Global Feasts- New Traditions Add Fun to Holidays

feasts3Lynchburg is a melting pot of cultures, just like the rest of the world. Each day brings new people to work and live in our area, and with those people come new cultures—whether from across the state or across the world.

Cristie Pumagualle, a stylist at Anthony and Company in Downtown Lynchburg, grew up in Central Virginia with the standard holiday traditions: Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas carols and New Year’s Eve toasts. When she married her husband Luis, she adopted culture and traditions from Luis’ childhood in Quito, Ecuador. Luis’ business, El Mariachi Mexican Restaurant, ensures that Pumagualles remain immersed in South American food and culture. With three children and a large extended family, Cristie and Luis have lots of opportunities to celebrate the culture of both homelands.

For Thanksgiving, although the menu changes every year, the tradition of each guest counting their blessings continues annually. Because Thanksgiving is an American holiday, Cristie tries to make a few of her childhood favorites, like macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole and candied yams. “I think they’re starting to like it!” Cristie adds hopefully. In addition, Luis may make a few of his family favorites like stuffado—a meatloaf stuffed with hard boiled eggs and vegetables—and fried plantains. 

Christmas Day is an all-day affair, cooking fritada (a slow-cooked pork dish) with rice, salads, and tostados (dried corn fried with pork). For dessert, the Pumagualles enjoy emborrajados, which are fried banana cakes (Cristie generously shares this yummy recipe with HOME).

Cristie’s favorite adopted traditions are centered on the New Year. The family gathers on New Year’s Eve and everyone brings a favorite dish…and then the action begins. Most of the New Year’s traditions are centered on events, not food: everyone wears yellow underwear for prosperity, and holds all the cash from their wallets in their hands to assure they bring money into the new year. As the clock strikes midnight, each family member eats 12 grapes (six green and six purple) making a wish for each of the 12 months of the year. After making a toast, the party-goers pick up suitcases and hurry around the house, with hopes that they’ll travel in the new year. Finally, the group takes turns beating a burning scarecrow filled with leaves—signifying all the bad things that happened in the past year, and wishing that they won’t follow them into the New Year. After this busy evening, the family meets again the next day to share more food, to dance and to play cards.

feasts1Kathleen and Jose Luis Anguera moved to Lynchburg from Portugal in 2008. Parents of two college-aged boys and a girl in grade school, they have lived all over the world in the past two decades: Richmond, Madrid, London, Mexico, Peru, Portugal and now Lynchburg. While Kathleen was born and raised in the Midwest, Jose is from Madrid, and they have adopted a little from every culture they have come to know. The Angueras blend a variety of holiday traditions—celebrating Boxing Day (Great Britain) on December 26th, and the Three Kings tradition of leaving the children’s shoes by the door on January 5th to be filled with goodies (Spain).  

They celebrate with a U.N.-worthy variety of foods over the winter holidays; turkey stuffed with dried fruit and served with applesauce and preserves is a Spanish favorite.  Because Peru is in the southern hemisphere, Christmas is in the summer months, and traditional holiday foods are ceviche, sea bass in a salt crust, and causa, a stuffed potato dish—all favorites of the family.

“It’s hard to celebrate Thanksgiving out of the country—not only is it a work day, it’s impossible to get a turkey!” says Kathleen. Last year though, for the family’s first Thanksgiving stateside, Kathleen thought she’d roll out a traditional Thanksgiving spread. But because the guests were all international, and the food and customs were all foreign to them, it was difficult to get everyone to participate in the rituals and enjoy the food. 

Kathleen and Jose found themselves surrounding their family with a group of friends on holidays, hosting large open houses since their relatives were so far away. This exposed the children to an even wider variety of cultures—and brought them closer together.

“Every culture we’ve experienced celebrates holidays with two things in common: food and family—so it’s easy to blend traditions together,” says Kathleen. “It’s important to have family traditions that the children can carry on, no matter where they’re from.” Cristie agrees: “My family is a very close and fun-loving family—I enjoy all of our traditions during the holidays!” Sound familiar to you?

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Emborrajado (banana cakes)
Courtesy of Cristie Pumagualle

 1 egg
½ cup of milk
4 tablespoons of sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
4 drops of vanilla
2 bananas, sliced thin
Vegetable oil

Mix egg, milk and sugar, then add flour, baking soda and vanilla, keeping the consistency not too thick and not too thin. Stir in the sliced banana. 

Heat ¼ inch of oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. When pan is heated, add the mix using a big spoon, making sure there are an equal number of banana slices in each cake. Cook for a few minutes until lightly browned on one side, then flip and cook to lightly brown on the other side. Serve warm. 

Ceviche 
Adapted from “The New Cookbook”, Courtesy of Kathleen Anguera

2 pounds fresh fish filets or scallops 
(flounder, snapper, or sea bass; make sure it’s fresh and tell your fishmonger what you’ll be making!)

2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
Chopped chilies to taste 
(Peruvian chiles are not available here; use a combination of habenaro, jalapeño and poblano peppers, seeded and diced)
2 red onions, sliced thinly
One bunch cilantro, chopped
Pepper to taste

Wash the seafood, and cut into cubes. Add salt. After this point, do not touch the mixture with your hands or a metal spoon! Wooden spoons only!

In a glass bowl, combine lemon juice, garlic, peppers, onion and fish. Mix well with wooden spoon. Let sit in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes. Stir in cilantro, add pepper to taste and serve.

Salsa Huancaina (cheese sauce)
Adapted from “The New Cookbook”, Courtesy of Kathleen Anguera

Traditionally served with boiled sliced potatoes, Kathleen likes the sauce with grilled swordfish.

¼ cup vegetable oil
5 serrano peppers, seeded and sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
½ cup evaporated milk
2 cups feta cheese
4 soda crackers
Salt and pepper

Heat oil in a medium saucepan, and sauté peppers and onions. Cook until wilted. Cool slightly.  

In a blender, combine pepper and onion mixture with evaporated milk. Puree. Add cheese and crackers gradually until the sauce is thick. (If it gets too thick, thin with a little water.) Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature with potatoes and grilled swordfish.

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