top of page

The Empty Plate

(by Judy Bolton-Fasman)

I cook the way I speak Spanish, which I describe as “kitchen Spanish.” My accent is intact, but my fluency comes and goes. It’s the same way with my culinary abilities—I know the basics but not much more.

I learned my Spanish from the women in my mother’s Cuban family, whom I watched peel and fry and roast their way to an improvised repertoire of Cuban-infused Sephardic Jewish food. I remember the picadillo my Abuela—my grandmother—made. She sautéed ground beef in tomato sauce, onions, and garlic. The dish was then studded with raisins—small bursts of sweetness swimming in an oily broth—a gift from one culture to another.

(sister, Mom, brother, me)