A recipe for Aruban pastechis and a celebration of the colorful cooks who taught me about them.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
— MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
Ordinarily, I try to keep my introductions brief, cause let’s be real, people want to get to the recipe. But now is a time when we need to speak up.
I am so incredibly thankful for the amazing influences I have had in my life. I have been blessed and enriched beyond measure by the beautiful individuals whom God has allowed me to know. Men and women from around the world of differing colors, cultures, faiths, ways of speaking, income and education levels - all of whom have made my life better for having known them.
Many of my happiest childhood memories are of and because of people who look nothing like me - Brother and Sister Brown, Brother and Sister Hope, Joan Giddens, Tanta (aunt), Lulu and so many more. If you have never attended church when Brother Brown lead singing or gone to fellowship afterward when Sister Brown or Joan were cooking, you. have. missed. out. If you have not seen Tanta smile or heard her laugh, if you never tasted Lulu’s cooking after Ramadan or benefited from her amazing fashion sense, or never experienced Shabbat with the Sterns, then you have missed a joy, and I hope you have those in your circle who have shared and gifted you with similar joys.
Thankful and better because of a global family of Brothers, Sisters, Tantas, Aunties, P’s (aunt), and Aunts who have taught me, fed me, loved me, I am devastated and baffled beyond belief at the hate that so many would aim at them. Because of the color of their skin? Because they don’t look like the reflection I see in the mirror? I would not be who I am today without the colorful cast of phenomenal mentors, teachers, and friends who have given me so much. I would have been robbed of so much without them, and it is beyond time we stop those who would rob anyone of a life without fear, without equality, without justice, or without respect.
Instead, I choose to celebrate my global and diverse family. I choose to stand with, step in and fight for them. Everyday.
During my childhood in Aruba, I learned this recipe, one of the countless gifts I’ve been given by a community that could have rejected me because I was in the minority, because I did not look like them. And instead they welcomed me and changed my life forever for the better.
If you read my post about Aruba, you know pastechis are a favorite food of mine - both because they are delicious and because they bring back such wonderful childhood memories. These meat (or cheese) pies can be filled with curried beef, gouda, or a host of other fillings - even pizza toppings. My favorite was always the gouda, but beef sauteed with onions, potatoes, peppers, spices like cumin and Jamaican curry (and sometimes raisins) is delicious, too.
This recipe pulls from an Aruban recipe for pastechis as well as a curried meat pie recipe from Jubilee, a collection of African American recipes spanning 200 years. This is one of my favorite cookbooks, preserving the history and culinary contributions of African American cooks from a diverse array of locations, including the Caribbean, West Africa, and the States, with a beautiful introduction around the meaning of Jubilee. If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend it. For me, it’s a taste of home and a chance to learn.
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- 1 large bowl
- Biscuit cutter
- 2 pans - one for beef and one for frying (or air fryer)
DOUGH (serves 4-6 people)
- 6 cups flour
- 3 ‘heaping’ Tablespoons butter, room temp
- 3 ‘heaping’ Tablespoons shortening
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cup water
- Vegetable oil for frying
- In a large bowl, cream the butter, shortening, salt and eggs.
- Slowly add in 2 cups of flour, then add the water.
- Continue to gradually add in flour while mixing ingredients in the bowl until flour is incorporated.
- On a floured surface, knead the dough by hand for ~8 minutes.
- Roll the dough into a thin (~1/4 inch) sheet.
- Using the biscuit cutter (or a mason jar) cut out rounds. The rounds need to be at least 4 inches wide to allow room for filling.
- Place your filling of choice slightly off center of the round and fold the round in half, covering the filling and forming a moon shape.
- Wet the edges of the moon shape and press with a fork to seal.
- Heat oil in frying pan or skillet and deep fry the pastechis.