By Tammi Anderson

“Amethyst” and “Saturday” tore away the shrink-wrap protecting my new and pristine copy of Hungry for Life, Homegirl Café’s new cookbook. Earlier that morning, the Homegirl Café homegirls had kept our group of women on retreat spellbound by their life stories. These beautiful young women had suffered much in their associations with family, gangs, and pimps. During periods of incarceration, they had both met Father Greg, founder and executive director of Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries, which also runs the cafe. Through their encounters, both women found opportunities for work, education, career counseling, and tattoo removal. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as they spoke with vulnerability about the fears and pain they knew, and with excitement about the opportunities extended to them. Amethyst and Saturday were now humoring my request for an autographed cookbook.

Pati Zarate, <em>Hungry for Life</em>

Pati Zarate, Hungry for Life

Together we started looking through the colorful, glossy pages full of photos, stories, and recipes. It was pure joy to spend time with these women as they pointed out people they knew and recipes they preferred. I know that some of these recipes will become favorites for regular meals at my house. I also now feel a stirring in my heart that I need to hop on the Metro Gold Line to Chinatown and walk the two blocks to the place where such life transformation is catalyzed. I want to take a tour, eat in the café where these recipes are served, and discern how I can support a place that gives complex meaning to the phrase, “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8)

Recently, I had time to try my first recipe from the cookbook. The shrimp tacos with cabbage salsa recipe (pp. 140) with the headline, “Best tacos in L.A.!” caught my attention. While I am sure that the Homegirl Café’s version surpasses my own results, my adapted attempt received compliments of “Yummy,” “Tasty,” “These are great!” and “I’m having seconds tonight!”

Salsa

Cabbage Salsa: Adding cold water heightens the salsa’s texture and color.

I loved making the cabbage salsa, and it was easy because I had a bag of pre-cut cabbage. I didn’t have the chiles de arbol that the recipe called for, so I minced chili peppers instead. Here is where the cook needs to season appropriately for the heat level their family enjoys. The recipe adds cold water to the salsa, which sounded unusual to me, but I followed the instructions. I discovered that the cool water crisps up the salsa and adds to the refreshing brightness of the final product. However, I recommend draining some of the liquid off before adding to the tortilla.

Shrimp

Shrimp: Before serving, we quickly removed the shrimp tails with a fork.

Next was the shrimp. I used shrimp in the freezer, but fresh shrimp would have been even better. The tacos were mouth watering! The lime, heat, garlic, salt, and seafood combined with the textures of crunchy and soft made for a meal that satisfied!

The final product

The final product: shrimp tacos with cabbage salsa — yum!

I look forward to trying more recipes from this beautiful cookbook. Homeboy Industries, including Homegirl Café, seems like a place where hope is reborn and lives are set on fresh paths. Core to my view on the world is my belief that everyone in the world deserves to know and experience unconditional love and to receive grace in action. I continue to hear about what is happening at Homeboy Industries along these lines and want to know more. In the meantime, I enjoyed these delicious tacos very much and look forward to trying my next recipe from the cookbook.

Tammi Anderson works in Pasadena as Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Finance at Fuller Theological Seminary.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The names in this article have been deliberately changed to respect confidentiality. This is the second of three responses to the publication of Hungry for Life, founding Homegirl Café chef Pati Zarate’s new cookbook. You may also enjoy Tamisha Tyler’s “Good food, good friends, good causes.”

Fieldnotes Magazine is a publication of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. We would love to hear from you about people, businesses, or other organizations we can interview or feature. Please email The Editor at Fieldnotes Magazine.

 

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