Community Cookbook Celebrates Richness of Hispanic Heritage

The Rogers Public Library is accepting recipe submissions through Sept. 10.

plate of pupusas

Food is an important part of a culture and cuisine can vary widely from country to country. In Latin America, common dishes include arepas, empanadas and tacos. Tatiana Morales was born in El Salvador and loves pupusas, especially ones cooked by her mom.

“They’re my favorite food in the world,” she says. “I could eat them every day.”

Morales will share her mom’s recipe in a new bilingual cookbook, which is being created by the Rogers Public Library to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. For the project, Morales, a multicultural librarian, is asking participants to create a 5 to 10 minute bilingual video of them making their recipe. The videos, including one Morales filmed of her mom frying bean and cheese pupusas, will be posted on the library’s social media pages throughout the month.

No matter your cultural heritage, cooking is connected to traditions and the smell of those homemade meals can trigger fond memories. For example, the smell of tamales reminds Morales of Christmas in El Salvador. The smell of pupusas reminds her of waking up as a child on Sunday mornings with that aroma emanating from the kitchen. Cooking also reminds Morales of her grandmother who “was such a great cook” who died five years ago.  

“It’s for us, thinking about my grandma and just tradition, thinking about El Salvador,” Morales says. “Since I was born there, it’s like a connection.” 

Beyond reflecting on the past, cooking helps Morales establish new connections. Although she didn’t inherit the innate cooking skills of her mom and grandmother, Morales says her daughter’s interest in the kitchen has inspired her. 

“It’s almost like a bonding experience when I see her and my mom, so I’m like, I want to do that too,” Morales. “So now as an adult, I’m trying to learn more.”

The library is still accepting submissions for the community cookbook and so far, respondents with connections to countries like Ecuador and Honduras have submitted recipes for dishes like estofado de pollo, enchiladas and arroz con leche. 

Recipes will be included in a physical cookbook, so participants are asked to submit a list of ingredients and directions, as well as a photo and brief description about themselves or their organization. 

In addition to celebrating the richness of Spanish-speaking cultures in the region, the project can help establish meaningful connections and serve as an early literacy tool for families, Morales says.

A physical version of the cookbook will be available for free to patrons beginning Sept. 25 to coincide with the library’s virtual celebration. The event will be accessible on the Rogers Public Library’s Facebook page and will include a virtual art show highlighting the work of local students.

The deadline for recipe submissions is Sept. 10. For more information, contact Tatiana Morales at 479-270-2334 or [email protected]

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is Editor-in-Chief of Arkansas Soul, the host of the Affirmative Action podcast and a Northwest Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts in Arkansas for nearly 15 years.