As chef Nivia Villanueva arrives at Plaza del Mercado de Río Piedras, a traditional market in San Juan, her eyes light up when she sees the abundance of fresh local produce on offer just a few short weeks after the destination was hit by Hurricane Fiona.
“Look at this!” she says with excitement, holding up a large avocado that’s quadruple the size of the typical ones found in grocery stores back in Canada. “We also need peppers, onions and garlic.”
Our mission today is to pick up the ingredients needed to prepare a typical Puerto Rican feast for lunch. We’ll soon be whipping up dishes like mofongo, a local favourite made from fried mashed plantains.
Since moving back to Puerto Rico to be part of the solution and recovery efforts after the devastating impacts of hurricane Maria and Irma, Villanueva has been on a quest to share her love for cooking and the history of Puerto Rican cuisine with travellers. She strives to source local ingredients as much as possible as well as to support nearby farmers and small businesses.
“I share my passion for Puerto Rico’s culture and cuisine, emphasizing local products and my secret ingredient — a pinch of love,” she explains.