Food Stories & Traditions: An Interview with my Mom

Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing my mom about food stories and traditions during the holidays. And though the interview lasted less than an hour, it covered decades of stories from the Peru of her childhood to present day — stories that made me smile and laugh with a hunger and nostalgia that could only come from our shared love for Peruvian food.

It all started when I received an email from 18 Reasons inviting its community to share stories about food with StoryCorps, an organization that gives people the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of their lives. By a beautiful coincidence, my mom was visiting me during the week the interviews were being scheduled, so I quickly replied and filled with pride said that I would be interviewing my mom.

On the day of the interview, we were greeted by the StoryCorps facilitator at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, and they led us to a recording booth where we sat facing each other at a small table with 2 microphones and a lamp. After the facilitator started the recording, I asked the first question, and my mom’s answer transported us to my grandmother’s kitchen in Peru — when my mom was only 5 years old and stood on a chair so she could watch over the stove top and learn how to cook as my grandmother prepared meals for the family…

From that earliest memory about food, to her favorite foods, and from holiday traditions, to life lessons, all her stories circled back to themes of deepening connections with family and community. My mom’s stories emphasized the importance of loving what you do, and that cooking with love is one of the most beautiful things someone can do for others. That way, everything you cook will always taste great, she said.

At the end of the interview, I thanked my mom for all her wonderful cooking over the years that made me fall in love with Peruvian food and especially for her precious gift of teaching me how to cook. As we said our goodbyes, the facilitator confessed that all the stories about food had made them hungry. All we could do was smile, and as we walked away we started thinking about what we were going to cook for dinner.