Southern Hospitality… One South Meets the Other
Casa Segovia-Paz is the fusion of two worlds, two families and two lives. Two babies were born and raised in a Latin American world full of passion, love, devotion, obsession, intellect and sadness. It was an unselfish world that was replete with tastes and experiences that challenged the intellect.
My mother, Magda Paz G. Prada or “Coquita”, was a world traveler. She taught to appreciate a range of cuisines, from the most complex and exquisite meals from foreign lands to the humble meals, rich in flavor, produced
and sold at small city markets, where “only the poor” would eat.
In our search for unique and original meals and flavors, we delved into those places labeled “not to go” for most and the results were always amazingly delicious. Our Sunday tradition was to visit and pay our respects to our departed family members at the cemetery; followed by a visit to the “La Cancha” farmers market where we would find and savor the myriad of delicious, traditional dishes that Bolivia has to offer.
My mother used to say “cooking is not as complicated as it looks”. “Cooking is all the same. What varies is the ingredients you use, the amount you use, and how they are sliced. You have to make the effort to learn how to mix them and to appreciate their flavors. Time and the ingredients are your best friends in the kitchen. Just learn how to use them both and you can produce those amazing flavors.” And she taught me all she knew.
I have my grandfather, Nirvado Paz Arce, to thank for my appreciation for the foods of “the country people”, such as Quinoa, a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. Now growing in popularity all over the world over, quinoa is known as a “super food”. Grandpa demanded that we eat quinoa, that we eat it in the many different ways it could be prepared, and that we clean our plate! As I look back, I understand why this was so important. It was not only because of its rich flavor and powerful nutrients, but also because quinoa and other foods belong to our ancient culture. They are part of who we are. And that is something we should never forget nor underappreciate.
My Peruvian father, Edwin Segovia S., taught me to savor every dish and meal I would encounter in my life as well. I can still see him, when I was nine years old, at his restaurant “La Gran Flauta” convincing me to eat the whole “pejerrey” fish – native to the Urubamba River that was plentiful and a staple of the people of the Sacred Valley of Urubamba region of Cuzco. Eating the “whole fish” included eating the head, along with the eyes. He would say “if you eat the head, especially the eyes, you will grow to be a very intelligent girl!” So I ate the whole thing and it was good. And in doing so I learned to open my eyes to new and different tastes and experiences.
On his trips deep into the Andes, “the peasants”, or the indigenous country people there, would generously share their meals with us. For example, we enjoyed a humble, yet delicious, sandwich of avocado, purple Peruvian potatoes, boiled corn or “mote”, and canned tuna, all seasoned simply with lime juice and salt. Although these “peasants” were poor and had many material needs, they certainly did not lack generosity and the knowledge of how to treat a stranger and share what little food they had. I learned as a child that food was a gift meant to be shared.
Though my memories of my grandmothers are vague, I was always able to see them through my parents. My mother would often fondly recall her mother relating her memories about her cooking and reading. Every time she prepared a single cup of black tea mixed with a “chorro” of milk, grandma Clorinda G. Prada de Paz was present in our lives. My mother used to say ‘”my mother’s smell is a mix of tea and milk.” Or when my mother would think of my father’s mother, Laura C. de Segovia., and admire how she was able to make “chuño”, a dried potato from the Andes, in her own refrigerator because it wasn’t readily available at the city market.
Victor Segovia Chicche was my father’s father, a dedicated teacher but also a lover of gardening. There in his cherished garden, among his roses, geraniums, and snapdragon flowers, he would allow my twin brother, Alvaro, to plant and grow spinach, fava beans and other crops as he conducted his “agricultural experiments” for school projects. Alvaro’s “experiments” yielded robust results. The protein-loaded fava beans were mostly used in soups and the spinach in main dishes.
And now here in Nashville, my life experiences and the amazing freshness of local and seasonal farmer markets produce are translated into the flavors of our handcrafted empanadas and other meals we patiently prepare for all of our customers to enjoy.
Let’s create new memories together; Let’s share a culinary memory, a fusion of South America and America’s south. That is Casa Segovia-Paz
Nashville, November 27, 2013