Colette arrived to the Bay Area in the early 2000s from her native Lima, Peru with two young children, a modest amount of luggage and a heart full of dreams, characteristic of those who leave everything behind in hopes of a better future. In the beginning the culture shock was overwhelming, but she quickly began to make friends who provided a great support network, the comfort of welcoming smiles and a place around the table.
Many of these new friends were of Mexican origin. They helped Colette and her children navigate the complexities of a new environment and exposed them to new traditions and tastes that she quickly learned to integrate into her Peruvian cuisine. Colette instinctively started creating recipes in which she fused ingredients, methods, and flavors from both cultures to create delicious dishes. At Colette’s table, it is normal to savor burritos and tacos with Peruvian ingredients such as ají panca or ají mirasol.
“The yellow chili is an Andean tradition and for me it is important that my children recognize these traditional flavors,” Colette says.
Being a single mother has brought unexpected challenges and many expenses. That is why for eight years Colette has visited the pantries offered by Second Harvest of Silicon Valley. She affirms that the food she has received from Second Harvest allows her to provide a nutritious and varied menu to her family. Each month, Colette receives boxes with fruits, vegetables, legumes, dairy, and grains. She carefully sorts the food and puts it in her fridge and freezer to make it last longer.
From what she receives in the Second Harvest box, Colette prepares the traditional aji de gallina, lomo saltado, and a favorite dish passed down from her grandmother, causa limeña. Colette also uses the recipes given to her at free grocery sites, and has attended cooking demonstrations that have inspired her to cook with what she receives from the food bank.
For Colette, Peruvian dishes are a direct connection to her childhood and her grandparents, who had a major influence on her upbringing and her love for traditional Peruvian cuisine. Colette left many things behind when she came to live in the United States. It has been a process of adaptation and growth, and she feels very proud of having managed to transmit to her grown children the flavors and traditions of a culture that, despite the distance, will always have a place in her kitchen and her heart.
“Seeing my daughter, who is vegan, cooking dishes inspired by Peruvian cuisine is priceless,” Colette says. “I am happy to know that at the end of the day my children and I gather around the table to talk about what happened during our day and to share time together while we enjoy delicious, healthy food.”
Visit our Nutrition Center to try one of Colette’s recipes today.