My Abuelita, Nelly

aerial illustration of a family gathering eating and sharing food.

By Aemilius Milo

“Bini’s Momo Party” Illustration by Jennifer Bloome

Stepping into my Abuelita Nelly’s home was always a special kind of aromatic experience. One I never realized I’d have to go without one day, or at least couldn’t fathom that day would come so soon. It’s been a few years now since she stopped cooking for our big family occasions, mostly because it’s a big job y ya’stá cansada, so the adult kids and grandkids have taken up the duties. But also because bit by bit, she started forgetting her recipes and began missing ingredients here and there.

Helping my Abuelita in the kitchen at 8 years old is one of my earliest memories of cooking; witnessing how raw ingredients became nourishing and delicious meals for 10 or more of us at a time. People often ask me how I gauge the amount of ingredients I need to cook large meals. Of course, cooking requires plenty of calculating and measurements, but – for me – a special part of preparing food, is harnessing my intuition and the knowledge  I learned from my Abuelita (as well as my father, and my ancestors too). I remember one of my main jobs, as her little kitchen helper, was taking the sweet green peas out of their pods; my tiny hands carefully picking them out one by one. As a kid, this wasn’t a task I was excited about but it’s remained a special memory I cherish now and certainly don’t take for granted. A fun fact my Abuelita recently shared, is that it wasn’t until she emigrated here from Peru in her early 20’s, that she taught herself how to cook—for survival. I have no doubt the ancestors were flowing through her as she created what came to be her menú. She made sopas, y caldos, y guisos, y tallarines, the best garlic rice ever, and my absolute favorite dish she would cook for me on my birthday: escabeche de pollo. I’ll also never forget her desserts, on the rare occasions she made them, mazamorra morada and budín, goodness in your mouth like nothing else. She would make so much more than just this shortlist.

I miss her cooking. When I eat or smell something that reminds me of her food, my eyes well up, and when I make something and hit those flavor notes she was so good at creating, I can’t help but feel like she’ll always be with me here, in every kitchen I step into. 

One dish she was especially good at was Papa a la Huancaína. Recently it hit me that I no longer follow her recipe, and I can’t even describe the sadness that came over me with this realization. I’ve had to develop my own take on it, either for meeting specific dietary requirements, or achieving a higher-yielding recipe, yet, hers will always be my starting point and foundation for flavor and taste. My abuelita’s Papa a la Huancaína was perfect and I now want to share it with the world, so it lives on forever.

(yields 6-8 appetizer-size servings)

equipment necessary
blender, stove top, medium/large boiling pot

sauce ingredients
1 cup of oil (vegetable, or another light tasting oil of your preference)
1 egg (raw)
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp of ají amariilo, paste or fresh/frozen
(Peruvian hot pepper, can be measured to taste/spice level)
Salt and Black Pepper, pinch of each or measured to taste
½ - 1 lime, squeezed fresh
1 tub/500g light ricotta cheese, fresh and water drained

complete dish and garnish ingredients
6-8 yukon gold potatoes, boiled, peeled, cooled and sliced
3-4 hard boiled eggs
*iceberg lettuce and Kalamata olives optional

In blender, pour in the cup of oil and cracked raw egg, blend to a mayonnaise consistency.
Next, in the same blender with the now whipped base, add the garlic, half of the cheese,
and the ají amarillo – blend to smooth/creamy consistency.
Squeeze half of the lime in the blender into sauce, add the remainder of cheese, with salt and black pepper-
blend again to the same smooth/creamy consistency.
If sauce requires more liquid to reach smooth and creamy, squeeze in remaining half of lime and/or add a small splash of either
milk/cream/evaporated milk/nut milks of your preference – continue to add as needed to reach that final consistency.
If sauce gets too thin, blend with small chunks of a boiled potato at a time. 

Once sauce is complete, line dish/plate/bowl with lettuce if desired,
place potatoes (boiled, peeled, cooled and sliced) and pour sauce over top. Garnish with half
a hardboiled egg, and 1-2 Kalamata olives, and enjoy my abuelita Nelly’s specialty – Papa a la Huancaína.  

