Yours, For Now: Notes on food, language, and family

August 26, 2023 | General

Drawing of Gabe and Lina from the book cover of Yours, for now, with the book title and a picture of road signs

How do we accurately represent Latin American culture in romance books? I’ve written in the past about how necessary it is to think about the diversity within the ethnicity, and acknowledge it as a complex thing. There are many ways to be Latine, and all of them have room in romance books. That’s why I included lots of references to Latin American foods, dynamics, and my first language in Yours, For Now, the first book of my Cozy Latine Billionaires series.

My good friend and beta reader C. told me she loved these references, but said she would have liked to know what the foods I mentioned are, from my perspective. Another thing she mentioned was that, even though she’s used to large family dynamics, she got a bit lost with the big name dump in this book. LOL! So, for C. and for any readers who might appreciate the aid, I wanted to put everything together as a sort of guide. Let me take you on a tour of Yours, For Now!

The family

A big theme in the Cozy Latine Billionaires series is found family. The Sotomayors are a welcoming, warm Chilean family who emigrated to North America. You’re free to imagine whether that’s the US or Canada! Gabriel, the oldest Sotomayor child, has three best friends who were emotionally adopted by his parents. Violeta, aka Vi (Vee), is the youngest Sotomayor and gets her own story as well.

As a therapist by day, I sometimes use a tool called genogram. These diagrams can get quite complex, but I made a simplified version to show the families discussed in the book and some basic dynamics:

A basic genogram between the Sotomayor and Martínez Families. The key points are: It shows conflict between Lina and her uncle Miguel, her friendship with her cousin Lucía, and the friendship between Gabriel and Max, Javier, and Jake.

The key point of this genogram is to show that, through the romantic relationship between Gabe and Lina, the Martínez and the Sotomayors get linked. The conflict between Miguel and Lina is a big catalyst for the book; in fact, it’s the main reason Gabe and Lina end up in a fake dating relationship.

The relationship between Max, Javier, Jake, and each of their parents, is complicated. They all found a family with the Sotomayors, and the series is about how each of them find their person.

I hope this genogram helps you locate each person in relation to each other.

Food & drinks

Since Mr. Leonor edits my books, he gets to read them before anyone else. During his first read of Yours, For Now, Mr. Leonor said, “Wow, everyone’s drinking coffee all the time.”

Yes. Yes, they are.

Even though that’s not the case for all of Latin America, of course, it definitely was my experience. It was either coffee or tea, but everyone drinks something, often not pure water. One notable drink I mention in the book is Pisco Sour, but there are also lots of dishes typical from Chile and Mexico that show up. Let’s see what they are!

Pisco Sour (Chile)

Pisco is a type of brandy; a spirit distilled from fermented grape juice, from specific grape varietals. Chile and Perú have been producing it for centuries, and the two countries have a long history of… debate over which of them came up with Pisco. But I will not go there on this blog 😉

Pisco Sour is made from equal parts pisco and lemon juice, sugar to taste, ice, and, optionally, an egg white. This should be blended or shaken well to get the foam. This is typically consumed as a pre-meal drink, especially for late lunch. It can be home-made or store-bought.

photo of a glass of pisco sour, with some basic ingredients list: pisco, sugar, lemon juice, and maybe egg whites


Hojarascas (Mexico)

While hojarascas are usually Christmas cookies in parts of Mexico, they’re so good that I just wanted them in the story somewhere! They’re made with wheat flour, lard, sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt, sprinkled on top with more sugar and cinnamon.

Hojarascas means dry leaves in Spanish; the reason these cookies are called that is that they crumble easily and make a dry sound when you eat them—like crunching leaves!

picture of hojarascas cookies plus basic ingredients: wheat flour, lard, cinnamon, and sugar


Cazuela (Chile)

Yum! Cazuelas are a classic soup-like dish. There is some flexibility in the ingredients, which depends on the region in Chile. The most typical base ingredients are beef or chicken, pumpkin, corn, green beans, and cilantro. A bit of potato or rice is optional.

The pumpkin we use is called zapallo camote. It’s a little bit like the Halloween pumpkin, but with a grey-green skin. The cilantro is sprinkled on top right before eating, directly onto your plate. This is all cooked slowly for the best flavour!

picture of cazuela + ingredients: meat, pumpkin, corn green beans, and potato


Frijoles Charros (Mexico)

I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time in Mexico. One of my absolute favorite dishes is frijoles charros. It’s so tasty and filling! I think I should try to make it at home. This is a soupy dish made with pinto beans, bacon, sausage, onion, and garlic, although, again, it might include other ingredients depending on the region.

picture of frijoles charros + basic ingredients: pinto beans, bacon, sausage, onion, garlic


Charquicán (Chile)

A staple meal at my house is charquicán. Both Mr. Leonor and I love this Chilean dish! Made with potato, pumpkin, corn, green beans, peas, and ground beef, this is another dish that you can customize. I sometimes use finely chopped bok choi or spinach instead of green beans, for example. Traditionally, people would also add a fried egg or a longaniza (Chilean version of chorizo) on top.

picture of charquicán + basic ingredients: pumpkin, potato, corn, green beans, ground beef


Arroz Primavera (Chile)

As the name says, rice is the base of arroz primavera, another essential Chilean dish at my household! The reason it’s called primavera (spring) is that it’s supposed to be mixed with multiple chopped veggies, which add a pop of colour to the dish. Some of the most common ones are celery, carrot, onion, corn, peas, and tomatoes. As for protein, typically you would add ground beef or tuna. If the protein isn’t in the rice, it would go on the side and it could be any kind.

picture of arroz primavera + basic ingredients: rice with or without protein, plus multiple chopped veggies


Alfajores (Chile)

Now back to sweets! There are a few versions of alfajores, but all of them are filled with manjar (the name we give in Chile to dulce de leche). I picked the most popular one for the picture. The cookies are made with flour, sometimes mixed with maicena (cornstarch), butter, and sugar. The cookie can also have egg yolks, depending on the recipe and type of alfajor. If you want to get fancy, instead of sprinkling them with shredded coconut, you can cover them in chocolate. They’re even better that way, in my opinion!

picture of alfajores + basic ingredient list: cookies (flour/cornstarch, butter, sugar), filled with manjar, and with sprinkled shredded coconut


Pastel de Choclo (Chile)

I left one of my favorite dishes for last. Pastel de choclo takes a long time to make, so we usually reserve it for special occasions at home. Imagine a sort of shepherd’s pie, but using mashed corn instead of potatoes. The corn mix is usually spiced with basil, while the filling of minced beef and chicken, eggs, and olives is spiced with cumin and other classics. Sugar is sprinkled on top and then it’s broiled, so it caramelizes. It’s a dish of summer joy!


The culture

While in Chile we don’t use hot spices very much, we do use lots of spices. Some of the things we use the most for flavor, besides garlic and onion, are cumin, cilantro seeds, black pepper, and paprika. Another thing I’d like you to know is that having a salad as a part of the meal is a Very Important Detail! Tomato, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli… almost any veggie can be made into a salad, and we only use oil, salt, and an acid (vinegar or lemon) as dressing.

Even writing this post, I find myself linking these foods to the culture. When in Mexico or back home in Chile, these dishes were intrinsic to my experiences. Yours, For Now is full of the culture I grew up with, so of course I had to talk about the food that reminds me of home.

This book has the most of me I’ve written to date. Both in terms of who Catalina had to be to withstand the sharp edges of her family’s beliefs, to the food and culture that shaped her story with Gabe. I welcome you to it, and I hope you feel at home.