Up until I was 13, the holiday season centered on just two traditions for me and my mother: a visit to Lincoln Center for New York City Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker, and Christmas dinner at my grandmother’s apartment. My grandmother, who was Puerto Rican, would prepare authentic Latin-American dishes like pernil, roasted pork shoulder, and pasteles, which are similar to tamales but made of mashed plantains and stuffed with meat, spices, olives, raisins, and capers.
The following day, my father and I had our own tradition. We’d celebrate Kwanzaa with his side of the family: the Luffs, Barnetts, Agards, and Oestrichers. I’d strategically assemble my plates at his house according to the flavor profile of the meat. Savory turkey was paired with creamy potato salad, string beans, cranberry sauce, and a potato roll; honey-baked ham with syrupy sweet potatoes, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and corn bread — I, like writer Brittany Hutson, have always preferred the Southern-style, cake-like variety defined in “Good for the Soul” (page 49).
I admire people like Liana Aghajanian, who takes pride in the customs that set her apart (page 50). Some of my fondest memories are culled from my own multicultural holiday experience.
Since relocating to Detroit, my husband, Marcus, has helped me keep the traditions nearest to my heart alive. He’s subjected his family to testing my interpretations of some of my grandmother’s Puerto Rican dishes, and each year, treats me to tickets for a showing of The Nutcracker. This year, we’ll see the Hip Hop Nutcracker at Detroit’s Masonic Temple (more on that on page 34).
So, cheers to sweet memories and to making space for new traditions.