Living by the Seasons – Embarking on a New Journey


Living by the Seasons – Embarking on a New Journey

Maria C. Castillo-Catoni sitting on a mountain top of a bright afternoon.

My most beloved childhood memories take me to the kitchen.

My grandmother was both a fantastic baker and cook, a rare gift. When my grandfather died, he left behind a young widow and seven kids. “Ita” (short for Abuelita) as us grandkids lovingly called her, started selling baked goods to provide for the family. Fast forward decades later and she was still creating professional confections for weddings, birthdays, and other special occasions. I still remember sitting at the dining room table next to her while she sculpted sugar wedding cake flowers with her own hands… pure magic in the eyes of a child.

Sunday Dinner: More Than Just a Meal

My mother was quite the cook as well. She loved to find a recipe and make it her own. I still vividly remember the delicious smell of her sweet and sour wings roasting in the oven and “arroz con cebolla” (rice with onions, a delicious dish we frequently eat in Puerto Rico) steaming on the stovetop. We often had family over for Sunday dinners. The kitchen became a place of love, laughter and gathering. As a child, I was mostly allowed to only observe, but the memories became a sort of recipe book I stored away in my mind. Once I moved away on my own, I was able to almost effortlessly recreate many of the dishes I so fondly remembered. All this to say, I love being in the kitchen. I love cooking and how it can bring us together.

During my years of medical training, I stuck to the family recipes that had such a special place in my heart. I would, at times, venture into “Cocina Criolla”, the book my family called the bible of Puerto Rican cuisine, and try a new recipe. It wasn’t until my husband and I started dating that I started to explore different cuisines. We loved exploring the New York City and DC international food scenes when visiting each other. Early in my career, a beloved colleague and mentor from India introduced me to the wonder of spices and heat (“spicy”). I also learned that vegan and vegetarian meals can be just as flavorful, if not more, than their omnivore counterparts.

Sharing Experiences 

At around the same time, my sister started experimenting with different cooking styles as well. We would share recipes and at times make the same meal on the same day and share our experiences. She developed an interest in Ayurveda (a natural system of medicine that originated in India over 3,000 years ago) and would share tidbits of knowledge with me. These experiences sparked my curiosity, and I started to look for recipes that called for more fresh, seasonal ingredients and spices. I would go to the supermarket or farmers market and see what was in season, then look for recipes that called for those ingredients.

The process of imagining and creating a healthy and flavorful meal became, not only a hobby, but a way for me to decompress after a busy day. When our daughter was born, I knew I wanted to share my love for cooking and the potential for connection and nourishment that exists behind every meal.

Join Me On My Culinary Journey! 

Through my posts I want to share the same with you. As a physician, I see the impact our dietary and movement habits have on our health firsthand and realize the power behind individualized, relatable, and practical education. Using the seasons as inspiration, I hope to spark interest and enthusiasm in healthy and balanced eating, movement, and gathering at the table. I look forward to bringing you along!

Wishing you all good health,

Maria (Cristi) Castillo-Catoni, MD

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