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Sharing a meal is a way for people to come together, connect and honor cultural traditions — and that is exactly what Harborview Medical Center’s Nutrition and Food Services team has in mind for the meals they are serving during Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month.

Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month runs Sept. 15-Oct. 15 and celebrates the histories, cultures and accomplishments of Hispanic and Latinx communities. Over the course of this month, Harborview’s cafeteria has been serving dishes that are significant to these cultures.

Vanessa Gray-Douglas

Chef Vanessa Gray-Douglas.

“For me, it was really important to choose recipes that have meaning and do honor to them,” says Vanessa Gray-Douglas, the executive chef at Harborview. “It’s not just another meal, it’s a celebration of heritage.”

Eva Lopez, program coordinator at the Urology Clinic, who assisted the kitchen staff with menu planning, wanted to bring the flavors of Hispanic Heritage Month to life.

“I’m hoping people will broaden their minds and horizons,” she says. “People hear Hispanic and automatically think Mexico, but it’s more than Mexico. It’s a whole universe of people and flavors. I hope this encourages people to question and taste and enjoy every flavor that’s representative of these different cultures.”

While Lopez’s favorite dish — and one she’s passed on to her kids — sopes, isn’t on Harborview’s menu for this month, she’s excited for the meals at Harborview and the opportunity to share these cultural dishes.

“It’s all about flavors and spices and sharing of oneself with every meal,” she says. “I’m excited for the chiles en nogada. I haven’t personally prepared it, but my family has. It’ll be nice to taste it and smile and remember.”

In addition to the meals, Harborview’s cafeteria is decorated in celebration of the month.

Ederlinda Molina, Nutrition and Food Services business manager, and Christopher Tharpe, Nutrition and Food Services retail manager, created posters explaining the significance of the dishes and displayed traditional Hispanic and Latinx decorations as well as positive affirmation banners written in Spanish and English.

“I would hope that the others would take the time to reflect that our nation was founded on immigrants from many parts of the world. It reminds us that even when faced with adversity, through hard work and perseverance, change is possible. It says that dreams do come alive,” Tharpe says. “We would like to recognize the cultures and contributions and history of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.”

A taste of Hispanic Heritage

Ready to eat? The meals will be available for all shifts during Hispanic Heritage Month, and you can find the daily menu on Harborview’s intranet.

Plus, if you’re feeling inspired, take to the kitchen yourself. Chef Gray-Douglas shares some of the recipes, modified for beginner cooks, so you can prepare the dishes and celebrate at home.

Chiles en Nogada 

Chiles en Nogada

Classic Cuban-Style Picadillo

Classic Cuban Picadillo

Shrimp Salsa Verde

Shrimp Salsa Verde

Jamaican Salmon with Coconut Cream Sauce

Jamaican Salmon With Coconut Cream Sauce

Vegan Caribbean Stew

Vegetarian Stew

Opening photo caption: Harborview Nutrition and Food Services team.