Ensuite, copiez la balise ci-dessous et collez-la entre les balises body () sur toutes vos pages AMP. Illyanna Maisonet Is Always Pissed Off « - Samado food
American food

Illyanna Maisonet Is Always Pissed Off «

Dan Pashman: This episode contains explicit language.

Dan Pashman: Congrats on the book. It’s so exciting. 

Illyanna Maisonet: Thank you. I’m excited-ish.

Dan Pashman: Tell me about the -ish.

Illyanna Maisonet: I’m like a pessimist, so, you know … 

Dan Pashman: Okay. 

Illyanna Maisonet: I’m always like waiting for the world to crumble or whatever. So … 

Dan Pashman: Right. 


Dan Pashman: Well, it’s nerve-wracking to have worked on something for so long. I would imagine like a lot of emotions. It’s like gratifying to see it out in the world and get good attention, but also sort of like nerve-wracking because you just have a lot of like, personal stakes on … 

Illyanna Maisonet: Right.

Dan Pashman: On how it’s gonna be received.

Illyanna Maisonet: Yeah. I mean also too, just because I’m a petty person, there’s also a lot of bitterness too. If it doesn’t sell well, then that means that everybody was right in when they were saying there’s no market for it.

Illyanna Maisonet: But if it does, well then that means that why the fuck did it take so long? Why did I have to work four times harder than the person that, you know, got to do like six keto paleo bean books in between?

Dan Pashman: Right. [LAUGHS] 

Illyanna Maisonet: You know what I mean? Like while I’m still trying to pump this one up? 

Dan Pashman: So no matter how it goes, you have a good reason to be pissed off.

Illyanna Maisonet: Well, I’m always pissed off, so … like always. 



Dan Pashman: This is The Sporkful, it’s not for foodies, it’s for eaters. I’m Dan Pashman. Each week on our show, we obsess about food to learn more about people. 

Dan Pashman: I hope you’re doing well. I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season and I want to tell you real quick before we get started that by popular demand, the Cascatelli companion recipe booklet — all those Cascatelli recipes that my mom and I worked on together, along with the great folks at Sfoligni — it’s now available a la carte. You don’t have to buy the whole gift set. And we have our dish towel, the “Put some cascatelli in my belly” dish towel is available also on its own. So here’s what you do. Get yourself a six-pack of cascatelli, or 12 or 48, and then you get some dish towels and or recipe booklets. That’s all your stocking stuffers or all your co-workers who need something or all the aunts and uncles and cousins that you need something for this holiday season done. They’re all getting cascatelli and a recipe booklet and or dish towel. It’s a super fun gift. People love it, but you gotta order by December 11th if you want delivery before Christmas. So go to Sfoglini.com right now to order. That’s S-F-O-G-L-I-N-I .com.

Dan Pashman: All right, let’s get into the show shall we? Today I’m talking with food writer Illyanna Maisonet, who recently published her first cookbook, Diasporican. For this book, Illyanna traveled all over Puerto Rico to document the incredible diversity of food on the island — a diversity that’s underappreciated in many American cookbooks, and even, Illyanna says, by some Puerto Ricans. 

Dan Pashman: The book is also part-memoir. Illyanna shares the story of her family’s journey from Puerto Rico to Sacramento. It’s a story that starts with her grandmother, Margarita Galindez Maisonet.

Dan Pashman: What was your grandmother’s childhood like?

Illyanna Maisonet: Oh my God, I don’t think that she ever had a childhood. By the time she was already nine, she had already got sent away to live with her aunt, and she became like a domestic worker. She met my grandpa through her sister, and she got pregnant at like 14 and had my mom at like 15. And that’s like … that’s it. So there really is no childhood.

Dan Pashman: Illyanna’s grandparents moved from Puerto Rico to the States in 1956 with her mom, Carmen, who was three at the time. Most Stateside Puerto Ricans live on the East Coast, but Margarita’s husband led them to Sacramento. Illyanna is not sure why. Margarita would pick produce in the mornings and cook for the family at night. She made traditional Puerto Rican dishes, like carne guisada and rice and beans. But they lived in a Mexican neighborhood, so she quickly picked up new dishes from her neighbors.

Illyanna Maisonet: She learned to make like posole, that she would make pretty often — posole, menudo. She knew how to make really good tortillas. And I mean, you know, it got to the point where she would make that more often, I think, than Puerto Rican food.

