Meet Boricua Soul

Boricua Soul Food Truck“Southern Soul, Caribbean Flair, Euro-African Roots”

Boricua Soul

Where are you originally from and how long have you lived in the Triangle area? 

I was raised in Connecticut by my grandparents. My grandfather was from Hillsborough, so when they retired in 1995 they moved to Durham. I have been coming to Durham since then but moved to the area 7 years ago.

Serena is from Bronx, New York and has been in the area for 11 years. She moved down her with her mother after she retired from the NYPD.

Do you feel as though this region has become more diverse in the last 10 years?

The region has become more diverse in the last 10 years and that has added to the fabric of the area. You see the diversity in the food options highlighting tastes from all over. Our city of Durham has seen incredible positive change. The hope is that with the positive change, the climate is still inclusive to the people who called the city home before it became a “Cool” place to be.

With an influx of such a variety of cultures and ethnicities to this area do you think this may pose a threat to Southern traditions?

We do not think the influx of cultures threatens Southern Culture. We think that the influx of cultures and ethnicities will enhance southern culture. The more people come together the more they realize what they have in common. In this journey of combining southern foodways with Puerto Rican foodways we have discovered how much they actually have in common, that same discovery can happen between other people as well.

Is it important to try to protect Southern traditions or do we just roll with the changes without trying to preserve?

Of course people should hold on to traditions that are important to them and their families. Inside a family you have traditions and when someone new is added to the family they may bring things new to the table to mix into the dynamic. Our family is a mix of many traditions that make us unique. I carry southern traditions from my grandparents and North east traditions from my upbringing in Connecticut. Serena carries traditions from a New York Italian Grandmother and a Puerto Rican born Grandmother.

Do you think of food as a form of communications?

We think food is the utmost form of communication and has been since the beginning of time. On a personal level when you are taking care of someone it usually involves cooking for them, that communicates your feelings for them. When we hand a plate of food from our window we are communicating something about ourselves to that person. Our menu conveys personal experiences and memories from both of our past.

Is there a dish that you’ve made or make that sort of sums up your style or your background? I guess a signature dish perhaps that really gives people a glimpse of your personality. 

A dish that really sums up our style and background is Mofongo. We recently had our DNA analyzed and it gave us a breakdown of our origins. Between Serena and I we found West Africa, Europe, Native American and more. Mofongo is a Puerto Rican dish but in it you find all of those same origins mashed up to make one fantastic dish. We have not served it on the truck yet because it is a labor intensive dish that we did not want to serve it until we knew we could execute it the way it deserves to be done.

If you were to choose one dish that could be your definition of “soul food” what would that dish be? Why is this dish so special to you?

That’s a tough one but I will say mac and cheese. Macaroni and cheese itself, made a certain way or out of a Kraft box is not considered Soul Food but mac and cheese the way my grandmother and all of her sisters made it was a staple at every family gathering. Made with eggs to give it a more casserole feel with plenty of cheese and milk or cream

Sometimes people will simplify or strip down a recipe or a menu in order to appeal to a particular clientele.  I think this can be a very tricky balance.  Has there ever been a time that you’ve felt this pressure in order to be more marketable?

We are constantly wrestling with the balance between celebrating the history and culture of two different  cuisines with similar strands. There is a further struggle to present “celebration” dishes in both that evoke feelings of home and comfort, those comfort foods are usually the most unhealthy. With limited space on the menu there is a certain level of pressure to give everyone what they want while representing the culture. A concession we have made so far is making our collards without Pork. Some find the move to be blasphemous but after tasting them, we have swayed many to believe vegan collards can taste great. As we improve efficiency we hope to add more items highlighting the healthier side of both cuisines.

Is there a particular food, ingredient or dish that you really love that you’ve either tried to put on your menu or are too hesitant to put on your menu because you don’t think that your customers are ready for it?

Alcapurrias (meat filled fritter made with root vegetables) is an item we were hesitant to put on the menu because we knew they would be unfamiliar to most. We only made them a few times out in February and didn’t sell too many of them but there was a die hard group happy to be able to find them in the area. We do think people will love them but it will take a better job of presenting and educating about them. Next time we will have to come with some visuals to peak peoples interest. To a person who is unfamiliar the word Alcapurrias may seem off-putting.

Sometimes there’s a learning curve that has to occur in order to slowly gain acceptance with customers are there ways that you’ve tried to subtly educate?

There is without a doubt a learning curve involved with our concept. We sit somewhere between Soul Food and Puerto Rican Cuisine and die hard eaters at either end sometimes aren’t sure what to think. The tag line written on the side of the truck,  (Southern Soul, Caribbean Flair, African Roots) gives a hint to diners of what to expect but we love sharing the reasons behind our concept. I know one of Serena’s favorite parts about working on the truck is having someone come to the window who looks uneasy while reviewing the menu. She takes the time to explain the concept and asks questions about what they like or are in the mood for. When they come back to the window for more or they track us down our next time out, it’s a great feeling knowing we were a part of a new food experience for someone.

Check out the collaboration mixtape with DJ Rhymic here…Sound System

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