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Chef Cuquita Arias de Calvo: “In Panama no one is a foreigner. That is why in our gastronomy we adopt all cultural influences, especially during Christmas”

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The end of year holidays is coming, and sitting down to eat as a family is the most significant tradition of all. For this reason, the Flavors segment we have back a Chef who is a fundamental pillar in the culinary revolution that Panama has been experiencing for more than ten years, and who today continues to contribute with new recipes, as well as supporting new talents. Chef Cuquita Arias de Calvo is a gastronomy professional who loves Panama and the end of year holidays. For this reason, The Visitor –El Visitante talks with one of its favorite Chef to talk about gastronomy at Christmas and the real meaning of these holidays.

What does the end of the year celebrations mean for Cuquita personally and professionally?

“For me, end-of-year holidays, especially Christmas, are always an immense feeling of joy. Personally, it is the excitement of celebrating the arrival of Christ the Child, and professionally, for me, it is also the joy of sharing with others the things that I can help them with. Professionally, there is also the stress and all the fuss of preparing parties for others, but it is also the satisfaction of making others a super happy day.”

Sharing a meal is the most frequent activity during these holidays, what does that moment mean to you?

“It is true that what we do most for Christmas is get together to eat, but I feel that gathering around a table is truly the meaning, it is not the food. It is being together and sharing the joy of the coming of Christ the Child.”

During these holidays, imported receipts from other countries are cooked. How has this gastronomy influenced our traditions?

“I love to say that Panama is a country where no one feels like a foreigner. For that same reason we adopt not only our cuisine, but all these influences from different cultures that have come to our country.

In my house personally, my mother was Cuban, and of course in memory of her we always make rice with grill, and also cook a pernil (Pork). On the other hand, we do not stop making our Panamanian “tamales”, and we have to say that although turkey and ham has become a custom of ours, it is also an influence of all the years that we had Americans in Panama, and the enthusiasm that it gave us to buy it at Canal Zone commissary or have someone get a turkey to us from the Zone. These are things that make Panama a place of many cultures and that all those cultures, in the end, cooked by Panamanians and using Panamanian ingredients, become a Christmas that is very much our own.”

What is your Christmas gastronomic creations that diners like the most and why?

“I am the one who makes lunch on the 25th for my family, and as I told you before I make things from many countries because that is Panama and that is my family. I make a pumpkin pampuna from my mother-in-law. I make rice with black beans and habanero pernil from my mother. Everyone is expecting my food, they know it’s the same menu every year and I think that’s part of the joy of Christmas food. Which are things that we look forward to with joy all year because we don’t eat them, and that is what makes Christmas food more beautiful. “That is what the Christmas season brings, its flavors and that is the most beautiful thing for the celebration.”

What does this holiday season mean to you, especially this year with everything that has happened in the country?

“I think that when it arrives, it doesn’t matter what kind of year you’ve had, you live it with the same enthusiasm. And I have always thought that the joy of Christmas lies more in giving than in receiving. That’s why this year what we must do is prepare to give affection, which is the greatest thing we can have as a family.”

Photos courtesy: Chef Cuquita Arias de Calvo.

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