April 27, 2021
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Food for Thought: Breaking Bread

Breaking Bread
By Nicole Yzaguirre-Marostica
When it comes to food, there's a tenderness associated with opening your heart and putting your culture on display. We set the table, take our seats, and somehow there's always room at the table for everyone. There's no better way to have a deeper connection to people than to be invited to the dining table. Entertainment has taken us into the homes of many TV families and introduced us to a variety of backdrops where we can tap into a multitude of emotions that remind us of our shared experiences and how much we are alike.
The Kim family from Kim's Convenience and Lydia Riera from One Day at a Time strike a chord with me as I watch them assemble their TV families around the table to confront issues ranging from PTSD to who should be invited to a wedding. Anything can be fixed with food. With Celia Cruz playing in the background, we see Lydia perfectly choreographed while she's making breakfast for her beloved family. A picture is worth a thousand words and this one immediately takes me back to realizing this is a safe place filled with love, a fortress away from the instability of the culture outside.
I have 25 immediate cousins and on Sundays when I was a kid, we would pile into my grandparents' tiny three-bedroom house in Piru, California to watch TV, play hide and seek, and eat lots of homemade Mexican food. My grandma and grandpa were together for 66 years and they knew how to make us all feel special.

Grandma knew Mona wanted her grilled onions cut into perfect rings, Sabina liked her fresh corn tortillas with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt, and of course to this day I still remember her making me quesadillas.

Maria Yzaguirre with her granddaughter Nicole

When I was with her, it felt like it was just the two of us.

She tried to teach me how to make the tortillas from scratch, and to fold the cheese inside the raw dough so the flavors would all come together perfectly. She put the balls of dough in a blue Tupperware, and I can remember the giant bags of flour (she would eventually turn the empty bags into quilts), but I could never remember the recipe. She always had the Tejano music playing in the background, and I watched as she made her way around the modest kitchen with the same ease as Rita Moreno. It was just magic.
I remember the first time I watched Crazy Rich Asians and the scene where Nick and Rachel are making the dumplings with the Young family. As I watched it with my kids, we all saw something familiar: a family sitting down together, sharing traditions just like when we make our tamales at Christmas. And just like us, not everyone gets up from the table entirely happy. There's a tremendous amount of power in scenes like these where intimate traditions are shared. Perhaps my hope is that we can all see how much we are alike, more than how we are different. The dinner table is the heart of the home and it's where we can share our love and appreciation for all flavors, cultures, and fusions! With shows like Ramy, Black-ish, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I hope TV fans are able to take a little more time to see what connects us, versus what makes us different. Now as I watch my mom make meals for my kids and their friends, I bet they see the same whimsy I remember with my grandma. But even better, I see them celebrating all the flavors she's working with.

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