One of the most unexpected, but beautiful parts about starting Abuela’s Counter has been the outpouring of messages and comments from our community. Obviously, we love the comments that are complementary and supportive. We are two women reaching our 40’s, we love compliments. However the comments we are talking about now, are from those in our community who relate to what we are doing.
This community was started in the hopes of finding others out there, who were also searching for a way to connect back to their roots. For those who either had strong amazing Abuelas or mothers or anyone who had a profound impact. For those who are looking to find their way in the kitchen in hopes of finding ways to connect back to their past while also nourishing their present.
One of the most surprising things about losing someone you love, are the things that now trigger you, and bring memories of them. It can be a picture, or a piece of clothing. Then there are things like recipes. There’s something about a recipe or eating a specific dish that can take you back to a time and place where they were here. It can be painful, but it also can nourish you.
We don’t mean nourish in the obvious way. It’s hard to explain, but these family recipes have a way of connecting you to something bigger than yourself. Almost like each bite is consoling you from the inside out. It can almost feel healing. The comfort of eating that meal just transcends.
A few weeks back, Christina Travieso Brown, slid into our DMs asking us for a recipe favor. Her family had unfortunately lost their Ita about a year ago. Christina was looking for a recipe. While they had the majority of her recipes, they did not have one in particular. They were looking for a Potaje de Chicharos Recipe (Split Pea Soup).
“My Abuelita passed away a year ago… this is the only recipe of hers that I don’t have. Even typing that brings me to tears…”
This immediately brings us to tears. We agree right away, and Christina says, “I blast Celia Cruz, put on my Violeta’s and get to cooking. I feel like she is with me most on those days.” We knew exactly what she meant. We fully believe it, each time we fire up the cazuela, she will appear. Ready to smack you if you forget the bay leaf.
We asked Christina to share with us a few things about her Abuela Ita, and you could feel the love permeate through our messages. The love of an Abuela cannot be constrained by Instagram.
Christina told us, “Her smile gave her whole personality away”. Rosa Ita Toledo, passed away on Valentine’s Day 2022 at 80 years old. She was born in Cuba and was forced to flee and come to the US with her three children. A story that most of us in Miami are all too familiar with.
Here are a few more things about Christina and Ita
1- What was your favorite recipe she made?
Ita made the most amazing flan. Her ability to create the most delicious caramel top and silky smooth custard is what set hers apart from the rest.
2- Tell us about one of your favorite memories with Ita.
Having her with me the entire weekend of my wedding. I moved to South Carolina from South Florida and got married in 2021. Ita was pushing 79 and we weren’t sure if she would make the trip. She would constantly say “No te preocupes. Voy a estar alli”, in her sweet and calming voice. She came. We got our nails done together and she was by my side the entire weekend. She was always the calm in our family, and definitely was to me on that day. It was her last trip before she passed.
3- Can you share with us one of the lessons you learned from Ita?
Nothing that life throws at you is harder than escaping communism. We work hard ans have as much fun and laughter as possible. Being negative, arguing and drama are a waste of time. Plus it causes wrinkles and gray hair. She would always say “Las canas te van a salir si sigue”
4- What is something you take from Ita that you hope to pass down to your family?
I’m passing on to my family her insane work ethic, ability to laugh at anything and to never sweat the small stuff.
Ita really does sounds amazing.
We were beyond honored to bring our Sopa de Chicharros Recipe to our blog in honor of Ita, and all the other Abuelas and others who have enriched our lives.