Four Foods for the Fourth Season

Students and staff share their holiday food experiences.

By Jose Chavez

Photo | David Ye and Sebastian Lopez

Baklava | Senior Gabby Benevidez

“With the beignets, [the most important ingredient] is obviously the powdered sugar because if you don’t have that, then its [not] a beignet”, Benavidez said.


Senior Gabby Benavidez celebrates the holidays with her family, eating traditional holiday foods, and spends them cooking new foods that she hopes will give good reactions.


Although Benavidez is not allowed to meddle in the kitchen during the holidays, she instead turns new creating new foods to express her creativity when her parents allow her to cook. When cooking new foods, Benavidez always hopes to strike a reaction out of people who taste her food.


“When I cook holiday foods, I like to make things [that are unique] and I like seeing people’s reaction to eating them,” Benavidez said.


Although Benavidez was not so pleased with the guava cake, she was pleasantly surprised about the taste. Benavidez describes the taste of her guava cake to be good despite it having an unappetizing “fudge like consistency”.


“I have made a guava cake before, so it was super pink because of the guava. When it came out, it [did not] have a cake  consistency and [had] more like a fudge consistency. You wouldn’t look at it like you [would] want to eat it, but once you eat it, it’s really good,” Benavidez said.


Her family enjoys a variety of pastries that mainly consist of powdered sugar, two of which are beignets and malasadas. Benavidez explains that that is the case because she is of Creol and Hawaiian descent.


“Since my family is Creole, we eat beignets with traditional powdered sugar and honey. And on the other side of my family, I am Hawaiinan, so we have malasadas, which are doughnuts but not doughnuts. Sometimes you put cream inside of it,” Benavidez said.


Benavidez shares that her favorite holiday food is Baklava, she explains that the process of making them is a long but worth one.


“Baklava, which is one of my favorites too. My mom takes hours to make it, she has to go layer by layer to make it correctly,” Benavidez said. •

Latkes| Teacher Merva Kagan

“We light candles, sing songs, decorate our home, and we eat traditional foods that are usually fried,” Kagan said.


Art and ceramics teacher Merav Kagan celebrates Hanukkah by following the tradition of cooking fried foods. Hanukkah starts on Dec. 22 to Dec. 30. The traditional foods eaten during Hanukkah are latkes, gelt, and doughnuts, all which are made with oil.


“[We eat] latkes, doughnuts...and gelt. [It is generally] fried food [that is eaten],” Kagan said.


Kagan explains that in Judaism, oil is very important during Hanukkah. During the rededication of the temple of which Hanukkah stems from, a Jewish Menorah stayed lit for eight days, which was a miracle considering that the oil that fueled it was sparse.


“We are trying to remember the miracle of having enough oil. For latkes, its  potatoes, oil, and other things to keep it all bound together. Doughnuts [are made out of] bread, but oil is the important part,” Kagan said.


Kagan says that her favorite holiday food from Hanukkah are latkes. She explained that the main ingredients used in latkes are potatoes, matzah meal, eggs, and most importantly: oil. The process of making latkes starts with boiling potatoes, drying them, and frying in a pan with oil. Kagan says that the process of making latkes is a messy one but fun nonetheless.


“Making latkes is somewhat labour intensive because...there is grating the potato, peeling the potato, and [we] use a cloth to squeeze out the extra moisture so it fries really well," Kagan said. "Then, you use some kind of bread meal like matzah meal, you throw it in there with an egg to make it combine, and then you fry it up. Pour some oil in a pan, let it get nice and hot, and then fry and fry until you have a mess everywhere. It’s a bit of a messy experience but it’s fun.”


Growing up, Kagan ate latkes with fresh applesauce that her mother had made. She recalls the childhood memories of eating as  many as she could and the experience with her family.


“My parents used to always make [latkes] when I was growing up. Sometimes, my mom would make her own applesauce or [she] would buy applesauce. You could have as many [latkes] as you could [eat],” Kagan said. •

Stuffing| Junior Eun-Hye Maeda

“We don’t really have family recipes; we find stuff on the internet. We had this mango guacamole. It had pomegranate seeds, mangos, and guacamole. We had it with pita chips,” Maeda said.


Although Maeda does not have a traditional holiday food, her family likes to try online recipes and cook them for the holidays. She eats many different foods around the holidays because she does not have a fixed food to make in order to celebrate the holidays. Junior Eun-Hye Maeda spends her holidays with family and enjoying her favorite holiday food: stuffing. Maeda explains that she first found out what her favorite holiday food was through how she felt, but she also knew that stuffing would be her favorite food.  


“I just remember that’s the thing I always gravitated to...I feel complete, [stuffing has] a little bit of everything,” Maeda said.


Maeda explained that the texture and the salty flavor merged with the taste of cranberries made her like stuffing. The combination of those flavors is what she enjoys most about stuffing.


“I like stuffing; it’s weird to say, but I like the texture because its salty but also because we put cranberries on it,” Maeda said.


According to Maeda, the most important ingredients used in her stuffing consists of sweet, salty, and sour ingredients.


“[The most important ingredients are] cinnamon, cranberry, pineapples, lots of  vegetables,” Maeda said.


Maeda explains that she does not cook, but she still helps make the holiday foods.


“I help make [holiday foods] but I don’t actually do the cooking,” Maeda said.


However, having no family recipes or not being able to have the opportunity to cook did not stop Maeda from enjoying the holidays with her family.


“[I spend the holidays with] my brothers [who] come home, and we play board games, and [then] we open presents,” Maeda said. •

Tamales| Senior Nancy Iniguez

Senior Nancy Iñiguez celebrates the holidays by traveling to Mexico to spend time with her family and celebrate traditional Mexican holidays, such as Navidad and Año Nuevo. Along with celebrating the holidays, she helps out with the cooking. She calls assisting her family with the cooking of holiday foods a “family tradition”. Although her mother would yell at her, she would still have fun and find a way to be helpful with the holiday traditions.


“My favorite part is when we mess up and our mom yells at us. It’s kind of funny [when] she gets  mad and [then] realizes we’re just trying to help,” Iñiguez said.          

When celebrating holidays, her family celebrates Christmas, New Years, and Noche Buena. Her family celebrates these holidays by going to Mexico usually in December. She goes with her family to church and she enjoys the singing during this time as well.


“[We go] to church to sing and witness the nacimiento...and see Jesus [Christ] be carried around the streets,” Iñiguez said.


Another part of the holidays Iniguez enjoys is the food, her favorite being tamales. The reason tamales are her favorite is because they remind her the memories spent with her grandmother during the holidays and she associates tamales with those holidays.


“I associated it with that time of the year [and] seeing my family together in one place [and] being really full because grandma wouldn’t let you eat one tamale, she would want you to eat more," Iñiguez said.


Iñiguez explains that the basic process of making tamales involves maza, meat, and corn husks. She starts with the most simple ingredient to get, maza, and moves on how the tamales are rolled up and filled.


“We get the maza...[we] put in the meat and roll them up [in] una hoja and put them in a big pot,” Iñiguez said.


Iñiguez says that cooking is important to the celebration of her holidays and she believes that it brings her family together. She believes that eating the food that your family makes together is an important part of the holiday.


“I feel like the act of cooking food together is part of the celebration. You get to eat [the food you made] together,” Iñiguez said. •