Dan Pashman: Were those tortillas corn or flour that she was making?

Illyanna Maisonet: Flour. 

Dan Pashman: I bet they were good. 

Illyanna Maisonet: They were so good. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Illyanna Maisonet: They’re so good. Oh my God. Like, I’m literally just like imagining her, like, you know, putting them on the comal right now. Like she would — like super hot, pass ’em off. They never made it, you know, pass the comal and then we would slap butter on it and then roll it up and then dip

Dan Pashman: They never made it to the table. 

Illyanna Maisonet: Never. Never. Never.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] And then what was the food like growing up in your mom’s house?

Illyanna Maisonet: I don’t really think that I realized that she didn’t like to cook until, I started this project. You know what I mean? Like looking back. I even recently found out when she said, “I don’t like touching meat.” And I was like, “What?!”

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Illyanna Maisonet: Cause I had heard some of — like, I had heard like my goddaughter and some of the other younger people say, “Ew, we don’t like touching chicken. It’s slimy. Like we need it in like an individual packets,” you know? And I’m like, [SIGHS] whatever, dude. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Illyanna Maisonet: And then when I heard my mom say the same thing, I was like blown away. I was like, “What?”. She’s like, “I don’t really like touching meat.” And I’m like that makes like so much sense. You really didn’t cook a lot. If you did, it was kind of like — it was something that was like quick, hot, and filling.

 Dan Pashman: But she wasn’t standing over the stove for hours.

Illyanna Maisonet: No. 

Dan Pashman: She wasn’t braising carne guisada. 

Illyanna Maisonet: No. I can’t ever think of my mom making Puerto Rican food when I was growing up. But I think that has a lot to do with the fact that there aren’t a lot of things that my grandma got to teach my mom because they also sent my mom away when she was young. So I think the first time they sent her away, she was about nine or 10, the same age as my grandma. I don’t really think she got a chance to like learn how to cook from my grandma. They basically sent her away to be a living nanny. The way that my mom describes it, we would describe it as a live-in nanny.

Dan Pashman: And you say they sent her away, you mean her parents?

Illyanna Maisonet: Yeah, my grandma and grandpa.

Dan Pashman: Sent your mom at age nine or 10 to be a nanny.

Illyanna Maisonet: A live-in nanny, basically. Yeah.

Dan Pashman: Carmen would be sent away to live with another family and take care of their kid — sometimes for a few days, other times for weeks.

Illyanna Maisonet: It probably had a lot to do with money, but you know, my mom has also said that one of her siblings told her because of her attitude, “That’s why daddy didn’t like you.” So I think it’s because my mom has always had a sort of independence about her.

Dan Pashman: As soon as Carmen finished high school, she moved out and tried to distance herself from her family. But she stayed in Sacramento. She worked at an almond processing factory, and later, at a hospital. She had Illyanna in her mid-twenties, and raised her alone. Illyanna’s father wasn’t in the picture. Illyanna never got to know her grandfather, but she developed a close relationship with her grandmother. 

Dan Pashman: Then, when Illyanna was 15, her mother took her to Philadelphia to meet Illyanna’s great-grandmother — Carmen’s grandmother. Illyana didn’t even know there was another part of her family living on the East coast. Carmen had never met her own grandmother, and wanted to connect with that side of the family.  When they landed …

Illyanna Maisonet: My tio, Tito, came and picked us up from the airport in like a old RV van that had like no tags. He had no license. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Illyanna Maisonet: And it was weird cause it was like, the way that they live is very similar to how the Maisonets live in Sacramento.

Dan Pashman: From the airport, they headed to Illyanna’s great-grandmother’s house. When they got there … 

Illyanna Maisonet: She like came out there, she said hi to us, you know, everybody’s like, yay, yay. We’re meeting all the family and stuff like that. And then she just disappeared into the kitchen. I couldn’t talk to her cause she didn’t speak any English. I didn’t speak any Spanish. So I just, you know, in there to see what she was doing and I just sat behind her and she didn’t bother me. And I didn’t bother her and I just watched her cook basically.

Dan Pashman: What did she cook?

Illyanna Maisonet: Bacalaitos.

Dan Pashman: Like salted cod fritters. 