Aemilius Milo is an accomplished performance artist, organizer, and social entrepreneur. Following a decade involved in Queer/Trans performance theatre spaces in tkaronto, in the fall of 2018 Milo officially launched Comiditas; a small food business/catering company specializing in Peruvian food creations, with a focus on community engagement. They hope to continue expanding Comiditas sustainably and mindfully, in a variety of ways and directions, remaining active in communities for many years to come. IG:@foodbycomiditas

“You Should Learn How to Cook!”

Pastel color aerial view illustration of light colour hands holding a bowl of soup with a spoon it it. On the counter are various ingredients, spices and herbs like garlic, tyme, lemon and lentils.

By Mehak Siddiqui

Illustration by Yaansoon

“You should learn how to cook”. 

I was just around twelve or thirteen when I first began hearing this. 

It started off as a playful suggestion from my mother and grandmother, like it could be an exciting summer vacation project. But when I didn’t really heed it, year after year, the voices began to multiply and grow increasingly incessant, impatient, pleading, and even shameful. 

By the time I was around fifteen or sixteen, I’d learned how to fry an egg, make instant noodles, and brew chai, the spiced milk tea that’s an everyday ritual in my household. And over fifteen years later, those are still the only three things I’m most confident crafting in the kitchen. 

I realize in retrospect that my resistance to cooking has stemmed from a mixture of fear and rebellion. During adolescence, learning to cook was synonymous with the whole ‘becoming a woman’ rite of passage that was already wreaking havoc on my life and body. 

Growing up was confusing and stressful, and — even though I didn’t have the vocabulary to express it at the time — fundamentally unfair in how it translated to more and more gendered notions about propriety. 

I was just a teenager but had already heard one too many a sexist old adage like how ‘men make houses, women make homes’, and how ‘a way to man’s heart is through his stomach’. Or sexist husband-and-wife style jokes shared openly — often repetitively — at family gatherings, even in front of children. 

Right from a young age, I found it hard to miss how the woman is always the butt end of the joke in this style of so-called ‘wisecracks’, whether it was about her looks or lack thereof, her wits or lack thereof, her ambitions or lack thereof, her children or lack thereof, or of course, her cooking skills or lack thereof. 

Go to any house in my family, community, or even country (whether for an everyday meal or festive feast), and it’s guaranteed that you’ll find only female members of the family puttering about in the kitchen, frying samosas or pakoras, making chai, or loading up platters of food and drink. For come joy or grief, women need to ensure everyone is always fed, watered, and caffeinated. 

To date when we have large sit-down dinners in my extended family, the men are served first while the women fuss around, replenishing servings, popping things in the microwave to reheat, asking if anything else is needed. 

 As a child, I never aspired to take on that role. I began associating cooking and homemade meals with domesticity and docility. I guess you can say that in my mind, food became synonymous with the patriarchy long before I ever understood what patriarchy meant.

And so I resisted learning how to cook, instead devoting all of my time to doing well at school and university, and then building a career. I realize that I am incredibly privileged to have had the choice to do this and to be able to question the age-old expectations that I’ve been ensnared with. 

Although things are slowly changing and more people are rejecting sexist ways of being, there is much shame involved. Both men and women who transgress the divide between gender roles are perceived as ‘too much’: too out there, too modern, too disrespectful, too smart for their own good. This inherent culture of judgment is partly the reason why I’ve chosen to steer clear of matrimony too. To this day in my community, there are arranged marriages in which one of the first things a prospective bride is asked about, regardless of how accomplished she may otherwise be, is her skill in the kitchen.

The closest I’ve come to ‘learning how to cook’ was taking a baking class with my best friend back in the summer after we finished our O Levels. This remains one of my favourite memories: how we learned to accurately measure out ingredients, combine them with precise techniques, and then watch as the cake magically rose in the oven into soft aromatic goodness. I remember witnessing how the doughnuts browned beautifully in the right temperature of oil, and how the cookies solidified into just the right blend of crunchy and chewy.

I still have the recipes we learned back then, meticulously recorded on yellowing notebook paper in the roundish print that was my neatest handwriting. That first foray into baking translated into a passion that has led me to slowly discover how food is a love language and that preparing it from scratch — both for myself and others — can be a deeply rewarding and enjoyable experience rather than the monumental and monotonous chore that I’ve long perceived it as. 

