Years ago, Margarita travelled 1,400 miles with her young daughter from Zacateca, Mexico to meet her husband in Denver, Colorado and begin a new life. Now, the two that made their first journey to the U.S. together, are leading their family on another journey – this time to a healthier life.
When she was a child, Margarita did not help in the kitchen; her mother did all the cooking. At age 15, Margarita went to work in another city, and suddenly had to figure out how to cook for herself. “It was hard,” she recalls. “I would make something and think maybe it doesn’t look good or isn’t good, but I’m hungry so I have to eat it.” This has been Margarita’s approach to cooking ever since: it’s hard and often doesn’t work.
Years later, with four kids ages 4-14, Margarita and her husband were finding it difficult to stretch their food dollars to feed six people. The family signed up for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to help, but like many mothers, Margarita had a tough crowd to please. Margarita knew she could be cooking better for her family. “I wanted to learn new things, like how to eat heathier.” When her son’s preschool offered a Cooking Matters six-week course, she decided to sign up.
In her Cooking Matters class, Margarita learned how to stretch her food dollars by portioning and measuring items for recipes. She also learned to incorporate more nutritious foods into meals like vegetables, and whole grains in place of refined grains.
“Last week, I made hamburgers, so I used whole wheat buns, and they just ate it, so I was like okay, that happened, it worked!”
Recognizing her efforts to put healthier food on the table, Margarita’s family will now try anything she makes – and usually ends up liking it! Even her husband, who preferred to eat a few, familiar recipes from Mexico, is helping the family eat better. After reading the ingredients in their ketchup, he said to Margarita “That’s not real tomato, we’re not going to eat that anymore.”
Since the course ended, Margarita has been studying the Cooking Matters book she received at graduation, to keep practicing what she learned. “I now read (food) labels. I didn’t do this before; it’s a big thing. I really know what we are eating now and looking at what we used to eat… wow.”
Margarita’s eldest daughter, the same one who made the journey from Mexico with her years ago, often helps her cook. This is their time to catch up -- just the two of them. Margarita enjoys seeing her daughter so comfortable in the kitchen and takes pride in them cooking healthy meals together.