Food, Travel, and Therapy

Food and Travel by Joanna

Wanderlust creeps in when you least expect it. Like a cold breath or a taste that sits at the tip of your tongue slowly growing into a craving. I’ve been wanderlusting hard on the idea of traveling again though I’ve said to myself that I would try to sit still and focus on my life. However, travel has always been a passion and again here I am desiring a far off land like an unrequited love. 

It’s been 5 years since I was last in Europe and for some reason it’s been calling to me. Memories of different cities have been resurfacing and popping up in dreams and in conversations and the experience of each and every one of them is of course remembered in food. 

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Nicole’s Story / Breakfast Burritos and Menudo

Breakfast Burrito: Eggs, Soyrizo, Cheese, Black Beans, crema, and Mom’s spicy homemade salsa

Menudo: Vero’s Restaurant in Pasadena, CA. Served with sliced radishes, onions, and cilantro

Nicole is a valley girl, she was born in North Hollywood and grew up in Sun Valley in a Mexican household. This is where she lived with her mother, brother, grandparents, and aunt. I can only imagine what this might of sounded like, a bustle of noise and laughter and yelling and singing. It was in this home that Nicole learned how to feed people, something she is really really good at. As she set up the table she told Marilyn, “I never like to let someone leave hungry.” This is very true and was very evident this day. 

For this meal, Nicole was putting all of her favorite things into a breakfast burrito. Beans, eggs, chorizo, and papas, were some of her favorites as a child. Her mom and aunt used to cook this for the whole family, with her grandmother making the chorizo from scratch and Nicole helping with what she could. 

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High Quality Simplicity/Tenderness in the Hands

High Quality Simplicity by Marilyn

There are places that I frequent because of the attraction I have not only for the place but for the people related to it. At my favorite wine bar the attraction is equally to the place and the two owners. There is something very satisfying about seeing an attractive man pour me a glass of wine while I gaze at a giant replica of the Mona Lisa. This wine bar is overall beautiful, simple and charming. It seems like every detail had enough attention for itself. The location, the decor, the food, and the owners “tienen duende,” they have soul.

I had the pleasure of having brunch with a friend last weekend and I got to choose the place. I chose this gem, where I was guaranteed to see one of two stellar men, if one is not there the other one is sure to be there (I do have my favorite however). They each have their unique qualities that makes them beautiful. Their differences compliment each other and makes their own unique attractiveness stand out. Because life loves me, they were both there this day. Since I got there thirty minutes earlier than the agreed time, I had time to people watch (watching the two of them counts as people watching). I admired the way they worked together. They were in tuned with each other, as not to be in each others way when working, they were delicate with their food, paid attention to detail, and warm and sweet with their mannerisms and their words, not only to customers but within themselves. I watched them bring out their food with confidence and satisfaction yet still humble. I was trying not to stare but I was so intrigued by this dance of food preparation, partnership, aesthetics and confidence, I just had to stare.

Luckily my friend arrived before they noticed and my focus shifted to her and our conversation. But when they brought out our food I couldn’t help but pause and acknowledge the natural beauty of the meal. And to think “wow they prepared this.” There was a simplicity that was so stunning about my brunch of toast, jam and butter. Maybe the quality of the ingredients? High quality ingredients are usually more simple and more raw. I was able to taste each ingredient because there weren’t many of them. The bread was perfect, the butter was just enough and the jam was stunning. I was able to eat mindfully because all the flavors were allowing me to savor and appreciate them individually and all together.

It made me think of life. Maybe I need a break from complexity. Maybe I need simplicity right now. What if I allow myself to be that simple? What if I begin to view my emotions as high quality ingredients that are simple, natural, and raw? After all, they are the ingredients of my being.

Tenderness in the Hands by Joanna 

There have been many men in my life who have promised to cook for me, men who have offered to make me their specialty. A carne asada, a homemade salsa, mom’s favorite dish… yet I have found it difficult to get a man in the kitchen. Even as I think of my ex, I can’t remember anything he might of cooked… actually that’s a lie. He used to make pasta with slow cooked turkey sauce, topped with fresh parmesan and accompanied by fresh bread that we would dip into virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. He would kindly make this for me whenever I would come home late and have it ready for me on the table. In fact now that I think of it, he was always very thoughtful with food. He would buy me avocados and hummus and little things I liked to munch on just to keep me happy.