I feel a deep sense of awe and admiration for my mother, aunts, and all the other women I know who have devoted their lives to cooking. They have been stepping into the kitchen almost every day since they were children, initiated into the culinary arts by their own mothers and aunts and grandmothers. 

These women have perfected recipes and techniques passed down through generations and invented some of their own tricks along the way. They’ve adapted and catered to the varied tastes of their husbands, children and in-laws, and learned to give new twists to old staples. They’ve experimented with ingredients, put leftovers to innovative uses, and expressed incredible creativity and fortitude without ever wanting or getting much credit for it. 

They have patiently slow-cooked biryanis and kheer and rolled out hundreds upon hundreds of rotis, those gorgeous flatbreads that are as tedious to make as they are delicious to eat. They have rustled up something even when they’ve been feverish or cramping or pregnant, never once protesting. They’ve bonded over different ways of cooking the same dish and found joy in sharing magic ingredients. 

They are a testament to how cooking and food brings people together and how, for that reason alone, everyone, regardless of gender, should indeed learn how to cook.

Mehak Siddiqui is a writer, blogger, and traveler, currently based in India and working on her first novel. She enjoys long walks in nature and dreams of seeing every country in the world. Connect with her on Instagram @ worldofmehak or read more of her work on

Spreading Food Knowledge

illustrations of various food. Sweet potato, eggs, lettuce, coconut oil, mushrooms, berries

By Ciana Hamilton

Eating well doesn’t have to mean spending lots of money. It’s a common misconception that healthy food is costly food and this false narrative can be a contributing factor to household food insecurity. One step to liberating yourself from oppressive food systems is learning about how food nourishes your body, how to shop for fresh foods, and how to prepare simple healthy meals. For me, years of surviving on little money forced me to learn how to shop and cook for myself. I was tired of spending money (that I didn’t have) on take-out or eating heavily processed ‘easy’ meals. I wanted to share what I’ve learned with folks who may find themselves wandering aimlessly in the produce section at the grocery store, or the person who avoids cooking because they were never taught how to cook.

Kitchen Essentials

First things first, you have to have the right set up and tools. Buying kitchen supplies doesn’t have to be expensive. Gather a few at a time and check out places like thrift stores, dollar stores or clearance sections at department stores. Here are some bare-bones basics to get you started: 

  • Set of knives
  • Cutting board
  • Can opener
  • Spatula, cooking spoon
  • Mixing bowl
  • Vegetable peeler
  • A medium-sized saucepan, frying pan and baking sheet
  • Tin foil (parchment paper or beeswax wraps work well too)

Cooking oil 

You will almost always need some sort of oil in order to make a decent meal. Trust me, you don’t want to make scrambled eggs with a dry pan. Your best option is going to be Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). Olive oil is high in healthy fats like omega 3 and 6 as well as monounsaturated fats. A bottle of EVOO can last a long time, so if you can, spend the extra money. Another great cooking oil is coconut oil. If your diet allows, butter or ghee are also great alternatives to oils and add extra flavour to most dishes. Avoid cooking oils such as vegetable oil and canola oil. These cooking oils are usually much cheaper but they are heavily processed and unhealthy.

Onions and Garlic 

There are very few recipes that don’t call for either onion or garlic. Having these two ingredients on deck at all times is crucial to making food that is full of flavour. 

How to shop: Buy a head of garlic every time you do groceries, you won’t regret it! You can also buy pre minced garlic that you keep in the fridge. Big time saver. Yellow and white onions offer the most flexibility; you can use them in just about any recipe due to the mild flavor. Red onion is cool too but tends to be sharper in taste and can be really noticeable in meals. 

How to store: I always keep my onions and garlic in a cool dark place. If you only use half of an onion, wrap the remaining onion in either tin foil, wax paper or plastic wrap. Put it in the crisper of your fridge and it will last an extra week. 

Canned and Dry Goods 

Buying canned or dried pantry items is a great idea if you’re on a budget and need groceries with a long shelf life. 

