I can say with confidence that one of the constant favorites in Puerto Rican food on the island and throughout the Diaspora are the bakeries. Every morning there is a need for fresh bread to fill our bellies to accompany the bold flavors of our café.
More than that, there are island pastries like budín, tembleque, flan, quesitos, pastelillos de guayaba, brazos gitanos, mallorcas, panetela, cazuela, besitos de coco, on and on. But where can you find these pastries here in Chicago? Have we allowed these businesses to fail by patronizing vendors of mass-produced, frozen products like Dunkin’ Donuts and 7-Eleven?
In Chicago, there are nearly 200,000 Boricuas, therefore we are an economically impactful population. Where we eat and spend our dollars is important. Whether we know it or not, we are targeted for our dollars and as we all know, we all have to eat.
Many times we reach for foods of comfort and familiarity. Food is the best physical memory you can have of someone. Of our past. Of an ancestral legacy. We can pass these legacies on to our children so they are not forgotten and soon lost. This can be said about many cultural attributes such as food.
Today, I can name only one bakery in Chicago with a Puerto Rican baker who bakes many of the above pastries daily. He is an anonymous man humbly refusing any interviews, even after countless attempts. But you can find the tall, white-haired man kneading out our island favorites at San Juan Bakery, 3335 W. North Ave. Chicago, IL 60647, “La Casa del Pan Puertorriqueño“.
I write this blog to ask for support to get our bakeries off the endangered list here in Chicago. To support one another. To put money into the small business that are left struggling to survive. If we don’t, who will? We need to look within with a sense of identity and collective pride. A small step towards resisting the extinction of our culture may simply be… to buy a mallorca.
Below I wanted to share a recipe for a traditional Puerto Rican dessert: