My grandmother, known fondly as “Tata,” inspired me to start cooking. It was because of her that I started the Cocina Criolla project—where I’m cooking my way through the classic Puerto Rican cookbook by the same name. When I began the project, I was immediately transported back to Puerto Rico, standing in my grandmother’s kitchen while she and my mom cooked dinner for our family, smelling sofrito frying in olive oil, and listening to them laugh and sing along to salsa music.
Last summer I traveled to Provo, Utah with my mom to visit Tata. She’s in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s, and in addition to not being able to live alone she also isn’t able to cook anymore. But she still loves to eat, especially Puerto Rican food. On that trip, the three of us to cooked one of her favorite dishes— chicharrónes de pollo, or crispy fried chicken nuggets. The chicken is marinated overnight, then lightly battered and deep fried so that it comes out crunchy like real chicharrón (fried pork skins).
We documented the experience on video, which is likely one of the last times the three of us will ever get to cook together.