How Immersion Into My Own Food Culture Changed Me as an Adoptee
I grew up surrounded by the cuisine of my adoptive family
When I found out I was adopted from Colombia at 19 years old, Italian food was one of the first things I abandoned. I had grown up my entire life surrounded by the smells, tastes, and even restaurants full of Italian food because my adoptive family was from Italy. I was taught to be the perfect little Italian girl who loved pizza and pasta.
And as for Colombian food?
Well, not one bite had been consumed since we had traveled to Colombia to pick up my brother from the orphanage when I was three. It was a trip I didn’t have a memory of except for the photographs my mother showed me long after I found my adoption paperwork tucked away in a dusty desk drawer. I hardly count those meals as culinary experiences.
The first time I had anything resembling a Hispanic meal was at my White friend’s house.
From age three, my mother had unconsciously made the decision to exclude Colombian foods from my upbringing. When I recently asked her why, she said “I don’t know, never thought of it. I always cooked Italian.”
I never had food that even resembled Colombian cuisine or food that tied into part of the Latin community in any aspect. I never had Taco Tuesdays and I certainly never had rice and beans. I’ve never even had imitations of other Latinx food, like Taco Bell. The first time I had anything resembling a Hispanic meal was at my White friend’s house. Her mother had made a big batch of what was supposedly enchiladas. The soupy texture and bland taste were enough to make me forget Latin cuisine for years.
I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything important.
Monday night dinners were our little tradition as a family. I’d set the table with the matching plates, bowls, and silverware as my mother whipped up food in the kitchen. After we scarfed down as much antipasto as we could manage, the pasta soon followed. It overflowed in a giant bowl that laid in the center of the table and was then replaced with a fresh salad and chicken marsala.