A mother hugging her daughter

Elisa San Diego, CA – Born: Mexico

How do I explain Mrs. Elisa to you…when I think of her I see her face, smiling bright, walking me through her garden. We stop at each box and she kneels down to touch the plants leaves and share with me what she is learning about them. That’s so much of who she is, a sharer. She shares her world with you, brings you in close to not only experience the wonder of the garden, her love for crocheting, her enthusiasm toward helping others but also into the depth of the journey she has gone through in her life.

Her transparency in sharing her ups and downs is what brought me in close and when she does this, there is no way your taste buds wont experience the work of her hands. I have here for you her mother’s recipe for red rice, an entre or side, that is a weekly staple in her families home. Another gift she has chosen to share with us.

Ethnography Questions

  1. What is the one meal that you can always count on to bring your family back to the table?

My family getting together for tamale making. I always remember, specifically my aunt, I loved watching her use her hands to soften up and beat the lard. She would clear out the whole table and she had such a distinct technique, I always wanted to get my hands in it.

I can now see my daughter showing the same interest. It is a big ordeal, the time and dedication it takes, but then everyone is participating, talking, and laughing and it brings everyone around the table. I now bring this tradition to my home. We do it every year, my mom comes over, the children participate, and they always get excited to choose their own flavors.

  1. What is your fondest memory of food from your childhood?

I was a very picky child growing up and I would always stand by watching my mom cook, critiquing her choice of ingredients. I loved avocadoes, still do, so I can remember that my mom would get tostadas and she would get a little bit of avocado and smash it on there, even sometimes adding a little bit of mayo and some beans.

Those are some of my earliest memories of her trying to accommodate me so that I would eat. The fact that my mom would work with what she had and still try and feed me. Avocadoes are still one of my favorites today!

When we first immigrated to the United States, my mom started to try and experiment with the new found ingredients. He first attempt at Americanizing the food was Chop Suey –  but wrapped in a tortilla. You don’t think anything of it as a kid but now that I am older I laugh about it. She was trying to keep what was familiar to us but with new found ingredients.

  1. How has your cultural upbringing affected your views and lifestyle about food?

In every way possible! Immigrating to this country meant opening our eyes to a whole new slew of food and how do you integrate that into the food you love and bring comfort along too? I didn’t think that we were poor and we only ever had beans and rice, soups, lentils, and my mom would make fried chicken but only use the legs (I never knew there was other parts). I remember being embarrassed going to school with my burrito while other kids had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

When I cook, I usually cook pasta one day and then fried rice another day and then burgers. My kids then always ask when am I going to make Mexican food. They associate it with comfort and what feels like home. Culture impacts how we see food.  For instance, taking a bite of a buñuelos just brings me back to my Grandpa. I like all kinds of food but Mexican food brings back feelings of home.

  1. What is one bit of advice you would give to readers for refining their skills in the kitchen?

I have a few…

  • Find your own flavor and voice in the kitchen.
  • Put love into the food you make and they will feel love and taste it in the food you serve them, its comforting.
  • Take the recipe, learn the steps, learn the reason behind why they are doing what they are doing and then make it your own.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. I know it is hard to feel that you ruined it and that it will go to waste but don’t just think that the ingredients listed are the only ones you can use.
Mexican red rice in the pan it was cooked in.

[recipe title=”My Mama’s Red Rice” servings=”4″ time= “40min” difficulty= “Easy”]

This red rice makes for an excellent side dish or add a protein and make it an entire meal, either way its amazing!


1 cup of white rice

2 cups + 1/4 cup of water

1 large or two small ripe tomatoes

1/4 of a small yellow or white onion

1 garlic clove

1 tbsp of vegetable oil

3 tsp of Knorr Powder Chicken Bouillon or Better than Chicken Bouillon

1/4 tsp of ground cumin

Optional – a few sprigs of cilantro



  1. In a blender add tomatoes, garlic clove, onion and 1/4 cup of water. Blend until smooth. If you have seeds that won’t blend you can strain them.
  2. Heat a heavy set pan with vegetable oil on medium heat. Add the rice and constantly stir. Rice will turn from translucent to opaque, some may even turn a bit brown as they toast. Do not walk away from your pan, as they can burn easily. 
  3. Lower the heat to medium-low and remove pan from the burner. Pour in the tomato mixture. Carefully sauté until the mixture is absorbed and turns a deeper red. Return the pan to the heat and add the chicken bouillon, ground cumin and the remaining 2 cups of water.
  4. When it begins to simmer add the optional sprigs of cilantro, cover and cook for approximately 14-17 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is plump.
  5. Turn off the heat and leave the lid on for an additional 10-15 minutes. Then enjoy!



Here are some additional ways of cooking it:

  1. Add one cup of mixed veggies along with the 2 cups of water.
  2. My mom’s favorite way – Add 1/3 to 1/2 lbs. of cooked beef chuck, cut into bite sized pieces, to the rice when you add in the 2 cups of water.

*Adjust water accordingly.



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