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Food Memories

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Reliving Delicious Food Memories: A Treasured Story from Florence

Florence, Italy

One of my most treasured food memories is of a family vacation to Italy when I was a teenager. We spent a week in Florence, and every meal we had was a revelation. But the one that stands out most in... Read more

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Typical Foods in Puerto Rico, From San Juan to Fajardo

Prior to spring-breaking there with the family in 2022, I hadn’t been to Puerto Rico in nearly two decades. And while I have a strong memory of eating excellent mofongo in the mountains while driving around the island for a travel article (as well as some terrific ice cream in Ponce), my recall of delicious and typical foods in Puerto Rico was pretty … nonexistent. I wasn’t sure what to expect on our family foray to San Juan and Fajardo there last April.

Bacalaitos, large salted codfish fritters, from a roadside kiosk in Pinones, Puerto RicoBacalaítos in Piñones


Along the north coast we traveled there sure are lots of seafood, plantains, rice and beans, fritters—but below the surface, the overarching influences to know about in modern Puerto Rican cuisine, aka cocina criolla (Creole cooking), include the native Taíno, the Spanish colonizers, and the West African slaves brought to the island.

The Spanish introduced the concept of making sofrito—sauteeing and blending tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onion, olive oil, bay leaf, and more to form a base for sauces—that’s so essential to many traditional Puerto Rican dishes (albeit, with a distinct PR spin, thanks to the local ingredients incorporated). Pigeon peas, tamarind, and the methods of frying foods and mashing starches were among the key contributions from West Africans. Native plants used by the Taíno, such as recao (culantro), yuca, and achiote, still figure prominently in the Puerto Rican kitchen today.

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New Orleans
  • Ya-ka-mein

    It wasn’t until our third trip to New Orleans that the local noodle soup called ya-ka-mein crossed our path. A popular festival food and hangover cure that combines noodles with green onion,...

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New York City
  • Brooklyn Blackout Cake

    The very rich, chocolatey Brooklyn blackout cake is associated with an iconic chain of Brooklyn bakeries called Ebinger’s, which went bankrupt in 1972 after 74 years in business. Ebinger’s...

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North Jersey
  • Sloppy Joe sandwich

    The New Jersey-invented sloppy Joe has nothing to do with the messy ground beef sandwiches of your elementary school’s cafeteria. It is a double-decker sandwich on excellent thin-sliced rye bread,...

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