How to shop: For dry foods, it’s best to shop at a bulk store. Buying dried bulk goods is perfect if you live alone or only need a small quantity of something. Things like rice, pasta, beans, coffee, spices, flour, sugar and more can be found at most bulk stores. You can buy as much or as little as you want!  Be mindful when shopping in bulk — it can add up quickly. Remember to weigh your items to get a better idea of how much it will cost before going to the register. You can also bring containers from home to reduce your use of single-use plastic bags.

For canned food items, always check the ingredient lists for any weird or sketchy-sounding preservatives. Most canned items will have preservatives but there should not be a ton listed on the ingredient list. Always a good idea to check the sodium content as well as the expiry date. Canned items such as diced tomatoes, beans, tuna, and soups are great pantry items.

How to store and prepare:

You can store dry food in glass jars, plastic containers or keep them in the bag you purchased it in. You can start to get into the habit of using containers from other items like glass pasta sauce jars or large yogurt containers to store your dry goods. For canned items such as beans, it’s always best practice to rinse them well before cooking or consuming (mention why — sodium content?). Canned soups are easy to make since it’s typically just heat and serve. 

Spices and Seasonings

One of the hardest things for me in the kitchen was building up my spice rack. It’s something we often forget about but spices are absolutely paramount to cooking.

How to shop: Basic spices can be found at major grocery stores and are usually reasonably priced. Some staples you want to have are: salt, black pepper, cumin, ginger, curry powder, Italian seasoning, chili powder, paprika and turmeric. For recipes that call for more specific seasonings, hit up that bulk store and buy what you need for the meal you’re making.


Rice! Once you get this basic meal down, you can only go up from there. Your first pot of rice might be a bust but don’t fret, it will get easier and soon it’ll become easy! 

How to shop:

Buying rice seems like it would be straightforward but there are many different varieties of rice. It can be intimidating if you don’t know some basics. Rice can be divided into three main categories: long-grain, medium-grain, and short-grain. Long grain rice types are light and fluffy while short-grain rice tends to be thick and sticky. Different types of rice have different flavour profiles as well; basmati rice tends to be slightly nutty in flavour while jasmine rice is subtle and sweet. The type of rice you choose should be determined by what meal you’re making. If you’re going for a curry or a dal, basmati is best. If you’re looking to do a simple rice and beans or fried rice, you want a white or brown long-grain variety.

How to prepare:

This is a basic guide and different kinds of rice will have different directions, but as a general rule, remember these tips:

  • Rinse your rice under cold water for about 30 seconds; it makes a difference.
  • Your base cooking ratio is always one cup of rice to two cups of water.
  • Using a medium sized saucepan, you always want to bring your water to a boil first before adding the rice. 
  • Once your rice is in the pot with the water you want to get it to a steady simmer before reducing the heat to low. 
  • Always cover the pot with a lid and don’t take it off. 
  • Set a timer, depending on the cooking instructions. You always want to set a timer.
  • A little water in the pot after the rice is cooking is ok. Let it stand for at least five minutes before serving.


You can make a bomb salad in no time. I love making a big salad because I can get really creative. Salads don’t have to be boring; add ingredients like nuts, cheese, dried fruits, croutons and protein to take your salad to the next level.

How to shop:

General rule, buy greens that are dark coloured or have purple/red leaves. These kinds of greens include: mixed green varieties, spinach, arugula, radicchio, chard and kale. Lighter varieties of lettuce are nice and crispy, but far less nutritious. It’s always best to buy greens that look fresh. Avoid prepackaged salads that have yellow, brown or wilted leaves. 

Storage and Preparation:

Spend the time to wash your greens before using them. Your salad dressing is what will make or break your salad, so spend time finding a good dressing recipe and invest in the ingredients. If you’re buying ready-made dressing, check the sugar content. You can make a basic dressing with simple ingredients like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Cook in batches

Forget everything you remember about leftovers. I promise they aren’t horrible. Cooking big meals that will give you leftovers is the most efficient way to prepare food. It’s unrealistic to try and cook a brand new meal every day. Plus, a lot of food tastes better the next day once the flavours have had a chance to settle. Big batch meals can be made on a day you have extra time or you can invite friends over to help you cook and everyone can take some home. 

How to shop:

For a big batch recipe, make sure you are getting enough ingredients. Buy extra if you are unsure. Make a list or have a copy of the recipe handy. You will most likely need a big pot or a slow cooker.

