Listen to this article

Writing by Gia Miller, Justin Negard, Emma Richman and Maddie Slogoff

We asked our neighbors to tell us about the foods they remember from their native countries. It reminded us that we could learn a thing or two from other cultures.

Lucia Gonzalez

Katonah via Bogotá, Colombia

Please describe Colombian food.

It depends on the region. Colombia is very different depending on where you go. We have the coast, the mountains, the jungle, so it varies. On the coast, there are a lot of fish dishes. In the mountains, you have a lot of potato-based dishes with arepas, which is a corn cake served with most meals. And it’s all organic. We have a lot of agriculture all around, so most of what you eat is grown fresh and natural.

What is your favorite Colombian dish? 

Bandeja paisa is very delicious. This is a popular dish with chicharrón (pork belly), eggs, avocado, rice, beans and beef. I also love changua, which is a soup made from eggs, bread, cilantro and broth. It’s common to eat it for breakfast and throughout the day. Ajiaco is a very delicious soup made with chicken, corn, guascas (a special Colombian herb), potatoes, capers and cream. It’s especially popular around the holidays.

What food do you miss the most from Colombia?

I mostly miss the ingredients. Simple things like a certain type of onions, beans or potatoes that you just can’t find in the store here. Even though you try to make the same recipes, it’s never the same because the ingredients and soil are different.

Is there anything else you want to share about Colombian food?

We don’t waste anything. Even if we peel the potatoes, we use the skin for something. My mother, for example, will cut green onions and use every piece of it in one dish or another. We would never put anything into the garbage. One of our popular dishes comes from this idea. It’s called calentado, and it’s made from lentils or beans, rice and leftover ingredients from the previous day. You can even go to restaurants for breakfast and ask for calentado. It’s very common.

Valerie Blackwood

Somers via Manchester, Jamaica

Please describe Jamaican food.

It’s the best. The food is all organic, and it’s farmed from manure and natural methods, which affects every step. The corn, for example, feeds the livestock so that when you get the meat from the cow or the pig, every bit of it is healthy since the animals also eat a proper diet.

What is your favorite Jamaican dish?

Braised chicken. It’s made with brown sugar, seasonings and green onions from the garden. We cook it outside on the grill, adding more brown sugar and seasoning after a few minutes. Then we cook it for another 10-20 minutes and serve it with rice and potatoes. It’s so good.

Are there any foods you really miss that you can’t find here?

Yellow yams with callaloo and codfish. Callaloo is a type of Jamaican greens that is served on the side. The codfish is a dry, salted fish that takes a month to dry. I also miss Jamaican goat curry. It’s made with Jamaican seasonings, scotch bonnet pepper and curry, then it’s slow- cooked for several hours on a low heat. 

For dessert, I love corn pudding. It’s made by grating boiled corn into a fine powder, adding coconut milk and nutmeg, and then baking for three and a half hours. When it’s done, it’s one of the best things you’ll ever eat. It’s very common in Jamaica to visit someone’s home and get a slice of corn pudding. 


Brian Kenny 

South Salem via County Longford, Ireland

Please describe Irish food. 

I grew up in County Longford, Ireland, which is mostly a farming community. I’d say 90 percent of what we ate was from the farm. We produced all our own crops. We had our own eggs, meat and milk from animals on the farm. And our milk was unpasteurized. It was milked and filtered with machines and went straight from there to the fridge to be used. It would last just one or two days. We also skimmed the cream off the milk and used that for butter.

It doesn’t get any more organic than that. Everything was very healthy and there were few fertilizers used in the garden. There was also zero waste. Everything would be used on the farm. So, back in Ireland 30 or 40 years ago, we were already doing what America is looking to accomplish today: recycling, reusing, not throwing things in the dump.

What do you miss most about food in Ireland?

Growing up, my mom baked bread and going home to her home-cooked meals always felt so wonderful. The Sunday meal was a big thing in Ireland, when the family would all get together and usually, we’d have a dish with a lot of effort put into it.

How was food in Ireland different from food in the U.S.?

Growing up, there wasn’t that vast variety of food in Ireland like there is in the U.S. We never had pizza or Chinese food. A treat would be going out with your friends to the chipper, where they made fish and chips.

Some of the major cities like Dublin had fast food. I remember trying it one summer, and it was horrible. I was used to healthy farm-to-table food, and I still try to eat that to this day. I often go to the local farmers market to pick up fresh produce.

Back then in Ireland, most people made everything themselves. We rarely ate out. That was the control you had. You knew exactly what you were putting on the table because you grew it yourself.

Pia Semi Goldberger 

Goldens Bridge via Sweden

Please describe Swedish food. 

