In this episode of EPFV, Meredith E. Abaca speaks with Adriana and Lily Nadar, co-owners and chefs of El Layali, a Lebanese restaurant. In this conversation we learn about the migration of Lebanese into Mexico City and the northern state of Chihuahua. Adrian shares the history of her Lebanese-Mexican family and what led her aunt Adela Nadar encouraged her husband into opening the first Lebanese restaurant in Chihuahua, City in 1986, Los Fenicios (The Phoenicians), which is still operating and family run.  ​Adrian and Lily speak about their introduction to the restaurant business; connections between Lebanese and Mexican cuisines, both at the level of ingredients, techniques, and dishes. They also speak of specific familial culinary traditions that began at Los Fenicios with their aunt’s cooking and that now they prepare at El Layali. Last but not least, the philosophy guiding their cooking, which they see as artisan, is one that in Adriana’s words is intended to help their patrons “to taste the earth.”

In this episode of EPFV, Meredith E. Abarca speaks with Alejandro Borunda, co-owner of Taconeta, a restaurant that specializes in tacos and other regional foods mostly from central Mexico. Alejandro shares his journey into the food industry and his vision for Taconeta’s serving style, dining area, kitchen, and of course the menu. Raised by a mother whose own passion for food led her to become a professional CIA (Culinary Institute of America) trained chef, Alejandro embraces the philosophy that a way to learn about a place history and culture is through food. This belief is the very spirit of Taconeta as patrons experience the flavors and textures of heirloom blue and red corn that reaches Taconeta through a network that buys directly from framers in central Mexico. Alejandro shares the process of importing sacks of corn to the nixtamalization for making daily fresh tortillas. We also learn about the origin and process of making what should be considered El Paso’s native alcoholic drink: sotol. As a restaurant co-owner, he also brings our attention to the important topic of food waste and what steps are taken at Taconeta to mitigate this environmental, ethical, and social issue. ​

In this episode of EPFV, Meredith E. Abarca speaks with Raúl Gonzalez, better known as Ruli.  He is owner and executive chef of Rulis' International Kitchen and created /host of The Chuco Cooking Show. Ruli shares the journey that took him to recognize cooking as his “zen” and his commitment to support locally grown foods. He expresses his views on the impact that mass food production has had both for the food industry and on people’s health and world views. He goes on to address the benefits and challenges a commitment to culinary sustainability brings forth in the daily operations of running a restaurant in a desert area as El Paso, Texas. Through his comments, we learn some aspects of El Paso’s culinary history and the efforts of a number of farm growers to provide high quality locally grown products.

In this episode of EPFV, Meredith E. Abarca speaks with Roman and Adriana Wilcox, co-owners of One Grub Community and co-founders of the non-profit Planty of the People ( Their commitment to providing access to healthy, fresh quality products to El Paso’s community has been featured in El Paso Food Voices project. Adriana, in EPFV episode #4 speaks of her journey as a social entrepreneur and her growing interest in channeling her energy through providing food access to which every community she happens to be a member of.  Roman in EPFV website-public kitchen section (, speaks of his culinary journey that let him to understand the social responsibility the life of a chef entails. In this join conversation, they specifically speak of both the challenges and opportunities that Covid-19 has presented to their continues efforts in making plant-based food accessible to the community.  

In this episode of EPFV, Meredith E. Abarca speaks with Sabiha Khan, professor of Communications and Digital Media Production. Among prof. Khan’s academic and community engagement interest is the field of Food Studies. In this episode, she speaks a few projects that futured El Paso’s food practices, history, and culture. In her on-going documentary, Remembering How to Eat, through her collaboration with La Semilla Food Center, a 14-arce farm located in Anthony, New Mexico, prof. Khan explores how the center’s youth gardening programs is helping young people to re-connect with the land, food, and family culinary histories. Prof. Khan speaks of other digitally based and public humanities projects where she has focus on exploring and analyzing El Paso’s community food practices.

In this episode of EPFV, I, Meredith E. Abarca, speak with two of my former students, Consuelo Salas and Joshua I. Lopez. We discuss how and why Food Studies has become central to their postgraduate work. I first met Consuelo Salas when she took a required course to obtain a BA in American Literature, “Introduction to Literary Studies” in the Department of English at the University of Texas at El Paso. This course introduced students to literary theories by anchoring them through food. Consuelo speaks of her initial reaction to the concept of examining life's cultural, social and economic complexities through food. She speaks of specific class assignments that led her to fully experience the rich and complex role food plays in our daily lives. She also addresses of the impact seeing life through a critical food perspective has had in personal life, in her views of El Paso’s food landscape, and in her professional career as an Assistant professor in Writing Studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Joshua I. Lopez also speaks of how learning about food studies as a scholarly research area has impacted his life. I first met him when I gave a lecture on food as a system of communication to an undergraduate course in Cultural Anthropology  he was taken. Joshua, intrigued by this idea, he continue to explore it while obtaining his Master’s degree in American Literature. In this episode, shares a moving story of when he came out to his mother. Without responding to her son’s news, she simply made him a cup of hot chocolate, placed it in front of him, and told him not to stay up too late. Through this gesture, Joshua knew he was loved and that’s all it matters. Through the courses he has taught at the University of Texas at El Paso and at El Paso Community College, Joshua has designed assignments to help numerous of students understand and communicate with the voice of food. As a Ph.D. student of Food History at the University of North Texas, he focuses his research on gathering food oral stories and understanding the impact of “food voice” in people’ everyday life.


