This week, a few new friends and I spontaneously decided to cook a potluck dinner. We each wanted to cook something that represented our family’s culture, so it became a hodgepodge of mismatching dishes that still all somehow tasted great together.
I made Puerto Rican tostones (not pictured, everyone grabbed them too quickly) which are flattened, under-ripe plantains that get twice-fried until golden and crispy with a sprinkle of flaky salt on top. I also made habichuelas, stewed pink beans with cilantro, squash, and cabbage. Those beans are the steaming pot that someone is taking a spoonful of in the photo.
One of my friends made Filipino spaghetti, which he made with sweet tomato sauce and sliced hotdogs. He told us about how they even sell this at McDonald’s in the Philippines. It was so good and so different from how I was used to eating spaghetti, which was the best part.
Another friend made Polish pierogies with caramelized onions on top, pan-fried some thin kielbasa sausages, and picked up some white Polish rye, a bread that she says many Polish families always have on hand. It was lighter tasting than regular rye but still had some uniquely sour twinge to it.
One of my friends is a baking student who had just come from work and brought some rose jelly-filled donuts, a fantastic dessert to follow this feast. To top it off, we drank local craft beers from plastic cups because that was all we could find.
We were all amazed at how all of this food came together in their small townhouse kitchen and used only a few pots and pans. We explained how much these recipes meant to our families and childhoods. Everything tasted so delicious because these are the meals that we know like the back of our hands. This night was a reminder of how much you can learn from someone by just tasting the foods they grew up with.