The Culture of Food

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Photo by Elise Bauer

Although I had every intention, I have to admit I failed miserably when it came to cooking for Vanessa when it was time for her to be fed something other than breast milk. I had envision steamers, veggies, blenders and sieves, and even though I did make her a few purées and cereals, the truth is I eventually fell for the convenience of baby food jars.

Years before my daughter was born, mi Papá used to brag all the time about the kind of “nutritious” foods (which included things like hígado) that my siblings and I were fed as babies. I guess he just couldn’t believe the kind of porquerías babies are fed these days. I obviously don’t remember eating liver, but I apparently did. My Dad, who was the cook in our house, used to say it was one of the reasons we were always so healthy, and I believed him. Unfortunately, he passed away almost five years ago, so he never met Vanessa. I am convinced her baby food would’ve been completely different if he had been around. I thought about feeding her liver once or twice, but I wouldn’t have even know where to start, so I never did.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about food and what it means to our culture. I also found out I am a bit anemic which happened to coincide with the fact that Vanessa’s appetite has not been that great. And that’s how the idea of eating liver once again popped into my mind. Since my Dad is no longer with us to tell me how to do it, or better yet, make it for us, I had to ask around the other members of la familia.

Food & Family

It turns out that when I asked one of my tías, she said: “Oh, yeah, that’s a great idea, liver is incredibly nutritious and it’s not that difficult to make!” All I could think of was, Where have I heard that one before?

Check out her recipe for Hígado Encebollado

Photo by SideLong

Photo by SideLong

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

1¼ lb calves liver, thinly sliced

2 yellow onions, thinly sliced

Salt & pepper for seasoning

3 teaspoons olive oil


  • Heat some olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer onions with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside.
  • Increase heat to medium-high and add remaining olive oil. When it’s sizzling hot, add liver and cook, in batches to avoid overcrowding the skillet, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until brown and crispy on the edges, 3–5 minutes.
  • Season liberally with salt and pepper, then add reserved onions and accumulated juices. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring and turning liver and onions constantly while shaking skillet over heat. Transfer to a heated serving platter.

To be honest, I was pretty apprehensive about making this. The texture of the liver made me a bit queasy and I wasn’t sure what it was going to taste like. Liver has a pretty bad reputation, but then I remembered everything my Dad used to say about it, and I decided to keep on going. One thing worth emphasizing is that the liver has to be THINLY sliced. I believe this makes a huge difference–it’s easier to eat it, for one.

I don’t want to lie to all of you and tell you it was a huge success because it wasn’t. But I’m happy to report it wasn’t a failure either. Vanessa ate just a little, but I think it had more to do with her loss of appetite than anything else and she didn’t make any yucky faces either. I think what helped me were the onions, thank God I love those! I’m not giving up, though. I just have to tweak the recipe. I think next time I will try this one. Or, my husband’s paternal grandmother’s recipe. After all, he claims that was the only way he would eat hígado growing up.

So much for the culture of food. Oh, how I miss mi Papá!

How about you? Can you share any recipes that maybe you ate as a child and, though they might not be very popular today, you love to make them for your kids in the name of keeping our culture alive?

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