Heidi as a baby on the beach with her family, as always. Captiva Island, Florida.
How would you define your mother?
I would define Gloria, my mother, as an iconoclast. She forges her own path and doesn’t let anyone influence her opinions on important issues. She suffered more than a few hardships along the way but successfully raised my sister and I alone after a tough divorce without wanting any child support. She was laser focused on our education and is herself interested in absolutely everything. She will never stop learning.
What is a great memory you have of her?
I remember asking my mother to bring a sandwich for me during Field Day at my grade school. We usually had hot lunches at school and I never needed to take anything but this was a special game day. I was hoping for a Cuban sandwich, which is a classic in Tampa, Florida, where I grew up. She brought me a grocery bag with a loaf of bread, sandwich meats, cheeses, mustard and mayo bottles, tomatoes, a box of cookies, etc. in case anyone else was hungry, too. I’m sure I was popular at lunchtime that day.
I also remember camping and canoeing across the state of Florida as a child. We were always at the beach, tubing on a spring-fed river, or exploring the outdoors. Always. My mother was a Girl Scout troop leader when I was little, so this was my life. Lots of S’mores and trekking through saw palmettos.
A flavor or smell that reminds you of her.
Whenever I eat beignet, pralines, or smell coffee with chicory from Café Du Monde in New Orleans, I think of her. My mother attended Charity School of Nursing in the late 1950s where she specialized in open heart surgery when it was still a nascent field in medicine. We would always go there for Mardi Gras so she could visit friends. Any Creole food from New Orleans reminds me of her.
What are your similarities? differences?
I think we share a fascination with learning about cultures, foodways, textiles, and the natural world in general. We are both strong environmental and social justice advocates which I truly appreciate. I think moms get a bit more radical as they age and you have to love that.
Can you share a recipe that both love?
Puerto Rican Arroz con Pollo, or Chicken and Yellow Rice, is a classic from my grandmother. All great Puerto Rican dishes start with a sofrito of onion, garlic and green peppers with culantro or include achiote (annatto paste), olives, and capers. My grandmother’s recipe is no different. When she moved to the US from Cayey, Puerto Rico she learned how to make many “American” dishes from her neighbor in California, but this is a family classic. I am always generous with the olive oil, capers, oregano, and olives.
Here is a handwritten recipe from my grandmother Gloria which she wrote for my cousin’s wife to learn how to make Puerto Rican food. I added a few basics that are left out. This is wonderful served with sweet plantains, or maduros.
I whole fryer chicken, cut in pieces
2-2 ½ cups of long grain rice, washed
½ cup of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 whole yellow onion, finely chopped
½ green pepper, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
2 T. oregano, or to taste
2-3 T achiote paste, achiote infused oil, or Bijol
2 T. Manzanilla green olives, pitted and stuffed with red pepper
2 T. capers, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large Dutch oven, add the ¼ cup olive oil and sauté the onions, garlic, and green peppers until soft. You can use a homemade or store bought sofrito here as well. Add salt, pepper, achiote, bay leaves, tomato sauce, capers, and olives and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and baste them with the cooking sauce. Let them cook for 3-4 minutes more, turning them over at least once. Add enough water to cover the chicken completely. Adjust seasoning as needed. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes on medium heat.
After 30 minutes, take out the chicken pieces and set aside briefly. Season the broth to taste. (I always add more oregano and achiote than seems reasonable) and add 2 to 2 ½ cups of washed rice. Stir well and add the chicken pieces back into the dutch oven. Cook for another 40-45 minutes. When done, flake the rice with a fork and mix the rice and chicken together well. Garnish with cooked peas and roasted red pepper.
What is her favorite color?
Gloria focused on the more tropical, summery side of the spectrum, so lots of corals, yellows, and pinks. She loves the cactus leather totes from Mexico.
Her all-season favorite is this alpaca scarf from Chile
And this year she is getting the hand painted ceramic water jar from Michoacán for her bedside.