Decolonize Your Dinner Plate connects food with spirit

California State University, Monterey Bay and the Otter Cross Cultural Center (OC3) hosted the virtual discussion and food demonstration Decolonize Your Dinner Plate with Sandra Pacheco on Sept. 29. Pacheco who self-identifies as a Chicana, Mexicana and Latina led the event, guiding viewers through the spiritual practice of curanderismo while preparing organic, vegan meals.

Curanderismo – the respect for Mother Earth and practice that celebrates one’s mind, body and spirit, is widely recognized with Indigenous people and some Catholics. Pacheco is a firm believer in appreciating the foundation and sacredness of our origins.

“I want to hear my ancestors, your ancestors and the ancestors of the land,” Pacheco said, “we see food as medicine- see how the food is treating you.”

One who practices curanderismo grows, harvests and prepares food with respect and care for the plant and process of life. Pacheco notes in her practice that she receives food with an offer, prayer or acknowledgment of the work it took. Curanderismo transforms one’s mindset into thinking about food as a form of meditation. 

Pacheco kicked off the food preparation with a prebiotic salad that supports good liver health. Utilizing kale and dandelions from the garden, Pachceo finely chopped the “gamey lettuce” and accompanied the dandelion petals with some diced apple, garlic and then drizzled it with olive oil. “When you chop things as finely as you can, you get a bite of more flavors,” Pacheco said. 

Pacheco informed viewers that dandelion flowers are, in fact, safe to eat. The nutritional salad stretches a student’s budget, costing roughly 55 cents a serving while the stems of the kale can be upcycled into a vegetable broth base.

Pacheco explained to viewers that when practicing curanderismo, one plans to cook for health, texture and the senses. “Trust your smells and smell your herbs and spices,” she said. “If you cook when angry, that energy goes into your food.”

After suffering from severe trauma, Pacheco knew the only way to fix her spirit was to connect with her family’s beliefs and instill the practice of curanderismo into her life. Upon visiting her native country of Mexico, Pacheco regained confidence and healed the open wounds. 

Roasting poblano peppers over an open flame allows the pepper to darken without collapsing on itself. After charring, Pacheco advises placing them in a bowl covered with a wet paper towel to make the peeling process easier. 

To stuff the peppers, Pacheco chopped and sauteed mushrooms and onion, giving the texture an illusion of ground beef or turkey. Complemented with blanched almonds and golden raisins, the mouthwatering delicacy was perfected when topped with a creamy cashew sauce and pomegranate seeds.

“Your mouth is going to get crunchy- sweet, savory and a touch of cinnamon,” Pacheco said. 

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