Leonore Mendoza is the ex-wife of Saeed Pourkay, owner and chef of Taste of Persia on 12 W 18th St in NYC. She came to help Saeed in his restaurant today because he was short-staffed. She describes the food rituals of her home in Venezuela, specifically her memories of Christmastime. She remembers the affection shared between her family and friends, as they worked together to create a traditional Venezuelan holiday dish, hallacas.
She remembers it as a corn dough that is flattened over a banana leaf and filled with a sweet pork and chicken stew, chicken breast, peppers, raisins, almonds, and olives. Everything is folded together, wrapped with thread, and boiled for 45 minutes. Once the hallacas are cooked, they are removed from the water, their threads are undone, and the sides and front of the banana leaf are cut, so it can be opened "like a flap or like a window."