Written by: Alexandra Bayon, Cisneros Class of 2024
With the exception of broccoli, there is not a single food that I will not try. I love discovering new places to eat, trying new cuisines, and trying to replicate them at home — which is most definitely the result of growing up with foodie parents. In my family, sharing a meal with someone has always been an opportunity to come together with family and friends, to welcome a stranger, or to celebrate. After a meal had been eaten, my parents always insisted on sharing a cup of coffee with their guests. Moments like these were filled with people smiling and laughing, holding their hands over their full bellies as they engaged in deep and meaningful conversations. It was during these special moments that I realized the importance of food for nourishing not only the body, as well as the mind and soul through preparing and sharing it.
I learned how to make tortillas before my head cleared the countertops. My grandmother would place me on a stool and instruct me on her meticulous process of making tortillas by hand, carefully explaining and correcting my small fingers. I’ve always been fascinated by my grandmother’s hands. She could so easily make perfectly flattened and circular tortillas simply by tossing the masa back and forth until they had magically been formed. She would flip tortillas on the pan as if the blue flames underneath had never been ignited, not at all scared of burning her fingers. In between her teachings my grandmother would tell me stories of her life in Guatemala before immigrating to the US; she would describe scenes of her teaching herself how to make the recipes I would come to love. She used this time in the kitchen to teach me how to make tortillas and to connect me with the culture of my family. The process and labor of making food together created the opportunity for conversations about traditions, holidays, practices, language and customs of the place where my ancestry began.
Like my grandmother, I, too, will soon be leaving home and moving to a new place. The thing I am looking forward to the most is grocery shopping. The supermarket is a gorgeous labyrinth, aisles filled with vibrant produce and tantalizing snacks. I can’t wait to discover what will become staples in my pantry; I already know that adobo will certainly be one of them, courtesy of my Puerto Rican father who uses the seasoning on practically everything. I also can’t wait to use signature foods from other cultures. Two such foods I have been waiting to try include harissa, a Tunisian chili pepper paste, and sumac, a middle eastern spice. I cannot wait to experiment with different recipes, recreating the taste of home with Guatemalan and Puerto Rican dishes and exploring new dream destinations through their recipes. The one thing I dread the most about leaving home, however, is having to do all the dishes myself.
In addition to cooking, I’m excited to explore different restaurants in D.C. The food trucks lining the National Mall have always captured my attention with their bright hues decorating the outsides of the trucks and the delightful aromas permeating the air. I am particularly excited to try Ethiopian food, as well as test out pupuserias until I find the best one.
At home, food was always an opportunity to have a conversation with loved ones, whether it was a holiday with countless tías and cousins, or just grabbing lunch with a friend. As I undergo the process of making DC my second home, I’m thrilled about finally being able to meet the Cisneros Scholars. My first year of college was completed completely virtually. The faces I have come to call my friends have only existed as heads and shoulders presented to me on a screen. My second year at GW is rapidly approaching and as such I will be soon able to talk to my friends without having to send an invitation via zoom. I look forward to being able to share a meal with my friends without having to account for different time zones.
Alexandra Bayon is a rising second-year Cisneros Scholar majoring in communications. She is from Long Island, New York. Alexandra’s views are her own and not necessarily reflective of the Cisneros Institute.
Photo Credit: shutterstock.com