Photos By Ezekiel Barrara and Eric Gomez
Bernadette Molina is proud, very proud of her SalviMex upbringing. Having been born and raised in South East Los Angeles to a Salvadorian-American mom and Mexican-American dad, Bernie, as most people know her, had a burning desire to share the wisdom she had collected from the Matriarchs in her life.
Her goal started out as a simple one— to complete a personal project where she would document different recipes passed along from generation to generation. This, she figured, would teach her to cook many of the delicious meals she enjoyed growing up and allow her to create stronger bonds with the women that influenced her.
“I sought to learn recipes that belonged to my great-grandmother and grandmother. I learned those from my mother. My mother-in-law taught me some interesting ones as well,” says Molina. “I wanted to learn Latin recipes from the original source: the Latinas in my life.”
As she continued collecting recipes and documenting meaningful conversations, Molina suddenly realized she had dozens of recipes in her possession, each one with a unique, personal story. Then she got inspired to write a book.
Today, Molina who is raising a 2-month old baby boy with her husband, is excited to introduce to the world her personal-project-turned-publication, Herencia Cookbook.
“Herencia Cookbook contains over 65 recipes inspired by my SalviMex upbringing in Los Angeles,” says the 30-year old Molina. “It was important for me to learn the recipes from the matriarchs who influenced who I am as a Latin woman.”
Each recipe in her book contains a prelude with an anecdote about the woman who inspired the dish. She felt it was important to give each of one a special place in the book.
“I hope that when people read about the matriarchs in my life, they will think fondly of the matriarchs in their lives,” she says.
Her mission is to take the intimidation out of cooking. She does so by offering quick and easy kitchen hacks and providing self-described “healthyish tips.”
Further, Herencia Cookbook offers a guide that outlines the difficulty level for each recipe. This, she says, is to help people determine whether the meal is easy enough to make on a busy weeknight or whether it’s something that requires more time and effort and should wait for the weekend.
The Los Angeles Influence
Molina grew up in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood and feels that her environment made her especially comfortable with her identity.
“Growing up in my neighborhood allowed me to be surrounded by Latinx food, candy, and other cultural items” she shares. “Herencia Cookbook wouldn’t exist if it had not been for my enriching experience growing up SalviMex in Los Angeles.”
Her favorite place to dine in L.A. is a restaurant called La Huasteca in Lynwood. Particularly, she loves the queso fundido with a fruity margarita to go with it.
“I go for the food and drinks, but I have to admit the ambiance cannot be beaten,” says Molina.
Asked about her favorite thing to cook, Molina says it’s tacos dorados (deep fried corn tortilla tacos stuffed with shredded chicken or beef and often dressed with sour cream, cheese, guacamole and salsa). However, Molina includes a sopita (soup) as a side dish for the traditional tacos dorados that basically takes this recipe to a more irresistible level.
“I start by slow cooking the tri-tip for two hours in a pot of simmering, salted water. After the meat is cooked, a delicious beef broth is left behind,” explains Molina. “As the meat cools, I prepare pico de gallo with diced juicy tomatoes, bright red onion, minced cilantro and Serrano peppers. The ingredients are mixed together with lemon and salt. Next, I finely chop romaine lettuce and shred queso fresco. Each of these condiments goes into its own glass dish.”
According to Molina, the smell of this dish as it’s cooking is simply exquisite and the crunchy tacos have a texture combination of crunchy on the outside with tender, juicy meat on the inside. The sopita is consumed with a wedge of lemon and a pinch of Tajin, as an appetizer.
“When people enjoy this meal, they know what heaven tastes like,” assures Molina.
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