I love cultural history. I love it. I soak up details and facts and information about the history of different cultures anytime I can. I listen to podcasts, I read blogs, watch documentaries, and when I meet someone from a different culture–especially if they are a seasoned person, if you know what I mean–I ask questions. Or if I meet an older person, from my own culture–I ask questions. I think that’s why I loved volunteering in a nursing home when I was in college.
I love hearing stories and details about people’s lives, especially when it comes to their culture. Now this is especially true when it comes to food. Every culture, every family, has that recipe, or that dish, or that particular food that has been passed down for generations. You know exactly what I am talking about. There’s been a movement recently, of younger generations wanting to make sure that the trades and tricks and techniques and such from different cultures are being carried on or passed down. There’s even a whole Youtube channel now, of Italian grandmas sharing their signature pasta recipes because their grandchildren don’t want the techniques to get lost.Now today’s guest is not only carrying on the traditions of her family and her culture, but she is doing it in such a way that it is impacting the next generation to come, in a way you’d never imagine. My guest this week is Cecilia Polanco, the founder of local Durham food truck, So Good Pupusas, and its non-profit partner, Pupusas for Education. Now, if you’re not local to the Raleigh/Durham area, you are probably wondering, why would I bring on a local food truck owner onto the show?
While Cecilia’s story of how she went from a university scholar to the owner of a food truck with a mission is absolutely incredible. I told her this during our interview, that I want to be her when I grow up–and I’m older than her so–without further ado, onto my chat with Cecilia.
What is a Pupusa?
They are the staple Salvadorian food–a thick tortilla with stuffing on the inside–often eaten on special occasions. For Cecilia, they represent nostalgia and connection to home. They are a way to keep Salvadorian culture alive through culinary tradition.
A Family Affair
Cecilia is part of a very special family community in Durham, North Carolina. She credits the success of her business to this network, and is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to spend so much time with her mother through her work–learning and sharing these family recipes.
EDUCATION AND INSPIRATION
Her senior year of high school, Cecilia applied for college and scholarships. She took part in a program for students of color at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and wound up receiving a full, hugely prestigious scholarship. At school, she started to hear a different narrative surrounding herself–one that was positive and uplifting. This was a stark contrast to the mixed messaging she received throughout her grade school education. She adored her heritage-speaker Spanish classes, and was especially enthralled with seeing a Latina at the head of the classroom. Her Spanish professor became a huge source of inspiration, and she learned to believe in her own wonderful capabilities.
BLOOD, SWEAT, AND TEARS IN THE KITCHEN
The idea of starting a food truck began as a family joke between sisters. However, when Cecilia began dreaming of creating a scholarship fund (to allow students her age to experience the same opportunities she was afforded during her college career) this joke took on an incredible life of its own. So Good Pupusas was launched as a means to an end, but it became so much more than that. It became a way to connect with her culture, family, and culinary traditions that have been passed down for generations.
About Cecilia Polanco, Founder of So Good Pupusas:
Born in Los Angeles, California to Salvadoran immigrant parents, raised in Durham, NC along with her three older sisters, Cecilia is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she was a Morehead-Cain Scholars and a Global Gap Year Fellow through the Campus Y. She started So Good Pupusas with her family while she was in undergrad in 2015 and the non-profit Pupusas for Education in 2016. She majored in Global Studies with a minor in Geography, received a Business Essentials certificate from Kenan Flagler, and is currently working on a certificate in Non-Profit Management from UNC. She believes business can be a force for good and that pupusas can change the world.
CONNECT WITH SABRINA
Join my Purchase with Purpose Facebook group and let’s continue the conversation! https://www.facebook.com/groups/purchasewithpurpose/