At that point the Quito, Ecuador, native took a break to decide what she wanted to do. She started thinking of going abroad.
“I thought if I got a degree (in the United States) it would open a lot of doors, I thought I’d have a lot of opportunities,” she said.
In 2001, Tamara came to Michigan through Au Pair in America.
“I wanted to learn English,” she says and figured she would be here for a year. Ten years later, the Quito, Ecuador, native has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Madonna University and has been married since May 2009. She is currently working with our satellite partner, Generation With Promise, as a nutrition educator.
At a young age, she was always health-conscious, so it was a natural fit for her to go into nutrition.
“I think I got it from my mom who also cooked healthy like soups and salads. I remember going to the supermarket to do grocery shopping together and while I waiting in like I would look at nutrition magazines and cooking magazines ... I was a teenager, about 13 or 14.
“After I graduated from high school in Ecuador, I wanted to go into nutrition but (the college) didn't have it. It was very new. I started going to school for nursing then thought I would go for my master's in nutrition. After two semesters I didn't like it.”
It was chance that brought her to Michigan. She had the choice to go to New York, Chicago and Washington. She picked Michigan because, “I’d never heard of it before.” The other locations had strong Latino communities already and she really wanted to immerse herself in a new culture to learn English.
She admits the first three months she was homesick and the experience at first was rough. “I had second thoughts,” she said. “I was only 19 years old.” But she was committed to meeting new people and learning a new culture. The kids she took care of and TV helped her build her language skills.
After working with a family in Clarkston taking care of three young children through the au pair program, she changed her status to student. The au pair program helped pay for community college so she went to Oakland Community College for three years where she earned an associate’s in general studies before going to Madonna University.
She continued to work as a nanny during college. During her last year, she worked few hours here and there for a Naturopathic doctor. "My job consisted in assessing diets of children with possible food allergies, and modifying/developing new diets without the allergens.
"I first started working for Dr. Green as a nanny, her children had food allergies so that is how everything started," she says. "I learned a lot from her, and she knew I was studying Nutrition so she gave me the opportunity to learn/train/work in the nutrition area of food allergies."
Tamara joined Cooking Matters in the fall, translating a Spanish-speaking Cooking Matters for Adults class in Southwest Detroit.
Her warm, friendly personality as well as her Spanish helped break the language barrier in the class and it was apparent even to someone with limited Spanish-speaking ability, the women related to her very well.
This is the aspect of facilitating Cooking Matters classes that Tamara enjoys: the sharing between herself and the participants.
“What I like best … was the interaction with people,” she says. “I knew I was helping somebody through what I said in those classes. Someone took the info and used it. I hope they’re eating healthy now. (The classes) are very rewarding.”
Here, she shares her recipe for Quinoa Salad, to which she has made some tweaks from the original recipe. She loves to cook and does it often. She brought this salad to the potluck graduation at Piquette Square veterans housing.
Tamara's Quinoa Recipe Serves 4
Ingredients 1 cup quinoa (rinsed well if not prewashed) 2 cups water (or chicken broth if you want more flavor) 1/4 cup slivered almonds 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley 1/4 cup raisins salt and pepper
Directions Quinoa cooks like rice. For this recipe you will add two cups of water, or chicken broth.
Bring the quinoa to a boil. Reduce heat, cover it and let it simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed (10-15 minutes).
Toast almonds over medium heat until golden and transfer to a plate. Saute garlic in olive oil until it has a golden color and reserve the oil.
Finally fluff quinoa. Add almonds, garlic, reserved oil, parsley, raisins and season with salt and pepper.