This post is the first in a four-part series on individuals and couples whose route to their Jewish food choices reflects the diversity of our community. Gerry Castillo and Laura Pomerance are raising their children in a household of merged traditions from their Hispanic and European Jewish families.
Sometimes an unlikely pairing works out. After meeting on Match.com, Gerry Castillo and Laura Pomerance discovered that their similar values and interests far outweighed the more obvious differences between them. Central to that list of similarities was their love of food and cooking.
When asked how they learned to cook, both immediately mention their grandmothers. Laura’s paternal grandmother was such a wonderful cook and baker that one year the family put together a book of her recipes, which Laura still uses. Gerry learned at the side of his paternal grandmother, too, as well as his mom and uncles, particularly his Uncle Julio.
Their food tastes and cooking styles as single working professionals began just about on opposite ends of the spectrum. Gerry described the contents of his “single guy” refrigerator as “stacks” of rib-eye steaks and lamb chops. Vegetables were sparse, mostly green peas and corn. By contrast, Laura loved chicken and pasta, with meat only occasionally and definitely not steak. She loved to bake, while Gerry loved to roast and grill. Today, a rather large home rotisserie sits on a counter in their kitchen, and their refrigerator contains all sorts of vegetables.
With two children now, a daughter who recently turned three and a son who celebrated his first birthday is the summer, Gerry and Laura rarely have time to cook their favorite meals. They do, however, still make foods that others might buy prepared. Among their favorites, and their kids’ favorites, too, is guacamole.
What to pair guacamole with? In the Castillo-Pomerance household, the obvious choice is latkes. As Gerry says, “They go well together—latkes, guacamole and sour cream.” This combination is not a Hanukkah-specific treat in their family. They eat latkes and guacamole frequently, even on Passover. After all, Laura points out, it’s easy to make latkes without flour. “Everything goes with guacamole,” she says, “Especially in this house.”
Gerry became a Jew by choice shortly before they married in 2008, and the family celebrates Shabbat on Fridays, with candles, challah and whatever simple meal they can put together after work. Once a month, their families (his mother and brother and her parents) join them for Shabbat dinner. While it may not be fancy, Shabbat dinner can include meals too complicated for weekday cooking, such as homemade enchiladas.
Asked to name their favorite Jewish holiday, they immediately reference food. Gerry doesn’t hesitate. Hanukkah is his favorite “because everything is fried!” Laura is a bit more reticent to choose. Finally she says, “I’m a little torn. I was going to say Passover, but the food is a little disappointing. I love the themes of the holiday, though—everyone together. Now that we have kids, I especially enjoy the Four Questions.”