So, Anyway… Yo Hablo Espanol

Spanish sign

I haven’t been keeping secrets, but the fact that I’m bilingual just has never come up yet.  Although I’m from Minnesota, you may have noticed that the “Calva” part of “Calva-Despard” is not exactly Norwegian bred…

It’s Mexican.  My dad’s name is Jose Ruben Calva Pellicer.  See?  Mexican.  He doesn’t look like he’s going to rest up against a saguaro cactus draped in a sarape, but my dad is the eighth child of his Roman-Catholic Mexican family, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico two years before he was born.

I won’t go into the long, loooong, story of how we didn’t exactly speak Spanish in my home growing up (as my mother doesn’t speak it) but I heard it a lot, studied it in school and then finally attended a year of college at the Universidad de Costa Rica where I sink-or-swim perfected my espanol.  (Sign up for a few courses where you have to write college term papers/make oral presentations in Spanish–it’s very motivating!)

Besides learning to dance Salsa, and make banana leaf tamales, Costa Rica was where I fell deeply, deeply in love with beautiful fresh what-is-the-name-of-that-gorgeous-thing produce.

I’ve traveled throughout the entire country of Mexico, visiting family and just generally checking things out.  Once I spent three months zig-zagging from the west to east Mexico.  I visited relatives I hadn’t seen in years and even met up with third cousins of my dad’s sister-in-law-kinda-type-relatives which sounds like a stretch by American standards, but in Mexico we were familia.

I also lived and worked in Madrid, Spain for five months.  In Madrid I learned that there’s no such thing as too much red wine or guests at the dinner table, and that fried calamari sandwiches are the perfect hangover remedy.  I acquired the most eloquent vocabulary of curse words and realized that I like the tropics a lot :), and that big city life is not my thing.  (I also discovered that the word for “mushrooms” in Latin America only refers to unwanted fungus in Spain, but that’s a whole other story… )

English sign

Like most homes, my mother’s culture is the one that defined most of my upbringing, but I’m equally proud of all my heritage.  It was my Mexican heart that pushed me on these rewarding adventures, spurred my interest in becoming a bilingual teacher, and opened my palette to a world of culinary delights.

Today I appreciate living in a place where I hear Spanish, English and a boatload of other languages on a regular basis.  And get out’a here with your multicultural food scene, Los Angeles County!  Baby, I’m home.

My kitchen decor (so that’s why she has blue cabinets…) is a reflection of my language influences, a celebration of melding many cultural practices and love of kickin’ it in the kitchen.  Round here we speak English and Spanish, enjoy a table full of friends and family and eat foods from as many places as I can get my hands on (and are always on the prowl for more.)  Our tongues want to taste it all!

Kids' art

Si quiere, manda me una nota en espanol un dia y podemos charlar!

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Quotes for Today and the New Year

Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature.   Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run that outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.–Helen Keller

So, here’s the plan: Starting on Monday (hi: kids back at school!), Kickin’ it will begin a weekly routine of posts and some updates on upcoming workshops.   If you’ve attended my workshops before, feel free to come visit me again as I’ve made some fun changes to the old format…

One thing I’m focusing on much more than before is, in the smaller groups and in my new private coaching sessions, really listening to what individual needs are, and tailoring my approach to instruction much more than before.  This is why I’m allowing up to 90 minutes for these gatherings.  For whatever reason I get a heckuva kick out of helping problem solve food/family related issues.  

Bring me your tired of cooking, your stuck-in-a-rut masses yearning to be free of frustration in the kitchen and at the table.  We’ll face the adventure together!–Michelle Calva-Despard