When looking back on our childhood, more often than not food will feature in some shape or form. Everyone has a story to tell, nostalgic or just plain funny. We thought it would be fun to ask several well-known Dominicans, mainly from the cultural and artistic arenas, to share their food-related memories, their favourite Dominican foods and - if we’re lucky - their closely-guarded ancestral cooking secrets.
The series kicks off with an award winning, groundbreaking Dominican artist - Raquel Paiewonsky, who also happens to be an accomplished chef. We asked her to tell us about her favourite Dominican food.
Q: Raquel, what is your favorite Dominican food, and why?
I think it has to be rice and beans, but a natural and organic version. As I’ve been vegetarian for many years it’s a wonderful and easy source of protein for me; I replace white rice with brown, often Basmati (aromatic brown rice from India) and I cook with 100% natural beans, only with fresh condiments, no chicken bouillon or stock cubes (the most toxic part of Dominican beans). I don’t use tomato paste either. I think that garlic, onion, oregano, tomato, auyama, cilantro and bitter orange vinegar (agrio de naranja) make for sublime habichuelas.
Q: What is your favourite dish to cook - do you have any tips or secrets
I love transforming classic recipes into vegetarian versions and a good example of this is pasteles en hoja. I prefer to make the paste using a range of tubers, as yuca (cassava) and yautía (malanga) give it a smoother texture. I make the filling with portobello mushrooms, roast green peppers, chickpeas, spinach, raisins and pine nuts, all seasoned with fresh herbs. As well as making sure they turn out delicious I take care with the aesthetic presentation of these fantastic pasteles by wrapping them in plantain leaves. I agree with the saying that food should be a feast for the eyes (“la comida entra por los ojos”) and this recipe includes a very skilled element that I take very seriously in order to produce an attractive visual result. I serve my pasteles with a roast pepper sauce with a spicy touch.
Q: Do you have any particular memories associated with Dominican
Yes! When I was a little girl, as I grew up in Puerto Plata we always went to the north coast beaches on the weekends and in summer. Sosua in particular sticks in my memory. At the end of those wonderful beach days with my older sisters we always made a point of stopping at the town entrance to eat freshly made catibías… yum! My mouth is still watering…
Raquel Paiewonsky was born in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and lives and works in Santo Domingo. She is a visual artist who has worked in painting, sculpture, installation and photography for more than two decades, often combining more than one of these media. She lived in New York from 1991-2001, where she studied fine arts at the Parsons School of Design and made the city her second home. Her work has been widely exhibited overseas as well as in her home country, and she was awarded the Eduardo León Jimenes art competition grand prize in two consecutive occasions, in 2006 and 2008, as well as prizes in the XX and XXII Santo Domingo National Visual Arts Biennials. Her work is in several national and international collections.
In 1998 during her time in New York she trained as a vegetarian chef at the Natural Gourmet Cookery School; she has always been interested in healthy living and good vegetarian food. She is married with two sons. Together with her sister Isabel she owns the Orgánica shops in Plaza Cataluña, Agora Mall and Body Shop Bella Vista in Santo Domingo.
Photo provided by Raquel.