Friends and colleagues Elena Foulis and Yolanda Zepeda find joy in sharing traditional Latin American recipes with others. In this conversation for StoryCorps COLUMBUS, they talk about their favorite foods, and how they’ve introduced their spouses to different dishes, including lesser known delicacies like "menudo," a Mexican tripe soup.
When Foulis was first on her own, and away from her family, she didn't do much cooking and just ate what was available. Eventually, Foulis realized how much she missed home cooking.
"You never know how much your food is important to you until you're away from it," Foulis said.
When she got married, Foulis started cooking and over time began incorporating some of the flavors that she grew up enjoying. She's also started her own custom of a "Latino Thanksgiving," where she creates a meal with dishes from Mexico and other Latin American cultures.
"So I do my Salvadoran turkey. I make arepas, guacamole, Mexican rice," Foulis said.
Foulis' husband is not from a Latino background and Zepeda wanted to know if Foulis has carried any of his food traditions into her cooking.
"No," Foulis said quickly. "He's incorporated a lot of my tradition."
According to Foulis, her husband is a "great eater" who is willing to try new foods, but one thing he won't eat is tripe, which is cow's stomach.
Turns out that Zepeda has her own family tradition that involves tripe. Whenever someone new meets her family for the first time, they are given a bowl of "menudo," a soup made with tripe, broth and red chili peppers.
When Zepeda's family first met her husband, they put him to the test.
"So they put a bowl menudo in front of him and watched," Zepeda said. "He knew what they were doing and he ate it. And then he asked for a second bowl."
That day he earned a nickname: "The Menudo Kid."
"You know, that's a great compliment for Latino families. If the non-family member comes and eats everything that's put in front of them," Foulis said.
"That's right," Zepeda said.
Elena Foulis and Yolanda Zepeda were recorded at the StoryCorps mobile booth when it visited Columbus this summer. Elena is a professor at Ohio State University, recording oral histories of Latinos in Ohio. Yolanda is an Assistant Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion at Ohio State University. Both work to expand awareness of the Latino experience at Ohio State and in the greater community.