Illyanna Maisonet: Yep. I don’t know if you ever had bacalao, but it’s like — it is fishy. It’s way more strong though, than what people call the fishy flavor, you know? It’s like very kind of concentrated.

Dan Pashman: Right. It’s like salt cured. 

Illyanna Maisonet: Yes and it’s like firm too. So like the way that they make it the outside is like lacey and like really crunchy. And then as you work your way in the middle, that’s kind of like where the cod kind of like all kind of gets together and it becomes kind of like chewy almost. And I was sitting underneath like one of those huge yellow wall mounted phones. You know? And she is just like, you know, getting the oil ready in her cast iron pan, and she’s like mixing the Bacalao the same way that my grandma did. 

Illyanna Maisonet: Even though her and my grandma hadn’t talked in — like when I asked my grandma, she said it had been 40 years since they hadn’t spoken. But their bacalaitos are exactly the same and nobody makes bacalaitos like my grandma. Like my grandma doesn’t put any like saison in it or any baking powder or any, like achiote or — she doesn’t do any of that. Like, it’s just the flour, the water from the soaked bacalao, and bacalao. That’s it. Like their’s no measurements that kind of just — put the flour, put the fish, and put the water, you know, until it’s like this kind of pancake batter. 

Illyanna Maisonet: So what you get is like just the straight bacalao flavor, you know? And nobody makes them like that. And then as soon as they came out of the fryer, you know, she just like turned around, handed me one, and I was like, damn. Like the way that she cooked and my — her and my grandma was like, I don’t know how you two can be both disconnected and connected at the same time.

Dan Pashman: So in that moment, eating the bacalaitos with your great-grandmother, you realized in that moment that your mother had molded her life in your best interests.

Illyanna Maisonet: Mm-hmm.

Dan Pashman: What was it about that moment that gave you that realization?

Illyanna Maisonet: My mom really tried to keep me at arm’s length from the family, like, you know, to be involved. Yes. But also not to be too involved. A lot of the cousins or whatever were like getting to the same type of trouble, you know, like with the law and going to jail and you know, just not necessarily having a future that kind of keeps you safe and alive. You know? Like those similarities are very kind of clear between what was going on in Philly and what was going on back home in Sacramento.

Dan Pashman: Going to Philly gave Illyanna a deeper understanding of her own family, and her mother’s choices. And there were other revelations on that trip, about Puerto Rican culture more broadly …

Illyanna Maisonet: That was the first time that I got a chance to go out to eat Puerto Rican food. Like, you know, there were no places. I mean there’s still — or not that many in Northern California. I hadn’t got to eat at a Puerto Rican restaurant in Sacramento at all. So to like go out and eat in a Puerto Rican restaurant was like already mind blowing. And not even restaurants, like, there was just like little quick shacks. You know, like these little walk-up windows where you can just go and order all these little things. Now I’m trying to get a sense of like how big the community is there.

Dan Pashman: You’re starting to realize that there’s more of it than you understood.

Illyanna Maisonet: Yes. Now getting a sense of the Puerto Rican diaspora.


Dan Pashman: In 2004, when Illyanna was in her early twenties, she moved to San Francisco to work as a visual artist. She was the first person in her family to move out of Sacramento. She spent several years in the Bay Area art scene, until the Great Recession hit in 2008, and she couldn’t support herself with art anymore. She moved in with a friend, and started cooking and baking every day. 

Dan Pashman: Around this time, she read Anthony Bourdain’s famous book Kitchen Confidential. Illyanna says that she was already obsessed with writers like E.E. Cummings, Ernest Hemmingway, and Jack Kerouac. When she read Kitchen Confidential, she saw Bourdain writing in the same way as her literary heroes, except about restaurants and food. When her roommate suggested she apply to culinary school, she decided to go for it. She wanted to learn to cook like a chef, and write like Anthony Bourdain. 

Dan Pashman: A few years after graduating from culinary school, she got her first opportunity. In 2014, her brother-in-law, who’s a photographer, came to her with an idea. They should make a Puerto Rican cookbook together. For Illyanna, it seemed like a good first step into the world of food writing. They didn’t have any experience making cookbooks, so they decided to start small with a booklet of her grandmother’s recipes. 

