Almost nine and half years ago, I decided that instead of writing down the Dominican recipes some of my friends requested over and over again I’d just put them online, then just send them to my site. I love cooking, but I hate typing (although I am pretty good at it. Typing, that is).
All of a sudden word spreads, and instead of the occasional friend, I started to get hundreds of visitors every week, then dozens of emails every week. Then I got some passionate requests for translations to Spanish, so I started another site in Spanish, which quickly became just as popular as the English site. It just got crazy from there.
This is how these sites were born. Nine and half years later even I am surprised that they are still going, and that we are just as committed to spreading the word that our cuisine goes beyond rice and beans. We want people, Dominicans and not, to see past the stereotypes, to re-discover this vital part of our culture.
As I grow older, travel more and explore new cuisines, I have learned to appreciate ours more for what it is.
I have heard every criticism of our cuisine you can think of, usually from people woefully ignorant about it (why is it that the ignorant is always so loud?). I have heard that Dominican food is bland, that it is just rice and beans; and found the occasional ignoramus who is convinced that we have to learn how to cook rice properly, because concón is a waste of rice (heresy!).
If you too have harbored these misconceptions, or come across somebody who held them, please hear me out.
First, Dominican cooking is not Mexican cooking, it is not Thai cooking (both cuisines which I love, we have some sort of South East Asian food at least every week). If you are looking for spicy food, we can offer some dishes, but that is not what our cuisine is about, so get over it, not-spicy does not equal bland. Dominican food is all about fresh ingredients, we rarely prefer canned or industrial ingredients. Most Dominicans boil their beans every day, we chop our onions and peppers and crush our garlic when we are cooking. If you can appreciate this, welcome to our kitchens, fancy a cafecito?
Second, our cuisine goes well beyond rice and beans, unfortunately not even us Dominicans know how rich it is, and I speak from experience. Running this website and receiving our readers’ comments and requests for new recipes has truly been an eye-opener. We’ve discovered dishes from places so remote that you need an SUV to reach them, and that is if you are blessed with good weather. We’ve discovered ingredients we didn’t know about, and met some awesome people who were willing to take us into their kitchens and share their family recipes with us.
At the time I write this I still have a long list of recipes that I need to research, write, test and photograph (and eat of course!). Our site is not complete until we have borrachos, and canquiñas in our collection; be patient, we’re getting there.
I hope that I don’t have to tell you why we don’t need to change our rice-cooking method, I mean, our readers are smart people.
Dominican cooking is alive and thriving. It’s a source of pride for me that my fellow countrymen are still passionate about it. But we are moving on, with this new concept for our site we want to bring our food to a new market, so to speak, we want those who have never tried it to do so. We want to give them choices for recipes that can be prepared with the ingredients they have at hand. Help us spread the word. This is not only about nostalgia, familiar smells and childhood favorites, this is about leaving something for our own children, something to be proud of.
We are doing this largely because we love food, and we love writing about the food we know and love best: Dominican. None of us has ever claimed to be an expert (I still don’t know how to make canquiñas). There is a reason why I chose Aunt Clara as my nom de plume: most Dominicans learn how to cook at home, watching Mom, or Grandma, or Auntie; and although I can’t live up to your own mom’s culinary superpowers, I can be that Auntie who walks you through the basics, aware that she doesn’t have all the answers. This is where you notice I am not really your aunt, because at this point I’d be telling you for the umpteenth time that “that girl you are dating, she no es de buena familia“.
“And m’ijo, why don’t you visit more often? Eat, you’re skin and bones!”.