Preserving Cultural Traditions: Interview with Jose Rodriguez of PuertoRicanMeals.com

By: Sarita Sankey
Jose Rodriguez with his Mami from PuertoRicanMeals.com“Preserving Cultural Traditions”, this is something that is important to the founder of PuertoRicanMeals.com, Jose Rodriguez. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jose Rodriguez, along with his wife Arlene and cousin, Mercedes Pagan, who is “Cocinando Con Mami” for the Puerto Rican Meals DVD cooking library. The interview took place where the DVD cooking library was taped, in suburban Cleveland. I was invited to have a homestyle Puerto Rican meal, a Jibarito sandwich and Arroz con Gandules, which was prepared upon my arrival. This was my first time having this meal, and I must say, I truly enjoyed the meal, and there was plenty left for me to take back to Athens, Which of course I did.

Jose, who is an Automation Engineer & Facility Engineer in Cleveland, launched Puerto Rican Meals in 2004, after first formulating a family project. This family project was a video biography about his relative Anastacio Pagan, in which the video traced his life journey from Puerto Rico to the U.S. Jose and his wife Arlene, who are both Puerto Rican, were born in Miami, and their families came to Cleveland for better opportunities.

So, what drove the Rodriguez’s to embark on making a unique DVD collection on how to make Puerto Rican meals? When talking with Jose, he expresses that there was a sense of loss of Puerto Rican culture due to “assimilation”. And, he wanted to make a difference. When asking his cousin, Mercedes “Cocinando con Mami” about when Jose asked her to help with the DVD launch by cooking all of the meals for the tapings, her face lit up, and she said “Sure”, and was delighted to take part in her cousin’s vision, and Jose stated that she is indeed a “Great Cook”. His vision to make a difference, has brought to the forefront a unique collection of DVD’s that showcase 22 Puerto Rican meals on 10 DVD’s , as well as how to make the staple in Puerto Rican meals: Sofrito. What is also unique about the DVD collection is that it is presented in English, with some Spanglish. The cooking library was designed for visual learners, and Jose even made several trips to Puerto Rico for video and pictures. Customers even are able to hear instrumentals of the Cuatro and Spanish guitar while viewing the website.

Jose credits his friends and others in supporting his vision of introducing PuertoRicanMeals.com nationally. To Jose, it is about “Food & Culture”, and that is something that one will get when purchasing this collection. With the website: PuertoRicanMeals.com, this has reached a national market, which Jose intended. For the price of $59.95, this includes 10 DVD’s, and inside the DVD case, there is an insert that displays what utensils are needed as well as the ingredients.

For the founder of PuertoRicanMeals.com, Jose has set his sights on an extension of PuertoRicanMeals.com, and has launched CocinandoConMami.com. This website will provide cooking utensils and kitchenware items to customers across the country, especially for hard to find cooking items. Also, Jose’s future plans include writing a book, an autobiography or Self-Help book.

I must say, that I was delighted to not only enjoy my love of Cocina Criollo with the Rodriguez’s, but I was even given a DVD of my own on how to make 2 Puerto Rican meals, as well as a poster. This vision of creating a unique DVD cooking library on how to make Puerto Rican meals will truly live on for years to come, and really preserve the Puerto Rican culture. Buen Provecho!

Sarita Sankey is from Columbus, Ohio. She is a Doctoral student at Ohio University and Freelance Journalist. Her Major is Counselor Education & Supervision, with a minor in Spanish & Latin American Studies.
Posted by on Jan 14 2011. Filed under Comida. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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