Illyanna Maisonet: And now that I’ve finished culinary school, now I’m kind of like in my peak “I went to culinary school” phase, so now I need, you know, oh, we need measurements. Oh, I need steps. Oh, you know, I need to like literally describe everything. 

Dan Pashman: So you go into the kitchen with your grandmother. 

Illyanna Maisonet: Yep. 

Dan Pashman: And start …

Illyanna Maisonet: Watching. 

Dan Pashman: And measuring.

Illyanna Maisonet: Yep. Like, you know, when she’s like this much water, I’m like, “Wait a minute!”

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Illyanna Maisonet: Like, let me get this two-cup mold, you know … 

Dan Pashman: Right. 

Illyanna Maisonet: And then pour this, pour this water into this, and then I’ll subtract how much water you use.

Dan Pashman: And what did she think of that process?

Illyanna Maisonet: Oh, she — of course, she’s like, “You don’t need that. You don’t need that. You just do … you just do it until it looks like this.” 

Dan Pashman: Right. [LAUGHS] 

Illyanna Maisonet: How much garlic do we use? Mucho, mucho … okay!

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHING]

Illyanna Maisonet: That’s not descriptive. Like, are we talking like — you know, some people think that two clothes of garlic is a lot.

Dan Pashman: Right. 

Illyanna Maisonet: You know, and then she’s like, “Two cloves of garlic? Who the fuck are these these people?”

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHING] 

Illyanna Maisonet: You know, she’s like talking like, you know, maybe like two heads of garlic. You know what I mean?

Dan Pashman: Right, right. 

Illyanna Maisonet: And to me, that — I’m like, okay, you were right. Mucho, mucho.

Dan Pashman: That’s mucho all right. [LAUGHS] 

Illyanna Maisonet: Yeah. Like, all right. 

Dan Pashman: You also went to Puerto Rico for research for the booklet?

Illyanna Maisonet: Yeah.

Dan Pashman: And this was the first time you were going like as an adult and sort of as a food writer?

Illyanna Maisonet: Yep.

Dan Pashman: How did the cuisine look to you on that trip?

Illyanna Maisonet: Similar but different. The first time we went, we ate a lot of restaurants. I’m like, dude, this food is horrible. Like, my grandma’s a much better cook than this shit. You know? 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Illyanna Maisonet: Like there’s just no way. But then once we like got out of like old San Juan, food starts to get a lot better, but it also starts to change. Kind of turned into like this, almost like a regional thing. So that’s the part that I was not expecting about Puerto Rico and I didn’t really know either.

Dan Pashman: The regional differences?

Illyanna Maisonet: Yes. Cause we went to go eat at this woman Lula’s. It’s a restaurant. We were ordering our food and stuff like that and watching her cook and I remember asking her like, “Oh, do you guys have arroz con gandules?”, you know? And she was like, “No, like we don’t make that out here. We make rice with crab.” And that’s like the first time I’m like, okay, so not everybody makes that and also, what the fuck is rice with crab? 


Illyanna Maisonet: Never heard of it. You know what I mean? 

Dan Pashman: Right. 

Illyanna Maisonet: And I — and there’s only like certain places that make it in certain parts of Puerto Rico. And then the crab thing, it’s also seasonal cause the crabs have to be in season. And you know, in Puerto Rico, I’m like, dude, it’s literally one fucking season here! Hot! 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHING] 

Illyanna Maisonet: But then … but people were still like, you know, Oh, like quenepas, they have to be in season. They’re in season from like May to July. Oh, the crabs. They have to be in season. They come out during — and I’m like, okay. Like, all right.


Illyanna Maisonet: It’s like very kind of like pre-contact, pre-colonial rustic cooking. And then they process all that stuff there themselves. Like they process the yuca flour, like by, you know, cooking yuca, breaking it down, squeezing the water out of it. And I was like, Oh my God. Like, just buy the bag of yuca flour, you know?

Dan Pashman: Right. [LAUGHS] 

Illyanna Maisonet: But they do all that there cause they’ve been doing it there for like, who knows how long. They might have been cooking there for like a hundred years.


Dan Pashman: In her travels, Illyanna learned about dishes that even people in San Juan hadn’t seen. She realized just how little most Puerto Ricans, on and off the island, know about their own food culture. The more she learned, the more she wanted to learn, and share what she had found. 

