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(article, Lynne Christy Anderson)
There is nothing quiet about Nezi’s kitchen.
h1. About the book, author, and photographer
Breaking Bread: Recipes and Stories from Immigrant Kitchens is a collection of interviews, recipes, and photographs exploring the symbolic role of food in the lives of 25 immigrant cooks and their families.
Lynne Christy Anderson has cooked professionally in restaurants and currently teaches English as a Second Language at Boston College and Bunker Hill Community College in Boston.
Robin Radin is an award-winning photographer who has exhibited her photographs nationally.
Reprinted with permission from the University of California Press (2010).
In the midst of four chattering parakeets in a cage by the window and the whimpering of Kiki the dog begging for scraps, Nezi’s nine-year-old grandson, RJ, breakdances past the stove. His older sister, Maura, calls out over the onions frying and the coffee brewing that she’ll answer the phone. When Layla, Nezi’s daughter, opens the fridge to show us some of the ingredients they use in their cooking, RJ warns, “Whatever you do, don’t eat that blood sausage. You’ll end up in the hospital!”
His eyes are smiling as he awaits our reaction before he runs into another room. It’s a warm, friendly place, and Nezi and Layla offer food to us throughout the morning while they prepare katxupa, the classic Cape Verdean stew that needs to simmer for hours before it's ready to be eaten.
“When I was young, I didn’t pay much attention to cooking," says Nezi. "I was very outgoing, wanted to be independent, and was more interested in politics.
"It wasn’t until I came to America that I had a desire to learn. And that was because I had to. I think I surprised my friends when they found out I was doing all this cooking. They’d say, ‘Who made this food? Wow, finally you learned to cook!’
"We all cook together, especially on Sundays, and that’s when we make the katxupa. We can put it on the stove and then do the cleaning and errands because it takes a long time to cook. My grandkids don’t like all the Cape Verdean dishes but they do love this, especially the katxupa rafugadu — or katxupa gizode; that’s what they call it on another island, but it’s the same thing — when you take the leftover katxupa from the night before and cook it in butter or oil so that it gets thick and really dry. You serve it with linguiça and fried eggs. It’s delicious. They love to do this with me. We put on the aprons and they help on Sunday mornings. But when I was growing up, this was something I ate every single day. And you know, I didn’t get sick of it!
[%image feature-image float=left width=400 caption="Nezi and her family."] "I think I learned things from my mother when I was a kid that, at the time, I didn’t even realize I was absorbing, like this desire to have certain foods. It’s the same with my garden. My mother had the most beautiful garden on my island, Fogo. When I was young, I didn’t think much about the garden, I just enjoyed it. Now, I am gardening. I read everything I can and talk to people. When I garden, I feel as though I am celebrating my parents’ lives. You know when you are young and your parents tell you something, it’s like you are not really listening. But everything stays! It’s like a continuum. The food, too. Because now I’m cooking what my mother cooked, like the katxupa."