Culture

We Are Already Craving These Delicious And Decadent Noche Buena Dishes

@Smrtqbn / Twitter

I don’t care what time of year it is–I’m always emocionada for the shockingly massive piles of food that reach my plate at the holidays. Whether you feast on Christmas Day, Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) or every day of the year, you’re guaranteed get nostalgic (and very hungry) previewing your menu this year. Promise, this is what you’re eating.

If you’re Mexican, there will be pozole.

CREDIT: @mexicanfoodmem / Twitter

I mean, there will always be pozole, no matter the time of year, but at the holidays, your mami might actually buy raw hominy instead of the can. It’s a special occasion.

Tamales are always the showstopper.

CREDIT: @nuestravisionMX / Twitter

For two days before Christmas, there are half a dozen tias dancing up a storm in the kitchen. If you look closely enough, you realize they’re actually prepping and cooking a hundred tamales for the biggest family dinner of the year.

Or, if you’re Puerto Rican, you’ll eat pasteles.

CREDIT: @cocinamax / Instagram

Instead of corn, platanos verdes are used for the masa and stuff them with all the sofrito and pork available. Boiled banana leaves hold it all together instead of corn husks to wrap them.

Island gente will have ropa vieja.

CREDIT: @_a3m_ / Instagram

Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, are all about this shredded beef dish. Just looking at it makes me miss my abuela and the most exciting times of my childhood: when we were eating her ropa vieja.

Of course, dinner will be at the house con la caja china.

CREDIT: @triumphando / Instagram

It’s the most effective and delicious way to slow roast a shocking amount of animal flesh for the family festivities. Cuidado, because sometimes the neighbors get a whiff and just invite themselves in.

The main dish will be lechón.

CREDIT: @littlefoodieph / Instagram

As a kid, it was mildly disturbing, but the adults just tell you to move past it because it’s all the sabroso. Eventually, you stop naming the pig and just dig in.

Venezuelans crush the Pan de Jamón

CREDIT: @migas_florida / Twitter

Speaking of jamón, Venezuelans know how to combine the best flavors into one single bite. It doesn’t matter where you come from, if the panadería is selling, you’re buying this pan.

Ensalada de Gallina will be the only salad at the table.

CREDIT: Untitled. Digital Image. PopSugar. 25 September 2018.

Another Venezolana classic, it’s not Navidad without this tasty potato salad. Unlike the kind you’d find at an American grocery store, this one includes pollo, carrots, peas, green apple, and pineapple. We put la fruta in everything.

Every Latino meal will have some version of Moros y Cristianos.

CREDIT: Untitled. Digital Image. PopSugar. 25 September 2018.

Call it gallo pinto, arroz con frijoles, moros y cristianos, cualquiera: Latinos make it best. More specifically, we make it in a 10 gallon massive pot and hope for leftovers. The next morning, we fry an egg on top and it’s perfección.

Boricuas will have arroz con gandules on deck.

CREDIT: @SimplyTodayLife / Twitter

We’re here for the saffron, pigeon peas and olives. It’s gallo pinto for breakfast and arroz con gandules for all the other special occasions.

Buñelos con Almíbar de Vino y Canela everywhere.

CREDIT: @casa.marcelino.gto / Instagram

Pretty much all of us have some version of this crispy, sweet, doughy pastry. Don’t even call this a donut hole.

You can’t have a buñelo sin champurrado.

CREDIT: @pacificfoods / Twitter

It’s basically Mexican hot chocolate but there’s nothing basic about it. It’s thick, it’s spicy and it’s secret ingredient is masarica and cinnamon.

Of course, someone’s going to bring ponche.

CREDIT: @MelissasProduce / Twitter
Rice and fruta: we put it in everything. Our punch is better than yours because we have guava, tejocotes y flor de jamaica. And we made tequila happen.

Somehow, Panettone is always available.

CREDIT: @plantbased_fede / Twitter

Panettone was brought from Italy to South America and we have reclaimed it as our Latin fruitcake. Every Miami supermarket carries them and every Latino in Miami has a slice on noche buena.

If you’re Cuban, you already know what follows this picture:

CREDIT: @Smrtqbn / Twitter

It’s Crème de Vie, the Cuban version of eggnog. They’re real heavy on the Bacardí.

Mientras, Boricuas can’t get enough of coquito.

CREDIT: @PuertoRicoPUR / Twitter

The main difference between coquito and crèma de vie is that Puerto Ricans used condensed coconut milk instead of cow’s milk. We’re dairy intolerant.

That arroz con leche though.

CREDIT: @puntonieve.arroz / Instagram

Latinos cannot have a single meal without rice, not even dessert. Everyone makes it a little different, but I always make it with coconut milk and heavy on the canela.

Natillas are basically Latino Christmas pudding.

CREDIT: @postresfacilesyricos_ / Instagram-natillas

Please hold while I collect my drool. Sometimes called Dulce de Leche, this is basically a thick, creamy vanilla cinnamon custard. Galletas required.

