My Grandmother, Father, and Aunt and the Food They Brought from El Salvador by Fredy Martinez


People from many different cultures come to the United States. When they leave they bring everything that they were taught as a child; this is no exception for my family.  My grandmother, father, and aunt came from El Salvador and one by one they brought everything, especially their knowledge of food.

My grandmother was the first to come to the United States about thirty years ago. She would tell me stories about how she had nowhere to stay when she came to the United States and if someone took her in, the best way she would repay them was to make her Salvadorian food for them. I asked her what Salvadoran dish was her favorite to make. She said, “My favorite dish to make is pupusas with curtido”. “Did you always make pupusas for the people that you stayed with?” She replied with “No, there was times I changed it up and made Tamals de elote or pacalla”. “Is it fun cooking abuelita?” “Its very fun to cook and be told that your cooking is good, but the main reason I cook is because it reminds me of where I came from. It reminds me of the childhood with my parents, brothers and sisters that I was with in El Salvador.”

After my abuelita told me that, I wanted to know more about where my family came from and what really is used to make the food I love so much. As a kid I did not pay any mind to it, because the food was good and as a kid you don’t care what’s in the food unless it’s bad. Now since I am older, more curious and have the internet I could do some researcher. The first thing I looked up was the top dishes that were made in El Salvador. I found an article and the first dish was pupusas then after that was tamales de elote.

I kept on researching and found dished and drinks that my abuelita would make or buy and I never knew the real Salvadorian name for it. Kolachampan is a type of soft drink we get from fiesta sometimes, but I never knew it was a Salvadorian drink. Tipicosalvadoreno is what my abuelita makes also most every Saturday morning and that is eggs, cheese, refried bean, fried plantains and tortillas. I was never told that it was called Tipicosalvadoreno. I was only told it was called huevos, frijoles, platanos and tortillas. Another dish that is made, but only for special event were panes salvadorano. They had chicken, eggs, radish, potatoes, onions and anything else you want to put in it.   I kept on reading the article and found that coffee is a big thing in El Salvador and it made sense to me because my abuelita, my father and my aunt all drink coffee every day. My abuelita and my father drink coffee only in the mornings while my aunt drinks it three or four times a day.

I found another article that talked about how fruits and vegetables are also a part of the Salvadorian culture. I asked my dad about the fruits and vegetables in El Salvador.  He said “Over in El Salvador, since we lived outside the city a lot of people grow their own fruits and vegetables to sell. They would either sell in la Marketa or go to other towns to sell their products. Another thing people would do with the fruit is make jugos out of them and sell them on the streets.” “I remember when I was a child and I went to the Marketa almost every weekend to see what new fruits and vegetables the farmers were growing.” “Where fruits and vegetables the only thing people grow?” I asked. “No, people also have farm animals that they grow and took care of. My Abuelita had her own farm with cows, chickens, goats and pigs. She would breed the animals to sell or trade with anyone that had something she wanted.” “Did abuelita have her own farm in El Salvador?” “She did, but it was some pigs and chickens that she had,” my father replied.

After asking both my abuelita and my father about El Salvador I wanted to see my aunt. I wanted to ask her about Salvadoran food because she cooks all the time, more than my abuelita. When my aunt cooks the cooking is more Americanized, she likes to make Salvadorian dished and add some spices here and there to do something different. When I saw my aunt I asked her why does she put different ingredients into the Salvadorian dish? She replied with “It’s good to stay with your culture, but since I love to cook I love to try new things that I learned with old things that I know. I grow up with Salvadoran food, but once I came to the United States I learned that there are many different types of spices, condiments and dishes that can be prepared.”

I never thought that learning more about your community would be so much interesting. After learning about the Salvadorian food names, I came across to the health part of El Salvador. It talked about how there are doctors and hospitals, but it also said that many Salvadorians know about house remedies that are tradition. This amazed me and I went back to my abuelita and asked her about the health style in El Salvador. She first explained that back in her day people would walk, take the bus or ride a bike everywhere. Many people were not able to afford a vehicle back then, so they got a good work out. Also, many people were in the low income class, so they had to make food at home every day instead of going out to eat because it was cheaper like that. Since many people had farms and grew fruits and vegetables, everything was organic and nothing was really manufactured. Also with people having their own cattle milk, eggs and meat did not go through a factory to be product. All the items that are bought are all health and don’t have any interesting ingredients added in them.

Once my abuelita got through with explaining where the food comes from and how organic it is, I asked about the traditional remedies they have in El Salvador. She explained that since her town was outside the city there were not that many doctors, and if you wanted to see a doctor you had to waste money to go to the city and see the doctor. So, what many people did they would go to a person that sell natural herds or had knowledge of any remedies that could help cure an illness.  She explained that in her part of town she had sobadors that would massage you if any part of your body was hurting. I remember when I was small that I would be ear infection frequently and my abuelita would go to her garden and get some type of herb. She would rap the herb in a cotton ball and I would have to put it in my ear for the whole day. The next day I would wake up and my ear would be all better. I asked my abuelita what did she give me and she said that it was Buena hierba, which is translated to good grass.

There was also a story that my dad told me when he was a kid in El Salvador he saw a baby born for the first time. A week later the baby got really sick and she had fevers that wouldn’t go down that all. He said his abuelita came and brought a friend that new about traditional remedies. The lady went to the baby and cracked an egg on the baby and rubbed the egg all over the baby. The lady then got another egg and cracked it underneath the baby’s bed and said that the egg under the baby’s bed would bring the illness out and the egg would be cocked. The very next day the baby was better and getting better and the egg underneath the bed was cock. When my dad told me this I really did not believe him, but it’s something that is a part of my community.

After doing all this research and interviewing my abuelita, dad, and aunt I learned more about the community that I am from. Everything that my family learned from El Salvador, they brought here to show my generation about our community. My family’s food and health style were not thrown away when my family come to the United States. Even if I have never been to El Salvador I love my culture because that where my family come from, it’s what they taught me and it had great food that I grow up with.

My Grandmother, Father, and Aunt and the Food They Brought from El Salvador by Fredy Martinez

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