If you live, work, worship, or volunteer in South Philadelphia, submit your recipe for the cookbook here. Submissions are due by June 20th.
Born and raised in Ecuador, Aidé Cuenca lived in South Philly with a Mexican family while she worked as education director at the Aquinas Center, a local community center. In this role, Aidé oversaw afterschool programs, English as a Second Language classes, an urban immersion program for high school and college students, and more.
After she shared her recipe for guacamole y patacones for the South Philly Cookbook, Interfaith Philadelphia summer intern Gilana Levavi interviewed Aidé to learn more about South Philly, faith, culture, food, and more. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Q: What do you think should be celebrated or amplified about South Philly?
A: “There’s a lot of diversity there. One of the things that I miss the most and I really love about South Philly was that you were able to encounter so many traditions, so many [different] food[s], so many cultural backgrounds...And I think that brings a unique opportunity and a lot of potential to create a community.
“...I want to say that food was one of those ways to find a common space to have conversations, to talk about sometimes difficult stuff, or sometimes to celebrate people’s achievements.”
Q: How do food and shared meals intersect with your culture, faith, and experience in South Philly?
A: “Growing up with my family…food was always there. It was always a way for my mom especially to express her love, and express the way that she cared for us.
“...I found that in South Philly. Folks were generally sharing, inviting you, and telling you, I care and I love you. [They would say,] ‘Here...have some cookies…have some food. I made this. Do you want to try?’ It makes you feel part of the community. It makes you feel like I’m not a stranger anymore here.”
Q: What do you want people to know about your culture or faith tradition?
A: “As a Catholic, I believe that we have a lot of things to learn from each other. But also in our practices, we talk about caring for each other, being in solidarity with others, and praying for others. I want people to know that that is the kind of Catholic I am.”
Q: If you were at a table with people from different religions or cultures from yours, what respectful and curious questions might you ask to get to know them better?
“...What’s the most important in your faith tradition? What’s the most important thing that you celebrate?...How do you celebrate it? What does it mean for you and for your community members?
“...Maybe the celebrations that we have within our faith traditions…look completely different, but the meanings sometimes that [are] behind [them] share some commonalities.
“...A lot of the time, I believe that we don’t want to ask those questions because we are afraid…we are nervous about how other people will see [us]. But if we are already at the table sharing food, I think that sets the environment...that sacred space to say, okay, if I’m going to put you in a vulnerable position [or] situation, I also have to get there as well.”
Aidé’s recipe for Patacón and Guacamole brings together patacones or fried plantains, which are common in Ecuadorian culture, with guacamole, an avocado-based dip that is common in Mexican culture.
“That unique way to mix or combine things….makes whatever you already have more delicious,” said Aidé. “Every time that I have patacones and guacamole, I think about my Mexican friends; I think about that beautiful culture as well.”
Ecuadorian Patacón and Guacamole Snack
Yields two portions. Approximately, from one medium green plantain you can get 12 patacones.
1 green plantain
¼ cup vegetable oil
Salt to taste
2 medium ripe avocados
1 medium tomato
¼ cup red onion
¼ cup green pepper
2 garlic cloves
Directions for patacón:
Cut the ends of the green plantain
Cut the long side of the plantain. With the help of your thumb remove the peel.
Then slice into 1 inch pieces.
Heat up a pan with vegetable oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the green plantains (the oil is covering up to half of the green plantain). Fry them approximately for 2.5 minutes.
The green plantain will take a golden color. Flip them and wait for the other side of the plantain to cook.
Once cooked, remove them from the pan. I turn off the burner with the frying pan for now. Let them cool for a few minutes. With the plantains still warm, use a cup or glass to smash them. The thickness of the patacon depends on your taste!
Light the burner to heat the oil for the final step. Wait until the oil is hot. Place the smashed plantains again and leave them for about 50 seconds (your timing will depend on your oil´s heat). Flip them over. This part is even faster since the oil is pretty hot. Use a spatula to take them out and use a towel to remove the excess of oil. Add a pinch of salt.
Directions for guacamole:
Dice the tomato, ¼ cup onion and pepper.
Dice the garlic very finely. The measurements of the lemon, coriander and salt depend on your taste. Add these ingredients at the end of the mix in the step 5.
Cut the avocados in half.
Crush the avocados with the help of a fork until they are pureed.
Add to the avocado the diced tomato, onion and pepper. Then add the garlic, salt, lime and cilantro until you are happy with it.
Time to enjoy this delicious Mexican dip with some Patacones made in an Ecuadorian style.