have going on and kind of new as well.


[00:29:29.130] - Ashley

Awesome. And Yay, Hector, he's amazing.


[00:29:32.010] - Dominique

Yes, he is.


[00:29:33.930] - Dominique

And that's just the way [it is]. I think, especially for minoritized groups, it can be hard and intimidating to connect to mental health support, at all.


[00:29:46.650] - Dominique

And so having someone that maybe you identify with culturally or in some kind of way to help you navigate that process, I think is very beneficial and very amazing.


[00:30:01.170] - Ashley

It just makes it more accessible.


[00:30:03.570] - Dajana

So, Dominique, thank you so much for sharing all these great information and resources. So what we do at the end of the conversation is just to ask you three questions.


[00:30:14.610] - Dajana

Just to learn a little bit more about you. Are you ready?


[00:30:17.550] - Dominique

I'm ready.


[00:30:19.350] - Dajana

If you could only eat three foods ever again, what will they be?


[00:30:24.030] - Dominique

I feel like I should have reviewed these questions because I could have came ready. Well, tacos for sure. I already threw that one out there. So tacos.


[00:30:33.690] - Dominique

Really any kind. Tamales, and just for something sweet mangoes, probably. I like mangonadas.


[00:30:46.210] - Dominique

I don't know if folks [know], for folks that don't know what that is. It's like a super extra way to eat a mango. So you put chile, you put chamoy on it, you put lemon, you put all the things on a mango, and it tastes delicious. Maybe even incorporate a raspado into it. A little sweet, a little savory, a little spicy. That's how I'm going.


[00:31:15.310] - Dajana

That's perfect.


[00:31:16.810] - Dajana

And do you prefer breakfast or dinner?


[00:31:20.170] - Dominique

Breakfast! Breakfast all the way.


[00:31:23.770] - Brandy



[00:31:24.010] - Brandy

And what type of breakfast is your favorite?


[00:31:26.950] - Dominique

I don't know. You know what? It's so weird. Anytime I go out to eat breakfast, I have the most basic breakfast. I'm like two eggs. I'm like two scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast kind of person. Everywhere I go for breakfast. But at home, I like Huevos Rancheros; I like chilaquiles. So I like traditional Mexican breakfast at home. But when I go out to eat, it's like, all American plate.


[00:32:07.810] - Dajana

Okay, and then the last question, if you could have dinner with three people and they could be dead or alive, who would they be?


[00:32:18.530] - Dominique

That would be my family. That would be my partner and our two kids. I think as they're growing older, I'm just way more aware of how quickly time is passing and how important it is to cherish that time that we have together. My daughter is a junior right now in high school. And so I'm like, she's leaving soon. I got a transition as a parent. So, like, what is that going to be like? And so I think any time that we have to spend together, especially around food, is special to me.


[00:33:02.350] - Dajana



[00:33:04.870] - Dajana

Present, intentional and just making the most of it, right?


[00:33:08.830] - Dominique



[00:33:09.610] - Ashley

So thank you, Dominique, so much for being on the podcast today. Thank you for sharing with our students, all the great resources, all the yummy dishes, all the traditions, the window into your family. It's so special. And it's so sacred. And sharing the culture is such a big, important piece. So we appreciate your time, and we appreciate what you do for all the U of A students on campus.


[00:33:31.330] - Dominique

Thank you all. Thank you all for this time and for the invite. It was just great to be able to chat and share and talk about food. So any time.


[00:33:41.890] - Ashley

Our favorite topic.


[00:33:43.270] - Ashley

Take care. Bye.