By Porter Anderson / @Porter_Anderson
Sharing Recipes and Life
Recetas de mi vida — a lovely title that means “Recipes of My Life” — is more than a book, Anisa Onofre tells me. And it’s just the kind of collaborative effort with community creative talent that San Antonio’s Bexar County BiblioTech, a digital library, is known for nourishing.
Onofre is Publications Director for the 23-year-old Gemini Ink, a program which sees its mission as serving both writers and readers.
“Not just a cookbook,” Onofre says, Recetas de mi vida is “a collection of stories and recipes.”
She goes on:
The name comes from the writing workshop from which the stories and recipes were taken. The workshop was one of three from the Tinta Digital project, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. Tinta Digital was a “year-long festival of literary arts education and outreach in San Antonio’s Southside,” and a collaboration between Gemini Ink and BiblioTech Digital Library.
The goal of the Recetas de mi vida workshop was that seniors share recipes and memories that would be featured in an ebook and shared via the Bibliotech Digital Library.
And this is the sort of project that SELF-e logically supports, bringing libraries and their writers and readers in digital contact.
Bexar County’s BiblioTech already has drawn attention for its all-digital configuration and its wide-ranging efforts in community outreach. As the library’s Laura Cole told me for an earlier story at Thought Catalog, “For us, finding SELF-e was a great fit. We looked a long time for how we were going to make this happen. But SELF-e was a package that we could just accept.”
In this case, Gemini Ink’s Writers in Communities (WIC) program has a chance to shine.
“We work with people who don’t usually consider themselves writers,” Onofre says, “so often we end up with voices and stories that one might not normally find in mainstream literature.
“We also place published experienced writers in these workshops.” Recetas was led by Bárbara Renaud González, Latina journalist and author of Golondrina, why did you leave me? Bárbara’s very good at working with the seniors in our community. She has a way of unearthing the most interesting stories from students.
A Taste of the Recetas
Onofre kindly gives us a couple of samples of what sort of work is found in the Recetas project.
“Some good examples,” she says, “are those by Edward Guadalupe Acuña Lucio Cody, Jr., Eddie Sánchez, and Edna Leal Hinojosa. Their stories are very South Texas; often they code-switch, moving seamlessly between Spanish and English in their narratives. They touch on elements of South Texas culture that are everyday to this area, but to an outsider might seem exotic or even bizarre.
“‘Barbacoa and Big Red,’ by Cody, for instance, is about this one memory of him being a kid and expecting barbacoa (shredded beef) one morning, a traditional Sunday breakfast in San Antonio. Instead, what he unveils is the head of a cow (which is where barbacoa comes from).”
The head was ugly, no horns, no skin, huge tongue, and the saddest eyes. It even had a few long hairs sticking out of its chin and ears. How could this be Barbacoa? Abuelo was playing a trick on us.
“Or Hinojosa,” Onofre says, “in ‘Las Pita Blossoms de Kingsville, Texas,’ who writes about her mother’s approach to cutting down the pita blossoms every Spring.”
From the text:
It was a conquest, especially when you saw the tiny woman swinging that machete high enough and at an angle so as not to hurt the quiote, the hard green stem holding up the flowers. ‘No quiebres el quiote!‘… Remember, she was the leader, the slayer, the mera mera, conquerer of the towering cactus-tree…
And how do the ingredients of such lively writing come together?
Have a look at a poster (right) for the Recetas de mi vida workshops last year. The whole project is succinctly captured in its text:
Document your recipes and the memories they spark with local author Bárbara Renaud González. The compiled recipes and stories will be published in an ebook (readable on computers and other electronic devices) and shared with the Southside community and beyond through the BiblioTech Web site.
‘Sound like us’
Onofre says that a workshop called Imagen de mi barrio concluded the Tinta Digital project this summer, with a session facilitated by Texas Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla.
“We also offered a free online writing workshop to teens,” Onofre tells us, “Yo Soy/I Am, facilitated by local poets Amanda Flores and Edward Vidaurre. From the Tinta Digital project comes three ebooks, to be available via BiblioTech—two are currently being produced.”
And, of course, what’s great is to see the contribution this kind of work makes to the reach and range of a community-committed library force like BiblioTech. As Onofre puts it:
The ebooks serve as documentation of a very specific time and place—the Southside of San Antonio. That they are available to Bexar County is significant because to know our history is so important. And these are histories that are not revised, that are honest, that sound like us.