BERNADETTE MOLINA celebrates family matriarchs with her HERENCIA Cookbook
By: M. Guillermina Bagilet
Photos by: Ezekiel Barrera and Eric Gómez.
Bernadette Molina, celebrates the matriarchs in her family with her Herencia Cookbok. Inspired by the Mexican and Salvadoran cultures in which she was raised, resolved in a book, to capture all the recipes that she had been learned over the years, but from a modern and healthy perspective. Thus was born the Herencia Cookbook, a book dedicated to the family matriarchs that raised her.
Bernadette Molina (30), is a daughter, sister, niece, cousin, granddaughter, wife and soon to be a mother. Having worked in the beauty industry as an aesthetician for 10 years, Bernadette decided to expand her career into the culinary world.
I had the good fortune recently to have a conversation with Bernadette about the origins of the how Herencia Cookbook.
A HOME OF MIXED CULTURES
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in South East Los Angeles. My father is from Mexico and my mother is from El Salvador. They met at the English school. They got married and had five children. I am the youngest of my four brothers and sisters.
I grew up in a home of mixed cultures, especially in food. Sitting at the family table all together for dinner was a great and rare dining experience: chicken stew with rice and salad, chiles rellenos, pupusas, enchiladas. My mother always cooked exquisitely.
The most inspiring thing is that my mother had her own business to run – a Mexican bakery. My dear mother came home every day from working in her business to cooking for her family. On top of that, she always managed to have a good lipstick applied to her lips as well as the scent of an Estée Lauder perfume.
From my mother I learned that a woman can do anything: be elegant and neat, live in a big (and clean) house, enjoy a happy marriage and family and manage a career.
Have you always liked to cook? How did you learn?
When I was little, I always followed my mother in the kitchen wanting to know what she was doing, just like with my Nana, who often took care of me. When they were cooking, I would always walk behind them, looking around. You could say that I was very nosy in the kitchens of the matriarchs in my life.
During my adolescence I lost interest in cooking, until the time I moved from my parents’ house into my own little house: it was there that I rediscovered my fascination with cooking.
Like every newcomer who has just moved out of her mother’s house, I called my mother constantly for advice and recipes. My mother-in-law also taught me and little by little I learned the recipes from my past.
Did you have a favorite dish when you were little?
My favorites are Nana’s bean burritos and my mom’s golden tacos.
What inspired you to write Herencia Cookbook?
I love my SalviMex identity and the matriarchs who fed me. The goal of this book is to celebrate my culture and elevate our matriarchs: grandmothers, mothers, aunts and all those who raised and fed us.
My wish is that when you read the book you can identify with the anecdotes and remember the women that have influenced your life as well.
RECIPES FOR MODERN LATINAS
With so many cookbooks on the market, how do you think your book is different from the others?
My book was written by me, a modern Latina for modern Latinas. First of all, this book honors our culture and its food and each recipe has an anecdote in which I commemorate the person who taught me how to prepare it and who inspired me to write it down.
On the other hand, in the book you will find modern tips that are very useful when cooking. Many of us work and come home too tired to spend hours making dinner. My goal was to offer tips to make this process more enjoyable instead of feeling like a chore.
CLASSIC, HEALTHY RECIPES
Finally, Herencia Cookbook also includes tips for making our classic Latin American recipes more enjoyable and healthy. For example, eating enchiladas with salad instead of rice and beans or having smoothies for breakfast instead of eating fried tortillas on an empty stomach.
I am not a nutritionist, but after several years of eating badly and feeling tired and without energy I discovered that it was not necessary to set aside the dishes of my culture, but that it was necessary to find a balance.
Not only do I feel better, but I have managed to eat in a more varied way. This has worked in my life, and so I am happy to be able to share it with others in my book.
How did you manage to create each recipe?
Herencia Cookbook has 65 recipes, most of them inspired by my mother. Among the others, there are recipes that my mother-in-law taught me, recipes that my grandmother used to make for me and there is even a recipe, the Mexican tamales, which was my great-grandmother’s. There are also recipes that I developed myself, inspired by my experience of being SalviMex in Los Angeles.
THE PROCESS IN CREATING THE BOOK
Can you tell us about the process in creating the book?
It took me a year to write Herencia Cookbook. At first, I wrote on weekends or after work. Sometimes I would take notes on the steps and amounts while cooking dinner. Then I started writing the anecdotes that today are the prelude to each recipe.