Today, I would say it’s pretty much like here. The food in Sweden these days is very international. You can find any kind of food. We, of course, have McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and all these American brands. In the past, when I was a child, it was a lot different because in Scandinavia the winters are long and harsh. So there were no exotic vegetables and fruits, especially in the winter. In the summertime, we were able to grow carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, berries and root vegetables. But now, you can basically get all the same vegetables there that we have here in the U.S. because they mostly get their fruits and vegetables from Israel or Africa.

What is your favorite Swedish dish?

Probably beef stroganoff with mashed potatoes. My mom used to make that, and I think it was one of my favorites. It’s a dish that most people know. Of course, potatoes have always been a very basic thing in Sweden. Whatever you cook —- chicken, fish, shrimp, whatever —- you always have potatoes. Mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, fried potatoes, oven-roasted potatoes, you name it. Potatoes are always the basic thing and then you would make something else with it.

What dish do you miss the most?

Okay there’s one thing that most people don’t like, but I love it. It’s called blood pudding. It’s made of pig’s blood. It’s a black, moon-shaped piece of pig. You slice it into little slices, fry it in butter, and then serve it with plain lettuce and lingonberries or lingonberry jam. That’s something that I really miss, actually. I’ve been bad; I’ve smuggled it into this country. Once the dogs came sniffing and the police said, “You, come over here. Have you brought any food from your travels?” I said, “Oh my god, we have lots of food!” I wasn’t going to lie. I told them, “We have gravlax, cereal, Swedish candy, chocolate, bread and cookies.” But, I did not tell him that I had the blood pudding in my bag. And that’s definitely what the dogs smelled. In the end, he let us go.


Mimi Weiland Tesfaye 

Owner of Mimi’s Cafe in Mount Kisco via Ethiopia

Please describe Ethiopian food.

It’s delicious and very flavorful. It’s also a little bit spicy, but there are a lot of options. Traditionally, you eat it on a shared plate, and you use your hands to tear off a piece of the bread – it’s a flatbread called injera – and you use it to scoop up the food on the plate to eat it. There are vegetarian and meat dishes, and injera is gluten free. 

What is your favorite Ethiopian dish?

I would say anything that’s spicy – mostly the meat. My favorite dish is one that’s not most people’s favorite, and it’s called kitfo. It’s like steak tartare, but it can also come cooked. 

What do you miss most about Ethiopian food? 

Everything. I want to say everything. But my sister will cook Ethiopian food if we have a family get together. We’re able to get injera from the city, so we don’t have to make it ourselves. 

How is Ethiopian food in the U.S. different from Ethiopian food in Ethiopia?

For the most part, I would say everyone makes it similar. But a lot of people here tone down the spices, so some of the dishes could be a little bit more spicy. And the injera here isn’t fermented for as long as it is in Ethiopia, so it’s not as sour. Here, the sourness of injera can sometimes be a turn off. 

This article was published in the July/August 2023 print edition of Katonah Connect.

Editor-in-Chief at Connect to Northern Westchester | Website | + posts

Gia Miller is an award-winning journalist and the editor-in-chief/co-publisher of Connect to Northern Westchester. She has a magazine journalism degree (yes, that's a real thing) from the University of Georgia and has written for countless national publications, ranging from SELF to The Washington Post. Gia desperately wishes schools still taught grammar. Also, she wants everyone to know they can delete the word "that" from about 90% of their sentences, and there's no such thing as "first annual." When she's not running her media empire, Gia enjoys spending quality time with friends and family, laughing at her crazy dog and listening to a good podcast. She thanks multiple alarms, fermented grapes and her amazing husband for helping her get through each day. Her love languages are food and humor.

Creative Director at Connect to Northern Westchester | + posts

Justin is an award-winning designer and photographer. He was the owner and creative director at Future Boy Design, producing work for clients such as National Parks Service, Vintage Cinemas, The Tarrytown Music Hall, and others. His work has appeared in Bloomberg TV, South by Southwest (SXSW), Edible Magazine, Westchester Magazine, Refinery 29, the Art Directors Club, AIGA and more.

Justin is a two-time winner of the International Design Awards, American Photography and Latin America Fotografia. Vice News has called Justin Negard as “one of the best artists working today.”

He is the author of two books, On Design, which discusses principles and the business of design, and Bogotà which is a photographic journey through the Colombian capital.

Additionally, Justin has served as Creative Director at CityMouse Inc., an NYC-based design firm which provides accessible design for people with disabilities, and has been awarded by the City of New York, MIT Media Lab and South By Southwest.

He lives in Katonah with his wonderfully patient wife, son and daughter.

Emma Richman
+ posts

Emma Richman is a college student who interned at Katonah Connect in 2023. Emma’s passion for writing and storytelling is what led her to journalism. Outside of her writing, Emma is a competitive swimmer who, in high school, enjoyed singing with her a capella group, The John Jay Treblemakers, tutoring middle school students and playing alto saxophone.

Maddie Slogoff
+ posts

Maddie Slogoff is a recent John Jay High School graduate.