Dan Pashman: Coming up, Illyanna shows her recipe booklet to her grandmother. And begins work on something much bigger. Stick around.






Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful, I’m Dan Pashman. And New Year’s, it’s around the corner. That means it’s time for our New Year’s Food Resolutions episode. It’s our annual tradition and we want to hear from you! Tell me: What food do you resolve to eat more of in the new year and why? Record a voice memo with your name and location and your answer to that question. Send it to us at [email protected] and you might just hear yourself on the Sporkful’s New Year’s episode. Again, that’s [email protected].

Dan Pashman: All right, back to my conversation with Illyanna Maisonet. In 2015, Illyanna finished her booklet. It was 10 pages of recipes from her grandmother, with research from her trips to Puerto Rico. She got 500 copies made from a printer in San Mateo, and began selling it herself. The first person she wanted to show it to was her grandmother.

Illyanna Maisonet: We go home. She’s in the hospital and I showed it to her on what would become her deathbed. But I didn’t know at the time. They said she was sick. But my grandma, you know, she had like — she was a smoker for a long time. She was a drinker for a long time. She had like diabetes, high blood pressure. Like she was sick for most of my life, you know what I mean? So when she went to the hospital, it was kind of like, okay, she’s going in there again. But she’s gonna come out like she always does. And that’s how I was treating that scenario too.

Dan Pashman: So you brought the booklet into the hospital for her to see it? 

Illyanna Maisonet: Yep. 

Dan Pashman: What did she think of it? 

Illyanna Maisonet: Mm.

Dan Pashman: What what does that mean?

Illyanna Maisonet: That’s what she said. That’s it.

Dan Pashman: She just grunted?

Illyanna Maisonet: She said, “Mm.” It’s her acknowledging it, but also saying it’s not as good as mine. No matter how you cook this, it’s not gonna be as good as mine. Even though these are my recipes under your hand, they’re not gonna be as good as mine. 

Dan Pashman: Right. [LAUGHS] 

Illyanna Maisonet: Because that’s not how cooking works, you know?

Dan Pashman: Knowing now that it was your grandmother’s deathbed, how do you feel about having been able to show her the booklet?

Illyanna Maisonet: I’m glad I got it done when I got it done, instead of, you know, I — people like to have this tendency of to like celebrate people once it’s over. Write about this person before, so that way this person knows how much you mean to them. Why, you know — write the eulogy while they’re alive. Cause you know, otherwise it’s not really for them, it’s just mostly for you.


Dan Pashman: Illyanna felt that in her travels in Puerto Rico working on the booklet, she had just scratched the surface of the country’s cuisine. She wanted to dig deeper, and go bigger. She wanted to turn the booklet into a full fledged cookbook, to bring together the Puerto Rican regional dishes she found in her travels with her family’s recipes, and the cuisine of the diaspora. As far as Illyanna knew, there wasn’t a book like that.

Dan Pashman: She put together a book proposal, included the booklet as a proof of concept, and began shopping it around to publishers in 2015. She spent years pitching it, but publishers didn’t think there was an audience for it.

Dan Pashman: Meanwhile, she was pursuing a career as a food writer, trying to get pieces published in magazines, newspapers, and websites. And there too, she struggled to get a foothold in the industry, and to develop the right relationships with people in power. 

Dan Pashman: You wrote in one of your newsletters that you’ve been told many times you’re assertive, demanding, and difficult to work with. 

Illyanna Maisonet: Mm-hmm. 

Dan Pashman: Do you remember the first time someone told you that?

Illyanna Maisonet: Mm, no. Cause it’s pretty much been told to me most of my life.

Dan Pashman: And what do you make of that?

Illyanna Maisonet: I don’t know. If I was a man, I’d be called charming, debonair, and determined.


Dan Pashman: Right. I mean, who do you think you get that from? Do you know?

Illyanna Maisonet: A lot of it has to do with kind of like a survival instinct. Or maybe like a defense mechanism. Where I grew up, where my mom still lives, if you don’t really have that kind of exterior, then you’re prey. It’s hard to like shift out of it because that’s what I basically have to do, you know, when it comes to like, doing anything with my professional career. Like when I’m dealing with people, I basically have to kind of like, you know, code switch. I have to remind myself to shift out of that persona because hardly anybody that I’m dealing with in the professional world grew up like me.