Then I became pregnant (which was a pleasant surprise) and the quarantine began. On top of that, I was sent to bed (the baby and I are fine now!). At that moment I realized that there is no time like the present and I started to work on the book with great intensity.
What had been a slow and difficult process suddenly began to flow. Since we were all in quarantine, I found time and help to create. I made video calls with my mom and my mother-in-law to discuss and consult them about the recipes for the book.
Motivation: My Pregnancy
“My pregnancy was a great motivation and I took my due date as the final date to finish the Herencia Cookbook, so there I was, extremely pregnant and cooking 10 recipes a day for the photo shoot. Sometimes my mother-in-law came to help me and on the last day my mom helped me. I couldn’t have done it without them. They understood my idea and believed in me, they suggested ideas and advice not only for the recipes but for the photos as well. They did everything they could to support me as an entrepreneur and especially during my pregnancy.”
What were the biggest obstacles you faced during the project?
The biggest obstacle was my paralyzing fear. A cookbook based on personal heritage was an idea and a longing within my heart for a long time, but I was afraid. Who am I to write about this?
Then I remembered my mom and how she ran her business and bakery without having studied business management or baking: she learned by doing.
Like most immigrants, my mother is resourceful, skilled, determined and hardworking. If she could do it, so could I. She inspired me enough to put my fears aside – I now consider myself the second generation of food entrepreneurs in the family!
BEAUTY AND SENSE OF HUMOR
Do you have any funny stories about your experience in this project?
Since I come from the beauty industry, I had planned to have a beauty team for the book shoot. I have many colleagues who are super talented with facials, hair and makeup and who could have pampered me to look and feel great during the shoot. Because of the pandemic, I decided not to opt for these services and therefore had to do my own make-up.
So, there I was again, super pregnant and doing my makeup and hair for two hours early in the morning. Then, spending eight hours cooking recipes to maximize the time during the photo shoot. There were days when I made almost a dozen dishes, so I obviously ended up exhausted; however, I always kept my smile and sense of humor: I joked that at least I would have a natural and authentic look for the book.
What is your favorite recipe?
Golden tacos, without a doubt! It’s my comfort dish, (with corn tortillas passed quickly through a skillet – not deep fried). I’m very excited for everyone to try it.
HONORING MY FAMILY ROOTS
To whom would you like to dedicate the book?
Well, I would like to dedicate this book to my son, which has been a great motive. I wanted him to be born into a world where he could see a positive Latino representation to which his mother could contribute. I think my book is a small and humble creation, but I did it with the intention of honoring my family roots.
I also dedicate it to my husband, who supported this idea from the beginning when it was just an idea. To my father, who taught me to be proud of my Mexican roots. To my mother, who inspired me by example.
To my mother-in-law, who helped me with the recipes for the photographs when I was already 6 months pregnant. Finally, I also dedicate it to my grandmother and great-grandmother, who I know still take care of me.
Where can it be purchased?
This book can be purchased on my website, herenciacookbook.com and through Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Bernadette-Molina/e/B08JD3SLZM
Do you have any other projects after Herencia Cookbook?
I have several ideas in mind after Herencia Cookbook, but for the moment I want to focus on being a mom. As I answer these questions, I am two weeks away from my due date. I want to enjoy this time with my family. You could say that my next project is to navigate the wonderful world of motherhood.
WOMEN SUPPORTING WOMEN
Finally, is there anything you want to say to the women who are reading this interview?
If you are a woman with a dream of launching your own business, do it. There’s nothing you can’t do. When I look back, I see all the time I lost from fear and doubts. So I feel gratitude for breaking down that wall to go after my dream and I hope you can be inspired by my experience.
I did not allow my fear to override my goals or allow the pandemic to be a constraint; in fact, I used this time in quarantine to move forward more quickly. Nor did my pregnancy stop me from moving forward; on the contrary, I made it my motivation.
Lean on the women around you. I leaned on my mom and my mother-in-law to undertake this project. The memories of my Nanas also pushed me forward. My friends advised me and listened to me. Women should support each other. Believe in yourself, go for your dreams and call your women friends and relatives when you need motivation. You can do it all. LRM
Follow Bernadette in Instagram @herencia_cookbook
and her website: http://herenciacookbook.com/