How to prepare 

Set the time aside to cook. Have the recipe visible. Make sure your kitchen is tidy and start with the most tedious of tasks which is usually washing, peeling and chopping vegetables or making any sort of sauces. Put on some music and put love into your food! 

Some ideas for big batch meals: 

  • Rice and beans 
  • Curries 
  • Soups and Stews 
  • Chili 

Build a Bowl

We’ve all heard the hype around “Buddha Bowls” and although some restaurants and stores sell pre-packaged bowls, making a bowl is super simple, cheap and allows you to experiment in the kitchen.

How to shop

Think about ingredients you like and how to combine them. Rice, quinoa, shredded kale or lettuce make a great base for any style of bowl. Then start to think about layers. It’s best to choose ingredients that can cook all at the same time; this way you are not preparing a bunch of different things. My bowl go-to’s are usually sweet potatoes, beets, squash and brussel sprouts. Next, choose a protein. Tofu, chicken strips, beef, eggs, you get the idea. Now the most important part, sauce! Any bowl will need some kind of sauce or dressing to go with it.You can make a basic spicy mayo with just mayo, sriracha and a little lime juice!

Meat and Protein Sources

Your body absolutely needs protein, it’s no secret.  Whether you eat meat or not, it’s important to include a protein source to your meals in order to truly satisfy hunger and give your body what it needs. 

How to shop: If you’re an omnivore, choose a simple meat to start. Lean ground beef or ground poultry is a great starting point. Beans and tofu are great alternatives. Extra firm tofu is the way to go and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Eggs are another excellent protein option and very accessible.

How to prepare: For ground beef/poultry, you can find a recipe to follow or just wing it with some chopped garlic, onion, seasonings and vegetables. To put it simply, you want to heat a pan, put your meat in and break it up with a cooking spoon.You’ll know it’s done once it’s all browned and no pink remains. Drain any extra oil from the pan and season as desired. For tofu, I often find it easiest to bake, but you can fry tofu in some oil with some seasonings. Often underrated, eggs are super healthy and provide tons of protein. You can prepare eggs in a variety of ways: fried, omelettes, quiches, frittatas, hard/soft boiled and of course, scrambled.  


It’s important to understand how your body processes food and what kinds of nutrients your body needs from food. As a starting point, you want to remember a few things. Your body speaks to you in many ways. If you ate breakfast in the morning but are hungry again shortly after, your body is trying to tell you something. Ensure that each of your meals contains a balance of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Your carbs will give you energy throughout the day, but if you load up on heavily processed carbohydrates like bread and pasta you will feel a midday crash. Your energy sources should come from rice, oats, or vegetables like sweet potatoes. Your body uses protein in many ways. Protein is important for your bones and muscles as well as for repairing your body when it needs to. Finally, you want to incorporate healthy fats whenever possible. Healthy fats are amazing for your brain and were traditionally eaten to keep the body warm and full. Nuts, avocados, olive oil, peanut butter, full fat yogurt or milk are great examples. 

Cooking can be a very spiritual thing— it’s meant to be. You are preparing something your body needs with your hands and your heart. There is no shame in preparing basic meals that aren’t fancy or Instagram worthy. Put love and intention into every meal you make, even if it’s just scrambled eggs and toast. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you.

A black and white portrait of Ciana smiling with her mouth closed. She is a 20 something black woman with dreads. She is wearing a winter coat, scarf and has a sunglasses ontop of her head.

Ciana Hamilton is a happy nappy freelance creative writer & journalist. When she’s not writing she can be found doing fun shit with her kids.


Illustration of various breakfast ingredients to make a "deluxe breakfast sandwich" Text reads "Avocado & Egg Toast"

A Small Collection of The Peak Collective’s Favourite Meals.

By: The Peak Collective

“Deluxe Breakfast sandwich” Illustration by SoySuki

Ciana’s Spanish Style Rice and Beans 

Easy. Vegetarian. Budget-Friendly.

