New York City, NY — by Sarah Perez
This story was originally published on New York University’s Washington Square News.
There are a few moments that make me feel a deep connection to my roots — when I first visited Mexico at 12 years old, during birthday celebrations when Mariachi music plays and when my aunt makes tamales from scratch on Christmas. Yet, no matter how many times I immerse myself in my heritage, I feel farther away from it than I should. It doesn’t help that I am now 2,430 miles away from home, with limited Hispanic restaurants that fall short in comparison to the loving embrace of a classic home-cooked meal.
I miss my parents, and I miss their cooking too. My mother and father are both skilled in the kitchen, having learned from their parents the love that grounds traditional cuisines. They each have their preferences — my father favors making his Mexican rice and my mother her cheese enchiladas — though I believe my mother excels with her specialty dish, arroz con leche, which always reminds me of my childhood.
Arroz con leche, commonly referred to as “rice pudding” in English, is one of my family’s favorite Mexican desserts. The earliest memory I have of eating arroz con leche is as a toothy 8-year-old who loved anything even remotely sweet. The moment I asked my mother to top my serving with too much cinnamon and tasted the sweetened rice, I knew the dish would forever hold a special place in my heart.
I would always know when my mother was making arroz con leche because the smell of cinnamon would fill our house. She would cook the dish in the early hours of the evening and have it ready just in time for our family movie nights. As my siblings and I got older, she would cook us the dish whenever we craved the nostalgia of our youth. Even now, I can vividly picture her stirring the rice over the stove and asking me to go sit down on the couch, as my hovering in the kitchen made her antsy.
Read the rest of the story at Washington Square News.