During Hispanic Heritage Month, TODAY is sharing the community’s history, pain, joy and pride. We are highlighting Hispanic trailblazers and rising voices. TODAY will be publishing personal essays, stories, videos and specials throughout the month of September and October. For more, head here.
Food is understood, shared and appreciated even with the presence of geographical and linguistic barriers. It can be a comforting indulgence, a reason to gather or a cultural connector. During Hispanic Heritage Month, what better way to celebrate Latin American history and culture than with food?
We asked some of our staffers what some of their favorite family dishes are and if they'd be willing to share these homemade recipes. Lucky for you, they agreed. We've rounded up six delicious recipes from different Latin American regions that have a special place in both their hearts and their stomachs.
Hailing from Miami, Florida, and with parents from Brazil and Venezuela, associate producer Kat has been surrounded by Latin American flavors her entire life. With so many great recipes up her sleeve, she opted for Venezuelan arepas because, she said, "They’re the easiest! You can have these for breakfast, lunch or dinner!"
NBC Page, Natalie, shared her great-grandmother and grandmother's polvorones recipe, which are crumbly shortbread cookies that can be enjoyed year-round but are typically made during the holidays. They're also known as Mexican wedding cookies.
"Growing up in a small town in Mexico, it was a special occasion for my mom and her siblings to enjoy these cookies," said Natalie, "Though simple, they remind my mom of her upbringing and spending time with family."
Ajiaco santafereño is a hearty soup traditional to Bogotá, Columbia, and one of the first things that came to mind when Katty, an editorial designer, was asked to share a dish. "I'm not much of a cook myself, but my mom used to make (ajiaco) all the time," she recalled.
If you're Latino or Hispanic, you probably have an abuela (or two) who's not technically your abuela. For Cassidy, a production coordinator, those people are Rosa and her sister Angela. They came from Cuba, eventually met Cassidy's grandparents who also left Cuba, and they've all been family ever since.
To honor their family, Rosa shared her recipe for a classic Cuban dessert, flan. "My mom, Rosa and a ton of people in my family always made flan, and I've always loved it!" Cassidy's mom shared.
Dominican Chuletas Fritas
Commerce editor, Jess, bonded with her partner's family over their shared love for food. She knew she had to share a dish she loves making with their family: chuletas fritas, otherwise known as pan-fried pork chops.
"Their adoration of keeping their Dominican heritage thriving through their home cooking satiated my desire to learn about different cultural backgrounds through my natural love of food," said Jess, "I’ve never been a fan of pork chops — at least until I tried my boyfriend's mom’s chuletas fritas in her Washington Heights home several years ago."
Puerto Rican Pollo Guisado
Kamari, an editorial assistant, was happy to translate her grandmother's pollo guisado recipe into English so she could share the tasty dish. "The smell of my grandmother’s homemade pollo guisado instantly transports me back to summers spent with her as a little kid," said Kamari, "It has a taste that is best described as love and family."
For more of our Hispanic Heritage Month coverage, tune into TODAY All Day’s special, “Come with Us: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month,” hosted by Tom Llamas. Watch Wednesday, Sept. 29, at 12:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. EST at TODAY.com/allday.