A note from the Publisher: The Costa Rica Blog Network has chosen to feature the following article for its exploration of the author’s varied background, and the role that the Spanish language (in part influenced by Costa Rican education) plays in it. Thanks to Michelle for submitting her personal account to us. We hope that in cooking in your own kitchen you have incorporated that “beautiful fresh what-is-the-name-of-that-gorgeous-thing produce” that you fell in love with while in Costa Rica. Pura vida!
Featured Author: Michelle Calva-Despard (visit the Kickin’ it in the Kitchen Blog)
I haven’t been keeping secrets, but the fact that I’m bilingual just has never come up yet. Although I’m from Minnesota, you may have noticed that the “Calva” part of “Calva-Despard” is not exactly Norwegian bred…
It’s Mexican. My dad’s name is Jose Ruben Calva Pellicer. See? Mexican. He doesn’t look like he’s going to rest up against a saguaro cactus draped in a sarape, but my dad is the eighth child of his Roman-Catholic Mexican family, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico two years before he was born.
I won’t go into the long, loooong, story of how we didn’t exactly speak Spanish in my home growing up (as my mother doesn’t speak it) but I heard it a lot, studied it in school and then finally attended a year of college at the Universidad de Costa Rica where I sink-or-swim perfected my espanol. (Sign up for a few courses where you have to write college term papers/make oral presentations in Spanish–it’s very motivating!)
Besides learning to dance Salsa, and make banana leaf tamales, Costa Rica was where I fell deeply,deeply in love with beautiful fresh what-is-the-name-of-that-gorgeous-thing produce.
I’ve traveled throughout the entire country of Mexico, visiting family and just generally checking things out. Once I spent three months zig-zagging from the west to east Mexico. I visited relatives I hadn’t seen in years and even met up with third cousins of my dad’s sister-in-law-kinda-type-relatives which sounds like a stretch by American standards, but in Mexico we were familia.
I also lived and worked in Madrid, Spain for five months. In Madrid I learned that there’s no such thing as too much red wine or guests at the dinner table, and that fried calamari sandwiches are the perfect hangover remedy. I acquired the most eloquent vocabulary of curse words and realized that I like the tropics a lot , and that big city life is not my thing. (I also discovered that the word for “mushrooms” in Latin America only refers to unwanted fungus in Spain, but that’s a whole other story… )
Like most homes, my mother’s culture is the one that defined most of my upbringing, but I’m equally proud of all my heritage. It was my Mexican heart that pushed me on these rewarding adventures, spurred my interest in becoming a bilingual teacher, and opened my palette to a world of culinary delights.
Today I appreciate living in a place where I hear Spanish, English and a boatload of other languages on a regular basis. And get out’a here with your multicultural food scene, Los Angeles County! Baby, I’m home.
My kitchen decor (so that’s why she has blue cabinets…) is a reflection of my language influences, a celebration of melding many cultural practices and love of kickin’ it in the kitchen. Round here we speak English and Spanish, enjoy a table full of friends and family and eat foods from as many places as I can get my hands on (and are always on the prowl for more.) Our tongues want to taste it all!
Si quiere, manda me una nota en espanol un dia y podemos charlar!
Click here to read the above post on the Kickin’ it in the Kitchen Blog
I’m happiest when I’m in my kitchen, stirring up something de-lish for my beautiful family of five and at least a few cousins, neighbors or friends. Throw in a glass of wine next to my cutting board and I’m in heaven…
My life’s journeys and relocation from southern Minnesota to southern California have certainly seasoned my approach for cooking good food for my three young children and dreamboat husband.
Years ago, my favorite challenge after an exhilarating day of teaching elementary school was to hit some exotic spice shop and whip up something cool for my husband and friends. Fast forward a few years… mother of three… special trips to exotic spice shops not so much…
While my love of good food has not wavered, my approach to cooking certainly has. These days I don’t even consider recipes with more than 10 ingredients! I mean seriously. Like I have time for eleven ingredients?
So here I am today: a “Calisotan. ” While I wouldn’t trade the sunshine and glorious lifestyle of Southern California for anything, I cannot deny that beneath it all, I’m still from Minnesota. I’m pretty thrifty and a little corny by west coast standards. I say “good morning” to strangers on a morning walk, plan block parties and love pot luck meals. My meal planning skills and parenting style is influenced greatly by my family, including my grandparents. And no matter how many adventures I seek, at my core I’m a homespun girl.
I invite you to follow my blog filled with food, family and adventures. I believe we all hold the potential to learn the importance of proper and tasty nourishment, how to cook, organize our time to effectively meal plan, and find a way to enjoy our time together at the table.
Let’s rediscover a life of good food!
Post photos are owned by the featured author (not the Costa Rica Blog Network). Please contact the featured author directly for permission of use.
Article Photo Gallery: