Can you tell us what we have made here today?

Well it’s kind of a variation on "La Bandera Dominicana" which means "The Dominican Flag."

It consists of Rice, Bean and also Chicken usually but today we have it with scrambled eggs instead of chicken. The eggs have salt and vinegar added to them because that’s how I like them.

Alright well let's try it!

(We take bites of the food)

The eggs are good! They work well with the beans.

Yeah.

So you mentioned this was a dish called the Dominican Flag, essentially. I take it you lived there?

(nods)

I was born there and moved here in February in 2003 to Providence, RI.

Any specific reason for moving here?

Yeah; to be with my mom.

How did you feel leaving the Dominican Republic?

Sort of excited. I was moving to a new place and getting a chance to explore the world. Like, it was an optimistic view that I held at the time.

Yeah but I think we all have those sort of optimistic viewpoints of something new. It makes us feel better you know?

Yeah, still it was a very noble idea.

Providence, RI

It was a huge culture shock for sure. Being back in DR, I was always outside and exploring the land. It was always warm there and here everything seems to be the opposite. It’s very secluded and everything is very cold. No one seems to really interact with anyone else.

Interesting, can you elaborate further?

Well back in DR, I feel like you have a stake in your community and your home so everyone seems happy in their own but here everything feels so transitional.
Like it’s going to change at any time and then there’s mortgage payments and all these other things that make it hard to truly feel like you own something here.

For example, in DR there are two homes that I feel are truly ours. One that’s been passed down through generations and another one that my grandmother built entirely on her own.

Strong grandma you got there.

Yeah there’s no home like that here for me unfortunately.

Well at least you still have this dish here right?

Yeah, that’s true.

What about this dish is that reminds you of home?

So you think a lot about growing up and eating this dish?

Yeah there’s that and then growing up, being in college and cooking this dish for someone who I feel secure around because this dish is special to me and makes me feel comfortable. So cooking this dish with someone else who also makes me feel comfortable.

So this is like a welcome to a life type dish you make when you want to let people in?

Not exactly. Just a dish I can make really well. I normally just don’t cook for others.

Well, which of your homes do you identify with?

Well it’s DR mostly. Until I came to college, I didn’t really feel comfortable or at home here in the US. The issue is that college is a very transitional period. You come here dependent and you leave and become independent. So even though I’ve started to feel at home here, I know I’ll have to pull away soon because it’s all very ephemeral.

That leads in well into where you see your home being in the future.

I don’t know at the moment. I’m just really concerned with finding a job in my field.

You don’t have any other preferences of where you’d like to live or anything?

Oh yes. I would like to live somewhere warm. That’s my big preference. The only other preference is to do something art related.

Do you have any visions for how you want your home to be?

Hmm, thinking about that takes me back to my childhood. I grew up in a very rural area, but also in a very urban environment. So, the countryside home to me was fun even though I didn’t have many friends out there. The mountains were in my backyard so I could just go and explore as well as climb trees. In an ideal world, I would love to be somewhere like that again.

That sounds really nice.

(We eat in silence for a small bit)

Food is really intimate, even though we don’t think of it like that.

Tell me about the dynamic in your household.

Well it was pretty simple. You do as you’re told and if you don’t, you get disciplined. I know that sounds terrible to say here in the US but it’s pretty common in Dominican Republic. I don’t know, I feel like I’m a better person because of it now.

Yeah but like growing up, I grew up around women and no real male figures. I think that's really interesting to think about.

Mm, well seeing this dynamic play out now, do you want to change it in your household?

Well I’d like to be there for my son and as for the disciplining, I feel it works.

I mean, thinking back we lived in my grandmother’s household where it was her house so her rules. If you crossed them, you crossed them. Being as old as I am now, I don’t want to go back home because I know it won’t be my house so it won’t be my rules. Like I can no longer live with my mom, but I’m okay with my mom living with me if that makes sense.

The Dominican Republic

Yeah, that makes sense. Though parents living with children even though the children are older. Is that commonplace in DR? Just thinking about how here when you’re 18, it’s time to move out and become independent.

Yeah well it’s changing in DR because of places like the US which have influence over tiny third world countries like the Dominican Republic but for the time being it’s still very commonplace for families to settle into one household with the son taking over the household with his wife. This isn’t the case with a daughter though whose goal isn’t to take over the household but get out of it and into a better one. Again, that’s changing though.

Has living here in the states changed your perception of your home back in DR? Have you even been back is probably a good jumping off point.

I went back once in Winter 2005 and yeah it’s changed a lot. Especially coming back to see how things have changed instead of experiencing them as they happen. Like my grandmother had died and the house she had in the countryside has become very dilapidated. Also most of my immediate family has moved into the states and those that are left aren’t that close so it’s given less and less incentive to go back to DR.

I’m at a place right now where I don’t feel like I have a home there. I know I could have a place to stay but it wouldn’t be home.

Did making this meal today at least remind you of home?

Yeah.

You can answer as honestly as you want.

Yeah it did. You played the music and that really took me back to growing up in the Dominican Republic and the banter we had while making the food is banter I would have with people back home.

That’s very sweet of you to say. Thank you so much for your time and for being a part of A Heart’s Meal!

No problem, man. Good luck with this project, it was fun to be a part of.


This meal was made with Luis Gonzalez (RISD ID '15)
Thank you for viewing, please click on any of the other plates to view the interviews!