Research + Reset.

This past week I went on a vacation/research trip for my cookbook. My first trip for research was to the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. This trip has honestly been a year in the making (I bought my tickets a whole year ago when the pandemic hit and figured everything would be fine to go). I initially planned this trip as a vacation but months later decided to write a cookbook about the African Diaspora and everything clicked. 

Since my book is about the diaspora in Latin America it was a perfect opportunity to see it first hand in PR. Being able to possibly meet people/eat the foods that I was currently researching made me really excited. I've spoken in the past about managing my expectations which I definitely had to during this trip. I was going to another country during a pandemic and wasn't quite sure to what extent things would be opened or how things, in general, were going to go.

The things/places that I wanted to go to weren't as nearby as I had hoped, but I did get to eat quite a lot of food + absorbed the essence of the island. Not being tethered to a computer + kitchen for 5 days really gave me some much-needed perspective. I am constantly working, thinking, writing, + cooking. I've gotten into the habit of not taking breaks + working weekends. This trip was a necessary reset for my sanity and I didn't even know it. Most days I am constantly checking the time and feeling like there aren't enough hours in the day. In PR I barely checked the time. I allowed myself to rest + was barely on my phone. 

Chatting with locals in Spanish made me feel good. I was flexing those dusty native speaker skills since the only person I solely speak to in Spanish is my grandma. I purposely left my laptop at home so I wouldn't feel the pressure to "work" + it did wonders. Not only did it allow me to just be in the moment it also gave me so much space to just take everything in.

During these last few months, I've been doing a lot of research on recipes + trying to nail down interviews of folks + it's been hard work. While on the beach I literally had a thought pop into my head about how this book is for the community. If it’s for the community then I should let the community be involved. I want as many people that want to contribute their stories + recipes to this book to get their time to shine. This project isn't about me or about the ego of writing a best-selling book. It's about folks who look like me. Folks who pass down their culinary secrets orally. It's about genuinely acknowledging the sacrifices + contributions that Black people have made to the cuisine in Latin America. How could I speak on the behalf of so many people when they can do it themselves?

This brings me to my next request for my small audience. If you are or know a person who considers themselves Afro-Latinx I would love to hear from you/them. You/they could be from any part of Latin America/Caribbean. I've created a questionnaire for people to fill out with a ton of questions. This would be extremely helpful in getting this show really on the road! 

Lastly, I leave you with some pics of delicious food from the last couple of days.

I got oysters from this place off the side of the road! Sooo good. Would show the GIANT oysters, but it can be a Lil’ triggering for folks.

Ginger Margarita. If you’ve been reading this substack since the beginning you know I don’t drink hard alcohol anymore. I had to…it was soo good, but I did die a lil’ bit later from my damn GERD.

Cook. Eat. Repeat.

Natalie