Blossom of the Month: RicanDiva

Posted by Amna January 20, 2019 in Interviews

The Death Blossoms community is made up of women from all over the world with a variety of backgrounds and interests. Each month on the blog we’ll be looking to spotlight one of our members to hear what it is that she’s passionate about. This month’s featured member is RicanDiva. Rican is known in the DB community for her cooking, so of course we chatted about food, as well as family, traveling, movies, books, and, yes, Overwatch!

How long have you been cooking? Why did it become something you loved to do instead of something you had to do?

I didn’t learn to cook until I moved out of the house and joined the Army. My mom did all of it. I’m Puerto Rican, so our household was very traditional, and my mom handled all of the cooking. When I joined the Army and had to live on my own, I very quickly got tired of McDonald’s! She was in Puerto Rico and I called her and I said, “I can’t do this, please send me some recipes.” So she sent me two cookbooks. One was traditional Puerto Rican cooking and one was easy recipes to learn, and I just went from there. Once I got more comfortable I started putting my own spin on them.

Did you have any interesting milestones or missteps along the way?

Rice! Rice is very important to me. That was the thing that I wanted to get down. It’s not a meal in our house unless we have rice in some form. I had to master that. It took me a long time. I honestly couldn’t do it my mom’s way, because she doesn’t measure anything, so I had to find my own way from the cookbooks she sent me. When I made my first batch of good white rice, I was on cloud nine for about two weeks!

That was what I measured against, was if it was as good as my mom’s. I’d say I’m on par with my mom’s, but my traditional Puerto Rican rice is not as good as hers. But I’ll keep striving until it is.

It’s funny because I think my mom is the best cook in the world, and she says the same thing about her mom! My grandmother is still alive, she just turned 94 on Christmas Day. She still cooks! She needs help, but she’s still cooking. So when my mom goes back to Puerto Rico, they cook together.

Do any of your kids cook with you?

My daughter just turned six, and she’s always up on the counter wanting to cook with me. My eight-year-old son likes to bake. I’m not the best baker, I use boxed mixes a lot, but whenever I’m baking he loves to help because he likes to see it rise in the oven.

We talked about rice, but is there anything else you still find challenging, and what would you say is your big strength?

I can make meals without recipes, and out of whatever is in the house. Like, if I don’t make it to the grocery store, what do I have in the house? And I’ll just make something from that. It’s horrible, though, because I can’t make it again when it turns out good, because I just threw things in there! I love it when my husband goes, “Babe, that was great, can you make it again?” and I go, “Uhh…”

Is your husband easy to please?

He will eat anything I cook. His only challenge is he will not eat leftovers, so if I make a whole bunch of food, he won’t eat it the next day. Even if I pack his lunch, nine times out of ten, he won’t eat it. Even if I make, say, a steak that’s not cooked right, he’ll still eat it, then he’ll tell me, “Hey, that should’ve been left a little while longer.” But not leftovers!

So, what’s your favorite thing to eat, and what’s your favorite thing to cook, if they’re not the same?

I like white rice with red beans, and fried pork chops. It’s easy, it’s comforting, and it’s like being home with my mom. As for what I like to cook, I love cooking Italian food. I love pasta. My husband is a huge fan of Italian as well, so we always have a lot of pasta dishes.

What about food trends? Does anything catch your eye?

Demi has me wanting to try sous-vide! I was like, “Oh, that’s for a professional chef, I’m not gonna mess with sous-vide.” But then she’s posting stuff, and I’m like, “Dammit! Maybe I should try that!” It really intrigues me.

Technology can be really good in cooking and sometimes it’s just weird.

Definitely! There’s a wine ice cream craze. I’m tempted, but also, like, “ew.” Don’t mess with my ice cream… or my wine!

Another thing I’ve started is Home Chef, where they send me meals. I wanted to do something where I would have to do the cooking and they would send the ingredients and the recipe, as opposed to just warming up something prepared. I felt like I was getting in a rut and I wanted to try something different. I highly recommend it. I don’t think I’ve come across a meal yet that I don’t like.

Soup’s on!

I’m guessing you usually cook for you, your husband, and your two little ones. Are your kids picky eaters?

HORRIBLE. My eight-year-old son is extremely picky: a very specific type of chicken nuggets, ramen noodles but only the chicken flavor, macaroni and cheese, pizza rolls with pepperoni, and sometimes hot dogs. And white rice, he does like white rice. My daughter is pretty easy, though, she’s like her father and will eat anything. My second-oldest son, who is eighteen now, used to be really picky, too, but he’s gotten more adventurous as he’s gotten older, so I’m sure my younger son will grow out of it. And for someone who’s so picky, he is a bottomless pit!

