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Morals Or Money?
About a month ago a friend recommended me for a job doing cooking classes in Spanish for a health and wellness company. On paper, the position was straightforward and paid over $100 an hour (as a freelancer this sounded magical). When I chatted with the company rep she asked if I were able to make any Latin dishes for a sample demo class they wanted me to do before starting. I said, “Sure I could make anything you’d like”. I could make something simple like arroz con gandules, which is rice with pigeon peas. It's a staple across Latin America, especially the Caribbean.
She said that would be great, but if I could make the dish "healthier". I of course asked her to clarify what she meant by healthier. She then told me if I could use bulgur or quinoa instead of rice. I said I have never replaced rice in the dish but could try.
She then asked me where I was from since I spoke Spanish fluently. I replied that my family is from the Dominican Republic. She then proceeded to ask me, "But like, where exactly in the DR are they from?".
"My family is from San Pedro de Macoris. Are you familiar with it?".
"No. I'm just asking because I'm going to Santo Domingo (the capital) for three months to learn Spanish."
She then proceeded to ask me if I could make sancocho healthy, which is a Dominican meat and vegetable stew. I asked how she wanted me to make it healthier and she said, “You know, different vegetables, no meat, and maybe discuss the benefits of not using bouillon cubes”.
I had to stop her right there and tell her that my family doesn’t use bouillon cubes in making sancocho (also if you use cubes, that’s your choice and I’m not here to shame anyone).
After a couple of more minutes on the phone, we hung up and I agreed to do a demo with quinoa replacing rice in the original recipe. I felt so unsettled after the conversation that I found myself starting to shake in anger.
Throughout the conversation, there were A LOT of red flags. Here are some:
🚩Replacing the main ingredient of a dish with another ingredient.
Two-thirds of the planet eat rice. Rice eaten in moderation is not unhealthy. Quinoa is not a healthy food savior. It’s not even the most nutritiously dense grain out there. It’s not sustainable and actually has horrible detriments to Andean communities in South America.
Replacing the main ingredient in a recipe of a minority group can be a form of cultural erasure. Unless you have an actual medical concern like food allergies why even bother changing the DNA of a recipe? It’s not the same dish anymore once the main ingredient has changed. I understand folks who love to experiment and create different kinds of fusion cuisines, but as I’ve always said in previous newsletters, sometimes that can teeter on appropriation or erasure.
🚩Making assumptions about an entire population of people.
Yes, bouillon cubes are utilized by many people in Latin America - specifically Maggi cubes, but not everyone cooks with them. Many Latinos love making and using sofrito as the base ingredient of their cooking instead of bouillon cubes.
The more I thought about the cooking demo, the more I wrestled with the thought of taking the money over my personal morals.
Did I need the money? Absolutely! But I’m also writing a whole book about Latin American cooking and this would be blasphemous. I could hear my abuela in my head saying in disdain, “¿Y que es esto?!”. What is this!?
The next day I sent her a follow-up email thanking her for taking the time to chat the day before, but unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to continue in the interview process. She seemed like a nice woman but was clearly misinformed about a lot of things that I just wasn’t willing to take the time to inform her about. In the end, I listened to my gut and did what was best for me.
I stopped using Amazon over a year ago and have survived! Now I’d like to share some nice things I’ve been eyeing that are made by small businesses or other places not sold on Amazon in this new series called Not Amazon! Click on the image for more information about each product.
Loving these whimsical stirring spoons made of glass. Great pop of color and a very unique design.
I’m a sucker for handmade ceramics and fell in love with this gorgeous serving platter shaped and painted like a fig.
Last, but not least I’m not into plugging celebrity brands (because obviously, they’re not small businesses) but found this butter dish with measurements by Chrissy Teigen helpful and super cute!
Cook. Eat. Repeat.