Last but far from least: flan

CREDIT: @stefany_dct / Instagram

It’s the dessert that you’ve never made but love to eat. Thankfully your abuela and tías continue to bring it to every party. It’s not that I don’t think I can make it, it’s that I’m afraid to make it without a flock of Latinos to help me eat it.

Oh, but it’s not over yet.

Literally one week later, we gather again for Rosca de Reyes.

CREDIT: @ana_abularach / Twitter

January 6 is Three Kings Day and you’re forbidden from taking down Christmas decorations until after the three kings have come to visit baby Jesús. Of course, it’s just another excuse to plan another family celebration because whoever gets the slice with the baby figurine in it has to host the next dinner. Tamales required.


READ: Mole Is One Of The Most Recognizable Foods In The World. Here’s How It Came To Be

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Every Time I Go Back To The Dominican Republic, I Remember The Person I Am And Want To Be

Culture

Every Time I Go Back To The Dominican Republic, I Remember The Person I Am And Want To Be

aruni_y_photography / Instagram

Anyone traveling to the Dominican Republic this summer has likely been met with the cautionary warning; “Don’t drink anything from the minibar.” Eleven tourist deaths on the island in 2019, ranging from natural causes to counterfeit alcohol consumption, have spurred FBI and State Department investigations. Though news of flight and hotel cancellations abounded, I missed my family and refused to let fear stop me from seeing them. Since I lived to tell the tale, here are a few things I learned about my father, about myself, and about the precarious paradise that keeps calling me back.

Billy Joel and Nas have interpreted the “New York state of mind,” and if you have ever visited the Dominican Republic beyond the purpose of tourism, you’ll know that there exists a Dominican state of mind too.

Credit: Dan Gold / Unsplash

Whenever I exit Las Americas or Puerto Plata airports, humidity slaps me in the face, and my Dominican mindset is immediately activated. On this island, electricity does not run 24/7. When the electricity goes, or as we say “se fue la luz,” water doesn’t run from the tap either. All that is left to do is swap your sneakers for flip-flops, and exorcise your need for immediate gratification. It takes practice, and I re-learn this lesson with each visit.

The Dominican Republic is changing fast. 

Credit: zonacolonialrd / Instagram

There is new construction everywhere you look. I sit on the balcony chatting with my father and stare across the street trying to remember how it looked before the apartment building was constructed in that space. I can see from an open doorway on the ground level that wooden boxes are being stacked, and hauled out in front of a business. I tune out my father’s voice as I focus on the shape and size of the boxes. My Spanish needs work, and I ask my father, “Papi, what does ataúd mean?” The business slogan translates to “Quality Coffins.” I think about magic realism traditions in Latin American literature, and I am reminded that so often a country like this juxtaposes disparate images and experiences in such a casual manner. I don’t think I would be able to live across the street from a constant reminder of death anywhere else but on this incongruous island.

We drive to the countryside of El Seibo for a few days.

Credit: fedoacurd/ Instagram

My father syncs his playlist and he directs my sister what song to play next. The first song is by Boy George. I watch my father sing along, and I can’t help but think about the Dominican Republic’s homophobic culture steeped in hyper-masculinity. Same-sex marriage is not recognized on the island, and members of the LGBTQ community continue to face discrimination and violence. I talk to my sister about this later that night, and she tells me small changes are coming to the island. The city of Santo Domingo hosts inclusive events like Draguéalo, where you can even sign up for a Vogue class.

Credit: Draguelao / Facebook

My father’s playlist continues and I’m struck by his selections ranging from Taylor Swift to A.I.E. (A Mwana), a song by a 1970s group called Black Blood, featuring lyrics in Swahili.

I watched this Dominican dad jam across continents, decades, cultures, languages, and race. I realize there is so much I don’t know about him, and so often we shortchange our parents’ knowledge and experience, reducing them to stereotypes and gendered tropes.

My next lesson is on staying sexy.

                                                           Unsplash/Photo by Ardian Lumi 

After a few days in the countryside, my sister and I rent a hotel room in La Zona Colonial. We ready for a night out when she looks at my outfit and asks me, “Um, is that what you’re wearing tonight?” I thought my yellow jumpsuit was poppin’. My sister pulls out a little black dress from her overnight bag and kindly suggests I wear it. The dress is tiny. It’s skimpy. It’s super short. It’s absolutely perfect. I channel my inner Chapiadora, Goddess of Sex Appeal and Free Drinks, and dance all night. 

Growing up in the 90s, I styled myself in oversized men’s clothing. It wasn’t until that one magical summer in the Dominican Republic when the heat was too oppressive to wear jeans, so I wore—gasp—a skirt. That was the first time I felt sexy, and learned the power of sex appeal. Though I wielded that power throughout my twenties, it fell away in my thirties. Wearing my sister’s LBD I realize I still have “it,” and in the Dominican Republic, sex appeal is ageless. Be careful when you come here. You may fall in love with a local, or you may just fall in love with yourself again.

