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Connecting Latinas All Over the World through Literature

Author Interview: Daisy Martinez

Daisy Martinez, AuthorInterview with Daisy Martinez, contributing author of Count On Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships.

All Count On Me author interviews were done by Oné Musel-Gilley of SocialZip.com as a volunteer. All of us at Las Comadres Para Las Americas are very grateful to her for this treasure trove of work. ¡Gracias!

 

How did you meet Nora? How did you get acquainted with Las Comadres?

I have friends who were Comadres and they kind of welcomed me into the fold after the publication of my first book, Daisy Cooks. My madrinas, as well as Comadres were Esmeralda Santiago and Johanna Castillo.

 

So, you have been to many Comadrazos, right?

Oh absolutely! It’s a really great phenomenon. I met someone for a business meeting the other day, and I was talking about the power really, when women get together – and that energy…it just moves mountains. I’ve only noticed that as a more mature woman. When I was a younger girl, I kind of shied away from the company of women because I was just afraid of – or just didn’t have the energy for – a lot of the stuff you [think of as] young girls is not fun. Or maybe I just fell into a bunch of mean girls. Anyway, it wasn’t something that I was interested in being a part of, and so I was a big tomboy. I played baseball and sports and stuff.

It wasn’t until after I was a mother in my twenties that I really started to look for the wisdom of older women; to steer me and guide me. And now, as a chef and a cook, I see that in culture all the time. I was telling them, for instance: In Mexico, they have the tamaladas where generations of women come together within the family to make tamales. The Puerto Rican version of that is when we make pasteles. It is literally multi-generational – there are aunts, there are uncles; it really becomes a social event. There is such power in that, there is such energy  – it’s really beautiful.

 

We’ve sent galleys to all the authors. Have you had a chance to read any of the stories in the new book “Count On Me”?

I have, but if you held a gun to my head right now I couldn’t tell you, but I will tell you this… I was only able to read them one at a time. I was so emotionally moved each time I finished a story. And some of them are funny, but they just filled me so much that I would only…it was like dessert – I only treated myself to one story at a time.

It really is a testament to Nora, and to Las Comadres – this organization that she’s built from the ground up and is now an international organization – to see the power that women have when they come together and how they literally CAN move mountains.

 

Do you think there is a distinction between saying “I have a friend” and “I have a comadre”?

Oh, my God! Absolutely, absolutely! A friend is someone you work with, you know? A comadre is someone that you can ring her doorbell at 3 o’clock in the morning, with your kids, and say “I have an emergency; I need you to step in.” A Comadre is someone who can take the place of your mother – that is basically what a Comadre is….

Traditionally, when you had a Comadre – when a woman christened your child, she was in fact saying “God forbid anything happens to you, I am responsible for your child.” It was a sacred vow, way back when. So it was really a woman who was saying to you “I’m your blood. I AM your blood. I am your sister, your mother; I am there for everything and anything that you need. I will be there to guide you; to let you lean on me. I’ll be there if you need to push – I’ll be there. That’s what a Comadre is.

 

Give me three reasons why a woman needs a comadre in her life.

For me personally, I would love to see a chapter of Las Comadres geared towards younger women. For instance – girls in junior high school or even (and I haven’t even spoken to Nora about this, but I think it’s a really good idea) – we can call them “ahijadas” (god daughters) and serve as mentors to young women. Because we are really in need for that in our community; young women need positive role models and mentors that will take them under their wing; teach them how to become responsible, productive young women. There’s a lack of that in our community when you see the media – bombarded by girls doing: Booty shots on the TV, all the nonsense that goes on in music videos and all of these reality shows…

I have a 17 year old daughter, and it makes me sick to see the stuff that’s on television saying to her that it’s okay to do this and to be this. I think that if we, as women who are professional and productive and successful and ethnic, I think it behooves us – it’s really our responsibility to reach out to younger women to give them their sense of self-worth and self-pride in who they are and where they came from so that they can get to where they need to go.

 

Your story really melds – the bond of women and food and cooking. What do you hope that readers will get out of your story?