December 12, 2019

5: Mexican Baking Tradition

In this episode, Chyanne Smith talks with Juan Gonzalez, owner of La Sevillana bakery in Lower Valley El Paso, Texas, about traditional Mexican baking. They begin by delving into the history of Mr. Gonzalez’s bakery including how he got started and how his bakery is central to the neighborhood for more than just the breads he makes. In this discussion, Mr. Gonzalez also talks about the origin of the name of his bakery, La Sevillana. The discussion then shifts into talking about the best part of a bakery – the food – looking at Mr. Gonzalez’s menudo while also discussing the varieties of menudo that exist. To end the conversation, our hostess and Mr. Gonzalez discuss traditional holiday breads and the importance they carry.

In this episode of EPFV, Meredith E. Abarca speaks with Adriana Wilcox, co-owner of One Grub Community, the only all plant-based restaurant in El Paso, Texas, and co-founder of “Planty for the People,” a non-profit organization. Adrian walks us through how she, and her husband chef Roman Wilcox, became do define themselves as food social entrepreneurs. What this means to her is that everyone deserves the right to good, healthy and delicious food.  As a team, the Wilcox have made a commitment to use their business and culinary skills as venues for addressing food insecurities in some of El Paso’s desiccated food desert areas. By developing and implementing systems such as “pay it forward,” “volunteerism,” “gardening knowledge,” and “cooking lessons” into the everyday operation of food related work, they creating community networks the collectively begin to create spaces dedicated to food justices.

In this podcast our guest is professor Dino Chiecchi, a life-long photographer journalist who now teaches in the Department of Communications at the University of Texas at El Paso. He speaks of the value the food has historically played in capturing peoples’ emotions in divers social, historical, cultural and economic realities. He this podcast, he talks about food in photography pertaining to food distribution, poverty, war, and famine. More specifically, he addresses several important factors that photographers should consider while photographing these social issues in first-world countries as well as third-world countries. He offers tips to listeners, which include caring about the subject matter and learning to show empathy without being too involved. He indicates the importance of separating the self from the subject matter since it could compromise the objective at hand. If photographs include people, they are the most important subject matter to consider because their body language not only reveals a great deal about them as an individual but as a part of the collective whole. He emphasizes the universal understanding that photography offers to a diverse audience regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, etc. However, he stresses the value of capturing the honest truth about life, both positive and negative, rather than concealing it through staging photographs. A has the ability to communicate across cultures, yet captions and cut-lines are crucial to know vital information such as the ‘who, what, where, when and why’ of a photograph. Have we captured your attention? Join us as we cultivate mindfulness while we capture moments and create memories.


December 12, 2019

2: Food in Art and Art in Food

On Monday October 28 2019 at 10:00 a.m., St. Petersburg Born and Internationally known artist Lyuba Titovets came in to be interviewed for the El Paso Food Voices Podcast. The interview began with an introduction of Lyuba, her profession and her background. Lyuba Titovets was born and raised in St. Petersburg Russia where she and her husband Alexander Titovets received training at the local university. After her introduction, Lyuba spoke about her development as an artist and how she developed her aesthetic and choice of composition, moving from the fantastical to the realm of reality and still lifes as she matured. Lyuba then spoke about the unique food/Russian inspirations in her artwork such as the White Nights Festival, an annual summer festival in Saint Petersburg celebrating the continual sunlight in the summer months. Lyuba then spoke of her move to El Paso and the local food influences that inspired her paintings, like the pomegranate tree, fig tree and grape vines in her backyard.

Lyuba spoke about the vivid colors as well as the universal and ancient connections she felt when looking at and painting these fruits, e.g. the pomegranate in the ancient Greek story of Hades and Persephone. Lyuba also spoke about her fascination with wine and wine bottles, as well as their universal and ancient connections. Lyuba then spoke about her use of food and fruit in not only constructing images for her own still life’s, but in teaching painting as well. She claimed that painting images, like fruit, in real life was much better than painting from a photograph because a photograph was static and did not convey the changes that happen overtime (light, decay etc.… ), thereby being less real and having less connection.

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