Dan Pashman: But Illyanna says it goes beyond where she grew up. It’s a personality trait that’s been passed down from the Maisonet women who came before her. When Illyanna’s mom, Carmen, was 15, her parents arranged for Carmen to be married to a much older man. 

Illyanna Maisonet: He was like 30 by now. And they sent them to go walk to the church so they can like, you know, get everything planned and you know, like talk to the priest and stuff. And my mom says that the priest said, “You know, when you start having children …”, and my mom said, “Well, I wanna finish school.” And he’s like, “You know, well, you know you’re gonna get married. So …”, And my mom goes, “Well, there’s birth control.” And she says, he said, “Well, the Catholic church doesn’t believe in birth control or in abortion.” And my mom was like, “Oh no. Like this is not … Nope.” So she said, on the walk home she told him, the guy she’s supposed to marry, “I’m not marrying you.” And when they went home, she told my grandpa that. By the next couple of days, they sent her to live with her titi, Lidia

Dan Pashman: So you weren’t the first woman in your family to be told you were difficult?

Illyanna Maisonet: No. My grandma literally stabbed my grandpa in a shin when they lived in Puerto Rico. She waited for him to come outside of a gambling house stabbed that fool in a cap. Didn’t that sound like a difficult person? 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHING]

Illyanna Maisonet: And they still together, dude. Hello? I don’t know. If that ain’t the fucking definition of difficult, I dunno what is.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] Yeah. And any cookbook editor or newspaper editor who tells you, you’re difficult …

Illyanna Maisonet: [LAUGHS] 

Dan Pashman: You should be like, let me tell you something. You’re getting it easy.


Illyanna Maisonet: Like, am I stabbing you?



Dan Pashman: Illyanna did get some pieces published and began building a name for herself as a food writer, but she still felt like she had to work twice as hard to get half as far. And she still hadn’t found anyone to publish her cookbook until the summer of 2020. There was a surge of protests over racial injustice in this country and suddenly food media’s overwhelming whiteness became a liability for publishers. 

Illyanna Maisonet: It was like 2020. I couldn’t get them to tell me no. I couldn’t get them to like give me low rates. I couldn’t get them to low ball me like any of that shit. They were like, yep, whatever you want, whenever you want, totally fine with us. Just let us know. You know? 

Dan Pashman: Finally, Illyanna got her cookbook deal, and was able to take two years to do in depth research on the culture and history of Puerto Rican food. She documented the Chinese-Cuban ice cream shops that are beloved on the island. She traveled with her mom and cousin to Humacao on the east coast, and found a rice fritter that’s only made in that region. 

Dan Pashman: But she also faced a big challenge: She didn’t speak Spanish. Her mom, Carmen, wasn’t allowed to speak Spanish at school growing up. In 1960s Sacramento, speaking Spanish in public could make you a target for harassment. 

Illyanna Maisonet: My mom, she didn’t speak Spanish to me. And even now my mom is fluent, but she’s very kind of like embarrassed, shy to speak Spanish. So she just was like, I don’t want the same things happening to you that happened to me when I was a kid, and there was nobody to like stand up for me. So I don’t want that to happen to you.

Dan Pashman: How much Spanish do you speak now?

Illyanna Maisonet: Restaurant Spanish.

Dan Pashman: But you can get around in Puerto Rico?

Illyanna Maisonet: Yes and no. Even my mom who’s fluent gets kind of confused, I think, in Puerto Rico because, Spanish has kind of like progressed, you know, it’s kind of very creolized, you know, depending on where you are in Puerto Rico? So if you’re kind of like, you know, in more suburban areas, you know, with more affluent people, then they have a tendency to speak kind of more like Spaniard Spanish. But then if you go like into like, you know, like Louisa, which is kind of like more of Black Puerto Ricans and stuff, it’s heavily creolized and the rhythm is much faster. You know? So when we all went last year, I think it was like me and my mom, my friend Tina, who’s also fluent in Spanish, we went to this place in Piñones, which is like on the beach, you know? And this lady is like telling us where to park. But she’s like talking to us and my mom and Tina are like, “What?” And the lady’s like talking super fast. And then Tina and my mom, they go — they look at me and I’m like, “What the hell are y’all looking at me for? I don’t speak Spanish. Like why are you …”

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] Right.