What’s your favorite meal your mom has made for you that you don’t make?

It’s a traditional Puerto Rican dish called mofongo, which is fried plantains served with shrimp in a garlic sauce. I don’t like shrimp, so she’ll serve it with fried pork for me. It can take a while to make, so I never make it. Someday I’ll probably try to make it, but I’m not there yet.

So, we’ve mostly been talking about dinner. What about other meals?

I love breakfast! I am, however, not a morning person, so it’s often a late brunch instead. We’re very egg-heavy here, so Denver scrambles with potatoes and green peppers and onions, breakfast tacos, sausage, whatever I’ve got, I’ll throw in there.

One thing that I have not ever grown out of is breakfast cereal. Breakfast cereal is the perfect food and I will eat it at midnight. It’s the perfect snack, it’s the perfect breakfast, I can have it for dinner, and I’m perfectly fine with it. And it’s the horrible cereals, like Fruity Pebbles and Lucky Charms.

Are you a milk-first or a milk-second person?

Milk second. I don’t understand milk first. Then it gets too soggy and you have so much leftover milk. Nope!

So, you’d be the resident chef on Death Blossoms Island. What else are you into, what else makes you tick?

I love to read and travel, and I love movies. Reading is the big one, though, I will read anything you put in front of me. Fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi, romance or “smut” as my husband calls it, biographies… I’m currently reading Michelle Obama’s biography. I’ll read anything.

I do prefer paper books, but I am very good with convenience, and my Kindle Paperwhite fits into my purse perfectly. It’s funny, though, because my husband gets mad at me because we have an office with bookshelves, and he’ll say, “Stop buying books!” But he’s a huge tech guy, and he has a room full of computer parts and server racks — if someone walked in here, they’d think we were hacking NASA. So I say to him, “I will get rid of my books when you get rid of your computer stuff,” and then he leaves me alone for another six months.

As far as traveling, you said you grew up military, so you’ve probably seen a lot of places as it is. What’s your favorite place you’ve been, and where do you want to go?

A lot of the traveling I’ve done has been in Europe because I grew up overseas, and I haven’t seen as much of the United States. I loved Spain and Italy. Those were my two favorite places in Europe. People say, “Oh, you didn’t love Paris?” No! Paris was overrated. But they had good bread. In Spain and Italy, though, the people and the scenery, to me, was nicer, because it felt more homey.

Stateside, I loved New York and Florida. I’ve also been to the Carolinas and Georgia. I really want to go to Montana and see those sights, I want to go up and down the coast of California, I want to go to Colorado… I’ve also been to Alaska! My sister was stationed there. Alaska was gorgeous. Honestly, everywhere you looked, it was like a postcard.

I just want to go and I want to see places!

What are your favorite movies? What is it that makes you fall in love with a movie?

Oh, God. I could never pick one. The Sandlot, Super Trooper, Mary Poppins… I’m low-key obsessed with Venom right now because we just saw that. Harry Potter movies, I will watch on repeat over and over, I don’t care how long they are.

I love all kinds of movies. I really like comedy and action, and I love karate flicks. My dad was a sensei and I did karate for a long time. I’m not a big fan of romance movies. I’ve never seen Titanic and it blows my husband’s mind. I tell him, “The boat sinks! I know what’s gonna happen!”

Well, now that you mentioned books and movies… what’s better?

The book is always better! I’ve never run into an exception, ever. That’s the only time you can say “always”! There’s so much that gets left out. They can get close, they can still make a good movie, but they have to leave out so much that you’d just be better off reading the book.

Let’s wrap up with DB’s favorite subject, video games! What else besides Overwatch are you into?  

Overwatch is the first game I’ve really played with a passion. Since then I’ve started playing Diablo III, WoW, PUBG, and the new Call of Duty. I like Blackout, their battle royale mode. I said I was gonna try Zombies, but I played the tutorial and it creeped me out!

I kind of started gaming when Battlefield 2 came out, but the people we played with stopped playing, and I stopped because I wasn’t comfortable continuing. But someone at work started talking about Overwatch, and I said, “Okay, fine, I’ll play it,” and I just fell in love with it. I love that there are so many different characters who all have different gameplay styles. I’m a Pharah main, but some days I just want to play Moira or Mercy, and I can switch it up whenever I want.

Rican also wanted to share with us the recipe for one of her favorite dishes: Spicy Sausage Pasta! Thank you for your time, Rican!