As I reflect I have had a number of offerings from the men in my life. I recently went on a hike with a man who brought crisp juicy apples for us to share. This same man packed snacks and treats for us to keep us happy on a long drive. I remember watching him fix a simple turkey sandwich, opening up the soft bread and packing it with lunch meat. The simplicity of it was so beautiful and his lovely gesture is still appreciated. Then of course there is my father who would always cook for me. He always made sure I had something to eat and knew if I was in a mood to feed me something subdue my crankiness. He would make some strange combination of whatever was in the fridge or whatever he thought might taste good. I remember being offered buttered toast sprinkled with sugar; Sardines in tomato sauce with steamed rice; fried eggs and spam; or white bread and liverwurst sandwiches. It sounds a little unappetizing but in all honesty the man tried. To this day I still think of beach days with my dad and those famous liverwurst and beach sand sandwiches.

It’s funny some of the most renowned chefs in the world are men, my most revered food heroes are men, yet we don’t associate food or cooking or the kitchen with men, it’s usually just the profession. It’s a societal and cultural thing, one that needs to be broken. Tenderness can be found in the hands of anyone, male or female and cooking and sharing food is just another way we show love and respect for one another and that certainly shouldn’t be bound by gender.

50 Potato Tacos



for about 50 tacos

10 russet potatoes boiled and peeled

1 stick of butter

about 2 cups of Monterey Jack cheese


Mash the potatoes and add the stick of butter a bit at a time. Add the cheese to the potatoes and mix thoroughly. Heat the tortillas on a “comal” or flat skillet. Then spread them with the potato mix. Deep fry. Top them with your choice of ingredients.


boil the tomatoes, peel them and blend them with a bit of salt, crushed red chili and oregano. Adjust the salt to your liking.


shredded lettuce, sour cream, jalapeños, onion soaked in lime juice, salsa de tomate, queso fresco


-soak about 1 cup of rice in 2 cups of water and 1 stick of cinnamon broken into pieces. After it has soaked for minimum 1 hour blend until it’s very small. Mix it with more water and sugar. Then let the rice sit while it cools in the fridge.

img_9370We were seated in the kitchen in a half circle ready to learn how to make the potato tacos. Nataly had to tell her mom throughout the day to not prepare them prior to us showing up because we wanted to watch the whole process. By the time we got there Nataly’s mom was ready to begin the process.

Nataly started by making the agua de arroz. This is a staple drink in her house “ It’s always in our fridge” she said. “ In the summer we survive on agua de arroz and jaiva.”

When the water was done and placed in the fridge to cool down they began the tacos de papa. Nataly’s mom began by making the tomato sauce. She posed for every picture and was supportive of Joanna’s desire to photograph every step. She wouldn’t continue until she made sure Joanna had a picture of everything asking “ ¿Ya le tomaste foto?” “Did you already take a picture?”

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Dormant Inspiration 

I’m trying to write while I’m uninspired. If you know me well, you know I feel un-inspired when I have nothing home cooked in my fridge. I have the potential to make a great meal but I don’t have the inspiration. Instead I eat unhealthy and that causes nothing but stomach problems. Which in turn causes me to lose sleep. Which causes me to feel tired. Which contributes to the un-inspiredness .

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Breakfast Torta / Addy

Fresh Bolillos/French baguette

Scrambled Eggs with melted cheese

Fried Weenies

Shredded Lettuce

Assemble and add your favorite condiments, preferably Mayo and Ketchup

As we walked in through the door my eyes immediately darted to the pan dulce Addy had set up for us on the table, she was already my favorite person. It was my first time meeting Addy but the warm way everyone spoke about her made me feel as though we had met many times before.

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Saturday Morning Ritual by Marilyn


“How’s your French class going?” asked my dad on a Saturday at 7am. My dad, mom and I were at a donut shop eating donuts, breakfast sandwiches and drinking coffee. This has been my parents ritual for years every Saturday morning, along with going out for breakfast every Sunday. When I was younger I would join them more often but now as an adult I have a difficult time being up by 7am on a Saturday morning. “ I show up to class, I hang out with my new 60 year old friend from Iraq, we copy each others work, and I also hang out with my 17 year old friend from El Salvador who is the most ambitious person I’ve ever met” I tell them. My dad looks at me confused but not surprised to get an answer like this from his daughter.

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