Your Mom’s Food with Soledad O’Brien

Baby Soledad with her Mom
On The Sporkful podcast mini-series "Your Mom’s Food" the third installment featured Soledad O’Brien (listen to "Soledad O'Brien Cooks Rice, Not Beans").

Soledad's Afro-Cuban mom and Irish-Australian dad got married when interracial marriage was still illegal in parts of the US. Their different cultures didn't really come together at the dinner table.

Her mom offered them her Cuban food heritage, but other than an occasional potato for her father there was nothing from the Irish-Australian. That's not surprising when mom rules the kitchen.

Like many kids, Soledad grew up thinking everyone always had rice and beans at meals. Bringing churros to school on special occasions didn't seem all that unusual.

"I don't think when I was growing up that I really understood how cut off my mom was," Soledad says. Her mother, Estela Lucrecia Marquetti y Mendieta, left Havana in 1947. Her father, Edward Ephram O’Brien, was raised in Toowoomba, Australia.

A young Soledad
Soledad was born in 1966 and there was no chance that her family could go visit relatives in Cuba due to travel bans.

"We were a black/Latino family in a 99 percent white community. There was no Cuban cuisine. All you have left of your childhood is a handful of recipes."

Soledad's mom made Cuban food a big part of their childhood on Long Island, NY as a way to stay connected to Cuba.

Soledad was not much interested in cooking as a kid and still finds little time or interest  in it today, but she regrets that she never learned to cook her mom's black beans. Today her mom has dementia. "My mom made it so well for so long," Soledad says, "It just never occurred to me that there'd be a day that she wasn't going to make them."

In the podcast, Soledad talks about how she keeps her own children in touch with her mom's Cuban culture, despite never learning to cook her mom's cuisine.
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