Illyanna Maisonet: I can’t help you. You know what I mean? 

Dan Pashman: Right, right.

Illyanna Maisonet: Like that’s what — it’s very kind of like — it’s almost, um, like a different dialect.

Dan Pashman: Right. How do you feel today about the fact that you don’t speak more Spanish than you do?

Illyanna Maisonet: Oh, it’s embarrassing. Super embarrassing. One, because I would love to communicate more. You know, I feel like I might be more independent maybe in my travels if I spoke Spanish. But also with Puerto Ricans too, a lot of Puerto Ricans just already expect Puerto Ricans to speak Spanish. Like every Puerto Rican that I’ve met here, they will already automatically speak Spanish to you because they just assume there’s not really kind of like a gap between that migration and generations that might not speak Spanish.

Illyanna Maisonet: That’s embarrassing. But also Puerto Ricans who speak Spanish, they already don’t really consider you Puerto Rican. If you’re not born there, and then if you also don’t speak Spanish, that’s just another thing they throw in your face.


Dan Pashman: Despite these obstacles, Illyanna completed her research. In October, 7 years after she presented her recipe booklet to her grandmother, she published Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook. I asked her to read from the introduction.

Illyanna Maisonet: Puerto Ricans are quick to argue about the roots and regulations of what Puerto Rican food is. Honestly, they just love to argue. Guilty. There are Puerto Ricans who don’t know shit about their own cuisine. No shade. That tends to happen when you believe it’s your birthright. You take it for granted. Sometimes it feels like somewhere along the line Puerto Ricans lost their way, and with it their food. With colonization that isn’t entirely unintentional, there can be several arguments against why there’s no emphasis on the beauty of Puerto Rican cuisine. Puerto Ricans don’t tend to be cerebral about their food, but rather, emotional. 

Dan Pashman: So you talk about how Puerto Rican food culture kind of combines — you have the Taino indigenous culture, you have Spanish and you have African.

Illyanna Maisonet: Mm-hmm. 

Dan Pashman: You know, you can’t talk about Puerto Rican food culture without talking about all three of those. 

Illyanna Maisonet: Yeah, exactly. 

Dan Pashman: And yet, you wouldn’t have that combination if it weren’t for colonization and the transatlantic slave trade. 

Illyanna Maisonet: Hmm. Mm-hmm.

Dan Pashman: So, these things that were the source of indescribable pain and suffering are also integral to creating this cuisine that you want to celebrate and share today.

Illyanna Maisonet: Yep, exactly.

Dan Pashman: So how do you reckon with all that?

Illyanna Maisonet: I don’t really think you do. I feel — I’m not really like the type of person that’s like, oh, it has to be this way or the other. I feel like you can both not really reckon with it, but at the same time still appreciate and teach about the beauty in it. I feel like the two can coexist. If you ask what Puerto Rican are, they will tell you all three straight up: Taíno, Spanish, African. So that’s basically kind of like a mixed culture. I’m trying to like, kind of connect all of them and show how these things merge. Like where they started, you know, with Taíno, with the indigenous people in maíz, which, you know, I don’t really feel like a lot of people really talk about any of the corn recipes in Puerto Rico. 

Illyanna Maisonet: And then I try to talk about, you know, how that kind of moves over to span your — heavily span, your cooking and then how now it’s heavily influenced by Africans. Like we wouldn’t really have any of the fried stuff really if it wasn’t for like Africans. Or rice, when we’re like a huge rice culture, like we wouldn’t really have any rice. Even though the Spaniards brought rice, the Tainos were like, we don’t know what to do with that. But then the Africans were like, oh, we  know what do to with that. You know what I mean?It’s just without everybody, it doesn’t work. 

Dan Pashman: The book ties all of these threads together. There’s recipes for casabe, a yuca bread that the Tainos make as flatbread. There’s also caldo santo, a seafood chowder from Loíza, which is the cradle of African foodways in Puerto Rico. And you can find a recipe for lechón, a whole hog barbecue. The pork originated from the Spanish. Barbecue came from the Taínos.

Dan Pashman: Then there are recipes from the diaspora, like a roast chicken inspired by the famous Puerto Rican restaurant in New York, Casa Adela, and a plantain sandwich famous in Chicago, the jibarito. Illyanna also pays homage to her family recipes, like her mom’s mushroom chicken. 