The island leaves me with one last lesson.

It comes late one night, sharing a few bottles of wine with my father and sister. No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver—the worst blind person is the one who refuses to see. I could say the current political landscape in the U.S. reflects this willful ignorance, a refusal to see; yet it is the same human experience felt across space and time.

I come away wondering about my own blind spots.

                                                            Instagram/@rensamayoa

I board my return flight thinking up ways to combat willful ignorance at home, thinking about maintaining that flexible DR state of mind and thinking about buying a little black dress. As tourism in the Dominican Republic picks up again, and unfavorable headlines drop out of the news cycle, this changing island stands in its own plurality welcoming visitors, and offering endless opportunities to teach us something new.

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Here’s Why Activists And Parents Are Upset About A New Weight Loss App For Children

Culture

Here’s Why Activists And Parents Are Upset About A New Weight Loss App For Children

This week, WW, the ridiculously rebranded name for weight loss company Weight Watchers, proved that despite its new designation, the global brand is offering more of the same problematic trash to the world — this time, directed at children in particular.

On Tuesday, WW launched Kurbo, a nutrition and weight loss app for kids between the ages of 8 and 17 years old.

Not surprisingly health experts are furious about the danger it could pose to the physical and mental health of our young people.

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“You NEED to Shut. This. Down,” Whitney Fisch, a social worker, school counselor and mom of three, wrote Wednesday on Facebook. “All bodies, especially growing + developing bodies, deserve respect + the ability to grow into whatever shape they’re meant to grow to be.”

The company describes the app, which is free, as a “scientifically-proven behavior change program designed to help kids and teens age 8-17 reach a healthier weight” that was acquired from Stanford University’s Pediatric Weight Control Program. It uses a traffic light system to instruct youth on foods that they should eat and those that they should avoid. Kids are urged to eat plenty of “green light” foods, including fruits and vegetables, to be “mindful” of their portions of “yellow light” foods, like lean protein, whole grains and dairy, and to lessen their intake of “red light” foods, such as sugary drinks and “treats.” The app also encourages users to track their daily physical activity and deep breathing.

With a paid, subscription-based plan, children can also receive through the app one-on-one sessions with coaches that are supposed to be experts in nutrition, exercise, and mental health. However, the Huffington Post reports that these coaches do not need to have any credentials in health or nutrition fields; though they do go through a minimum of six to eight hours of initial training.

Eating disorder treatment experts are concerned about the impact an app like Kurbo could have on a young person’s mental health, self-esteem and eating habits.

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“While the intention of the app is to promote health and wellness, there is the risk that it could do more harm than good,” Kathryn Argento, a registered dietician with The Renfrew Center, a national network of eating disorder treatment centers for women and girls, told the Huffington Post. “Targeting kids as young as 8 years old to focus on … their bodies can lead to an intense preoccupation with food, size, shape and weight.”

Aside from the damaging impact apps like this one can have on a children’s relationship with their bodies and food, public health organizations and pediatricians also doubt the efficacy of children’s weight loss programs altogether.

“The evidence suggests that these types of tools may be helpful adjuncts to weight management, but there are few studies in pediatrics to confirm that they lead to a ‘meaningful change in their weight trajectories,’” Dr. Ihuoma Eneli, director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, told the news outlet.

As part of WW’s rebranding, the company and app have chosen to start focusing on overall health and wellness in addition to weight loss.

According to Gary Foster, chief scientific officer at WW, Kurbo “isn’t a weight loss app.”

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“This is an app that teaches in a game-ified, fun, engaging way what are the basics of a healthy eating pattern,” he told the Huffington Post.

But parents still worry the app could be spreading an all-too-familiar message that they are unworthy as they are and must change their physical appearance to be accepted. While young people already receive these memos from a diet-obsessed mass media, parents fear that unrealistic beauty ideals are now being pushed on impressionable children in the name of health and wellness.

In response to these apprehensions, Foster said: “I think there could be some misperception that somehow we’re saying, ‘All kids should lose weight, you’re not OK as you are.’ What we’re saying to kids who are trying to achieve a healthier weight — kids and families — is that this is a reasonable, sensible way to do it.”

But despite this alleged kid-friendly wellness mission, Kurbo’s website sends another message.

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Its landing page shows young people’s “success stories,” and they’re celebrating weight loss, not how often they meditate or how many ounces of water they drink daily.

“There’s no way that these kids don’t realize that the app is supposed to help them lose weight,” Ginny Jones, an eating disorder recovery activist, said. “No matter how hard it tries to market itself as a wellness company, WW is about weight loss. Kids are way smarter than we think they are, and every ‘big kid’ who [has been] put on a weight loss program knew exactly what their parents were trying to do.”

Read: She Shared Stories Of Being Fat-Shamed At The Doctor And Fear Of Wearing A Two-Piece Then, Jessica Torres Accidentally Built One Of The Biggest Body Positive Communities

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