At the Table: Maristella Gonzalez
Maristella González is a Brooklyn-based graphic designer and art director from Panamá City, Panamá. You may know her for her amazing eye for design and her work with Ceremonia. Today, she’s opening up her home and giving us a peek at her tabletop. She talks to us about comfort and mindfulness, and the feeling of connection through sharing a meal or inviting people into your space.
By Eimy Figueroa
Photos provided by Maristella Gonzalez
What’s your name? Tell us about yourself.
Maristella: My name is Maristella González. I’m a Brooklyn-based graphic designer and art director from Panamá City, Panamá.
What will you be sharing with us today?
Maristella: We cook a lot of different things at home, both from our culture and others. Right now we’re obsessed with lamb meatballs and we make them with cumin and a yogurt sauce, or sometimes with coconut milk, curry and cilantro. The thing about food is that, like scent, it’s so tied to memory that I can always find comfort in the food of another culture if there is an ingredient that overlaps somehow with Latin American cuisine. Latin America is such a melting pot and Panama has always been a point of convergence and transit—it’s almost too easy to find these overlaps. In the case of these meatballs, it’s the cumin. Also for today, even though its winter, I made a very summery salad. A new fancy supermarket opened in our neighborhood and they had frisée lettuce and it just gave me such a craving for an all-green, crunchy and herby salad. I tossed the frisée with dill, scallions, mint, parsley, baby arugula and cucumber, and dressed it with a basic lemon, apple cider vinegar, honey and olive oil vinaigrette that I mix periodically—I always have a batch of it in the fridge. I guess a summer-feeling salad in the winter is my version of sancocho in the summer. A dish that shouldn’t make sense for the season but you choose to ignore that.
What does tradition mean to you? What traditions do you hold close?
Maristella: Tradition is familiarity, comfort and mindfulness to me. I absolutely love Christmas Eve, for example. I’m not religious, but the coming together of family and eating these very specific dishes—tamales, pavo, pernil, rosca navideña, arroz con guandú, plátano en tentación—just brings me so much comfort. When I was younger, Christmas Eve was spent at my paternal grandparents’ apartment. There was so much food and it was always so good. Then, when my grandparents passed away and my siblings got married and had children, my parents became the grandparents. Christmas Eve was now at my parents’ apartment, but many of the recipes remained the same. Some traditions are smaller, but not less important. Every weekend I make my husband a “hearty breakfast” as he likes to call it. I wake up every Sunday with such excitement and make us pancakes, hash browns, eggs and bacon with all my love. Seeing my husband enjoy it week after week is such a joy. That’s the mindfulness part. No matter how many times we do this, it’s always so special. We never take it for granted. A tradition should be acknowledged and celebrated with presence, not absentmindedness, no matter how big or small.
Who do you typically share meals with?
Maristella: My husband. Friends that we invite over, invite us over or that we go out to dinner with. My parents when I stay with them in Panama—particularly breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.
If you could have a meal with any three people, someone you know/don’t know/alive/dead, who would they be?
Maristella: My paternal grandparents and great-aunt. I was born much later than my siblings, which meant I had much older grandparents than most of my friends. They passed away when I was a lot younger. I’d love to have a conversation with them as the woman I am today, and ask them about their life stories with more intention and presence. Maybe also get some recipes.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Maristella: The connection I feel to others when I invite them into my home, cook for them and share a bottle of wine with them is a very unique one. It can be intimidating at first, but so special and rewarding if you overcome the fear of cooking or hosting. Try it with whatever dish or meal you feel comfortable with and work your way up.