Any fan of Daisy Martinez knows, the former chef of Daisy Cooks! and Viva Daisy! speaks the universal language of food. A native New Yorker, born of Puerto Rican parents, Martinez took to the stage of El Museo del Barrio Wednesday evening to showcase a couple of healthy recipes from her newest cookbook, Daisy: Morning, Noon, and Night, while retelling family history and interacting with the audience as if she were entertaining in her own kitchen.
A natural presence in front of a large group of people, Martinez instinctively understands how to command the attention of her devoted Latino fan base. She can whip up a simple salad and weave anecdotes of mother-in-law trouble with the ease of a professional chef and the timing of a comedienne, prompting bursts of laughter and knowing, sympathetic nods from the predominantly female crowd.
During her demonstration, Martinez spoke of her devoted love to cilantro, an herbaceous cousin to flat leaf parsley, that many find inedible due to its soapy disposition. She drew laughs while reminiscing about the moment she opened her mother-in-law’s eyes to the wonders of salt and pepper to season a simple roast chicken and drew slight cringes as she rehashed her daughter’s daring venture of eating pan-fried grasshoppers during a family vacation to Mexico.
As she conversed with the audience, making it seem as if she knew each and every person in the crowd, Martinez managed to prepare two easy salad recipes that can be taken to a picnic or eaten alongside grilled chicken or fish. The first recipe included black beans, diced mango, slivered red onion, and crunchy jicama sprinkled with cilantro, salt and pepper and dressed with a white wine vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette. The second dish was just as easy to assemble, if not easier. Mix in the flavors of sweet crab, mango, red bell pepper, and red onion with lime zest, lime juice and olive oil, add a healthy pinch of salt and pepper, and in an instant, she presented her Crab & Mango Stuffed Avocado.
Martinez ended her presentation by promising samples of each recipe for the audience, for fear that by not doing so, her grandmother would be correct in her wisdom that ‘people will talk about you later’, inducing a fit of laughter as well as a round of applause.
It was a brief hour and an half demonstration, but within those 90 minutes Martinez drew in the audience, allowing them to comment freely and openly to every piece of family history and bit of kitchen advice. Martinez has an energetic yet down to earth personality that anyone can relate to, making her a joy to watch on stage and on television. She is like the neighbor next door you run to when you need a cup of sugar or a confidante you keep around for a lifetime. She emanates such a likable persona that a crowd flocked around her at the end of the presentation just to say a few words before she left to sign copies of her cookbook in the adjoining café. And Martinez stood on the edge of the stage graciously accepting every thank you and positive comment with open arms and her signature wide smile.