What you need:
-  1 ½ cups of rice (long grain works best)
- 2 cups of water
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced 
- Half an onion, chopped
- Half a jar of salsa, about 1 cups (mild, medium or spicy whatever you like!)
- 1 can of black beans (rinsed and drained)
- 1 Tbsp Oil (olive oil is best, but use whatever you have)
- 1 tsp of salt, pepper and cumin* (optional)
- Add oil to saucepan over medium heat.  Add your chopped onion and saute for 5 mins until translucent.
- Add rice. Stir. You want your rice to be nice and covered with the oil and onion. 
- Add garlic.
- Add water, beans, salsa and spices. Bring to a boil then simmer for 25 minutes covered.
- Serve! Eat plain or with toppings like cheese, avocado or protein of your choice. You can also add to a tortilla and make it burrito style.

Mina’s Pico de Gallo aka homemade salsa 

Easy, Vegan, Budget Friendly

What you need: 
- Two large tomatoes
- One white onion
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro
- One jalapeno 
- 1 teaspoon salt 
- One lemon

- Dice the tomatoes
- Mince the onion - if it is a small onion use whole, if it is a big onion use half 
- Add the salt and juice from the lemon and crush up the mixture with your hands until the juice is released from the tomatoes 
- Mince the jalapeno and add it to the mixture 
- Mince the cilantro and at it 
- Stir together and eat with nacho chips or on top of rice!

Hauwa’s Deluxe Breakfast Sandwich 

Easy, interchangeable ingredients, budget-friendly!

What you need:
Herb & garlic cream cheese 
Hot Sauce
Salt & Pepper

Toast bagel
Slice tomato into 2 thin slices 
Cut avocado and scoop out half 
Slice onion thinly and saute 
Fry 2 eggs in the same pan as onion for taste!
Cook bacon (or meat alternative)
Spread cream cheese on bagel, add avocado, tomato and onion slices
Add eggs and bacon on top 
Add hot sauce and salt & pepper to taste


Add or remove ingredients to your preference or dietary restrictions.
Some alternatives I enjoy are: smoked salmon, melted cheese,
spinach, hot peppers etc.
And you can make it vegetarian, vegan or gluten free! Yum!

Temi’s Amazing Spaghetti

Easy. Interchangeable Ingredients. Budget-Friendly

What you need:
Spaghetti as much as you need 
1 of each: red, yellow, green and orange bell peppers.
Add other veggies you like, I love the flavour of celery in this!
Half an onion
1 scotch bonnet, 2 if you tryna feel the heat
1 large clove of garlic
1 jar of spaghetti sauce
Seasoning and herbs: salt, cayenne pepper, thyme, basil,
curry powder and 1 knorr (bouillon) cube. 
Protein of your choice or none. I usually use shrimp or stewing beef.
For this recipe we’re using stewing beef. 
Cooking oil

Chop onions, garlic and bell peppers and beef into your preferred size.
Throw that spaghetti in some boiling water
You can use a different pan for this step but if you’re too lazy to do dishes
like me then just wait till your spaghetti is ready. Drain your spaghetti and
keep it aside. Then put some oil in the pot and wait till it’s hot. 
Put the beef in and when it’s sizzling throw in the garlic,
onions and scotch bonnets. Stir for about 2 minutes, add bell peppers and
let simmer with the lid for 5 minutes.
Add the pasta sauce and seasoning to your liking.
Make sure you taste it so it’s not bland when you’re done.
When it tastes right add in the spaghetti and a lil bit off water
so it doesn’t dry out and turn the heat just below medium.
Mix it all together and let it be till the water dries out and
the spaghetti is the level of softness you like. If it is not then add some more water bro. 
That is all, enjoy your meal!

Bonus! Roasted Curried Cauliflower

Easy. Vegan. Budget-Friendly 

What you need:
1 large cauliflower 
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of curry powder 
1 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of salt and black pepper 
Optional:1 tsp chili flakes or cayenne pepper 

Set oven to bake at 350
Cut the cauliflower into small or medium size florets 
Add to florets to large mixing bowl
Add oil, curry powder, salt, pepper, cumin and chili flakes (if using) to the bowl.
Mix the cauliflower well so all pieces are covered with spices and oil
Spread cauliflower evenly onto a baking sheet 
Put in oven and roast for 25 minutes or until cauliflower has crispy brown edges 
If you like spicy, drizzle some sriracha on top once it’s cooled down!