Because food connects us all, Yahoo Life is serving up a heaping plateful of table talk with people who are passionate about what's on their menu in Deglazed, a series about food.
"In my lean single years, the only thing I was good at were pizza bagels," Miranda tells Yahoo Life. "I'm talking four cheeses, barbecue sauce mixed with the tomato sauce, H&H Bagels — if I could splurge for them."
But Miranda flew too close to the sun while dating his now-wife, Vanessa Nadal. He tried to create a special pizza bagel for her, and an epic kitchen fail ensued. "Judge me not too harshly because I was in my 20s," says Miranda, "I saw one of her bars of dark chocolate and I decided to melt that in with the tomato sauce and make a dark-chocolate-cheese pizza bagel."
"I presented it to my wife with pride," he continues, "She said to me, 'This tastes horrible and you ruined my chocolate bar — like, this is a double crime.' We talk about the dark chocolate pizza bagel."
Now that Miranda and Nadal have two kids, the 42-year-old filmmaker says he's shifted to even simpler tasks in the kitchen. "I'm a parent, so it's really fried eggs and chicken tenders, all day, every day."
But what food would Miranda, who is Puerto Rican, say best represents dining on the island?
"Puerto Rican pasteles are really a big deal in the house because they're a multi-day process," he says. "There is the meal (masa, a dough made from corn) that goes inside them, and we used to have an assembly line in my house. Every holiday when we made them, my job was to [steam] the banana leaves over the stove so they got soft enough to wrap around [the filling.]"
"The debate in Puerto Rico — it will exist as long as Puerto Rico exists — is do you eat pasteles with or without ketchup?" he adds. "I am pro-ketchup. There, I've said it. I will be judged by the non-ketchup part of the world."
In fact, Miranda really loves ketchup — so much that it's the star of another of his quintessential Puerto Rican meals.
"My aunt, every time I get to the island, makes me these sorullitos (cornmeal fritters) con mayo-ketchup," he says. "Mayo-ketchup is a very fancy Spanish-language cognate of mayo and ketchup together. It's mayo-ketchup and corn fritters together — that combination is my go-to comfort Puerto Rican food."
Miranda's kids, however, do not follow in their dad's pro-ketchup footsteps. "My kids don't like ketchup," he shares."It skips a generation, I guess."
Hurricane Fiona caused widespread destruction in Puerto Rico last month, a crisis that came while parts of the island were still recovering from damage caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Miranda and his father, Luis, contributed to The Washington Post in the days following the storm, appealing for help.
"We're still in crisis-mode," he tells Yahoo Life. "Hurricane Fiona has hit an island still fragile and recovering ... anything you can give to one of the not-for-profit organizations working in really simple crisis stuff like water and food — World Central Kitchen is on the ground, Hispanic Federation is working with local organizations that have set up food and water stops all over the island. That's really the phase of the crisis we're in."
Miranda spoke with Yahoo Life as part of his work promoting Amex and their sponsorship of the L'Attitude conference, an event that celebrates the contributions of U.S. Latinos in business, media, politics, science and technology. Three Hispanic-owned small businesses provided coffee and popsicles at the event, working from the American Express Café.
"It's so important to support those businesses that bring something that no one else is bringing," he shares. "There's a way in which small business owners and artists are exactly the same, which is they're asking themselves the question, 'What doesn't exist yet in the world but should?' That's true whether you are a high-end paleta (popsicle-style desserts made from high-end ingredients) company or you are trying to write a musical about Alexander Hamilton."
So are there any foods Miranda just can't eat? "No," he says. "I was a very picky eater as a child, but now I'm pretty democratic about it."
Still, there's one kitchen quirk Miranda "didn't know he did" until his wife questioned the move.
"When I drink tea or coffee, I raise my elbow inordinately high," he says, "That's a weird thing only I do."
"I don't know why I do it," he adds. "I don't know what generation's trauma led me to hold my cups of coffee so high — but my wife pointed it out. She's not giving me s***, it's just sort of like Did you notice that you hold your elbow extraordinarily high when holding hot liquids?"
— Video produced by Olivia Schneider
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