Dan Pashman: And these recipes are not the only family connection to the book. Illyanna’s brother-in-law, Dan Liberti, is the photographer. And her mom features prominently. A lot of the photos show Illyanna and Carmen’s hands reaching in for another bite of something. Carmen’s even on the cover, which wasn’t part of the original plan.

Dan Pashman: You see, there’s a recipe in the book for Puerto Rican arepas — crispy fried coconut bread, sliced into sandwiches, which Illyanna fills with a seafood salad of shrimp, cucumbers, and octopus.

Illyanna Maisonet: I knew I wanted the tentacles to be out in a seafood salad, which is not traditional. Like Puerto Ricans, they chop it up really fine, you know? And then I wanted to add cucumbers as a kind of like, you know, a nod to like Mexican aguachile. And I said, “Let’s put ’em together. Let’s stack ’em in my mom’s hand.” So my mom’s like, “Um, okay, okay.”  

Dan Pashman: For the photo of the dish, Illyanna’s mom picked up four arepas stacked on top of each other. Tentacles curling out in all directions — sauce dripping down her hands. She’s wearing gold rings, silver bracelets and bright orange nail polish.

Illyanna Maisonet: The way that she’s dressed and her — that’s how she dresses every day. The jewelry, that’s every day for her. Like if she was here today, that’s what she’d be wearing.

Dan Pashman: The Puerto Rican flag bracelet?

Illyanna Maisonet: Which is my grandma’s actually, and my mom was wearing it. 

Dan Pashman: The presence of Illyanna’s mom and grandmother, the messy, non-traditional, octopus tentacles, the Mexican cucumber, the Puerto Rican arepas. Every element of that shot represented a part of Illyanna’s book. Originally, the plan was to put it in the seafood section, but when she and her brother in law Dan looked at it …

Illyanna Maisonet: We were just like, “Dude, that’s the fucking cover.” We just knew it. 

Dan Pashman: I love it.

Illyanna Maisonet: Thank you.

Dan:. I love it. I especially love the tentacles. I love the photography throughout this book. 

Illyanna Maisonet: Thank you. 

Dan Pashman: The whole book feels like the — it feels very lived in. 

Illyanna Maisonet: Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: Like crumpled up beer can, a greasy paper bag … 

Illyanna Maisonet: Right. Yes .

Dan Pashman: An empty wrapper over on the corner of the table, like I feel like I’m there at the table with you and your mom.

Illyanna Maisonet: That’s how I wanted to — I wanted to look very kind of cluttered.

Dan Pashman: How has working on this cookbook affected your own sense of Puerto Rican identity?

Illyanna Maisonet: I don’t know. I — there’s a reason why I called it Diasporican, obviously, because I understand that the Puerto Ricans there, a lot of them don’t really consider us here to be Puerto Rican. You know what I mean? So that’s why it’s like, okay, like I’m almost like a third culture kid, you know? Like I’m a part of the diaspora, so fuck it. That’s just my identity and I’m okay with that.


Dan Pashman: That’s Illyanna Maisonet, you can get her cookbook, Diasporican, wherever books are sold. And if you want to win a copy of Diasporican, subscribe to our newsletter by December 12th. You know, if you’re already on the list, you’re already entered into this and all our prize giveaways. Like just recently, we gave away tickets to an intimate live taping with Claire Safftiz. Did you hear about that? No, because you weren’t on the list. So please get on it. Go to sporkful.com/newsletter.

Dan Pashman: Remember to get your holiday shopping done. We have 6-packs of cascatelli. We’ve got the recipe booklet. We’ve got the dish towels all available separately. Mix and match, buy a bunch. Just make sure to place your order by December 11th, if you want to be guaranteed of getting it by Christmas. Go to Sfoglini.com. That’s S-F-O-G-L-I-N-I, .com.

Dan Pashman: Finally, one last thing I want you buy you about. New Year’s Food Resolutions. Send me a voice memo. Tell me your name, your location, and hat food do you resolve to eat more of in the new year and why. Send it to me at [email protected].

Dan Pashman: Next week on the show, chef and video host Rick Martinez. We talk about his 586-day road trip across Mexico, fighting for recognition and respect at Bon Appetit, and deciding to become a line cook age 38. That’s next week.

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button