Well, for me, food is not the only medium in which I practice my art. Food for me, culturally, has been a source of nurture, of comfort – there’s food for every occasion in one’s life. There’s food for celebration – when there’s a birth or a christening or a birthday or a holiday – there’s food for comfort. When there’s a funeral, when there’s a person that is sick – food is medicine. You know, chicken soup, whether it be for the soul or for the physical body.

So what my story was saying is that you can reach out to people through food. Especially women, when they get together in the preparation of food, it forms a very, very strong bond. It’s an opportunity for us to strengthen ourselves because we draw strength from each other in things like that. Whether we’re making tamales or hallacas in Ecuador, or pasteles in Puerto Rico, women get strength from those bonds that they form in those situations. How could that be a bad thing? Their soul is nurtured, their spirit is nurtured. Those friendships, I believe, make me a stronger person and a better person. It’s just a win-win all around.

I’ve heard it said, “laughter is the best medicine.” One of my earliest memories is of hearing my aunts (my mother comes from a very large family), and I remember my aunts in the kitchen coming to visit and all of the women in the kitchen…and there being such a racket – laughing and talking – memories like that make me feel safe as a child. It made me feel happy because of all the laughter that I heard. It made me feel like, “I can’t wait to grow up and be able to tell my own stories.” I believe it’s a really powerful thing.

 

What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t inspiring the world with your cooking?

I would be very fulfilled and happy being a mother. I have four beautiful children. My youngest child, she’s my only girl, is 17 and I call tell you without reservation that it has been the most difficult and yet the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my life. I feel that what I’m doing now, acting as a mentor and role-model is an extension of my mothering. Of trying to inspire because really, that’s what a mother does.

 

What do people NOT know about you?

I’m a science-fiction fantasy geek. Absolutely, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Bradbury, Tolkien… I’m all over that. I read a lot of cookbooks, too. But I like so many…Sandra Cisneros – there are too many to mention.

 

In general, where do you draw your sources of inspiration from?

Again, I’m going to draw on the love of my children. I hope to get up every day and try to be a better person because I feel beholden to them. I would hope that one day, when I am not here, they will say “my mother was great”; that I would leave them with that.

In the kitchen, I get inspiration from travel; from my mother and grandmother – they were both incredible cooks. I use that same passion and same fire that they had when they cooked for their families, they weren’t just for their bellies, but their souls.

My mother could stretch a dollar like Houdini. There was always delicious food on the table, and plenty of it.

I draw on the struggle my grandparents had when they came to this country and had to make do with next to nothing. I also draw on my father being a pioneer for Latinos in the fire department when he was very much a minority in the 1960’s.

I draw on the grace of God, and you hold your child to your breast and you feel God. What’s going to come of that? Something juicy and sweet and comforting and delicious… That’s just me.

 

Do you make it a point to create those kinds of experiences for your kids so that they can draw on that later?

Absolutely! My goal was to create memories for them. I made a big thing of any little thing. There was no accomplishment too small, no achievement too little. Everything was reason to celebrate. I started to travel with them and they have a love of travel.

 

Have any of your children expressed an interest in professionally cooking?

All of my children cook. My son is in the industry, but in the front of the house, not the back of the house. He works for a popular restaurant. He’s a manager, and my daughter just got her first job in the industry as a waitress. They work in the front of the house, but they all cook.

 

What is on your bucket list? What do you want to do? What haven’t you done already that you want to make sure you do before you pass from this great big earth?

I want to go to Brazil. I am SO dying to go to Brazil. I want to go to Cuba and to Europe – I want to travel, staying more extensively. I want to study the regional cooking… I just recently became a sommelier (wine studies), so I’d like to study wine in Spain and Portugal.

 

Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?

I do. It is from Tolkien. I believe the quote is: “Not all who wander are lost.” It means that we have to find our own way. It may not go straight from point A to B, but at the end of the day it’s all about the journey. If you make twenty detours along the way, those are the detours YOU have to make, you the individual that you came here to be.

 

This is the last question and it’s more of a fill in the blank. “I am proud to be a Latina (o) because… (fill in the blank)”

Because we are spicy and sassy like nobody else. Take that to the bank, sister!

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