The 1891: Tell us about the first time you made empanadas. What was the inspiration behind it?
Jimena Mohedas: My family is from Salta, Argentina. My parents immigrated here in 1990 but our whole extended family is still in Salta. I grew up eating and watching my mom cook Argentinian food including empanadas. When I was a teenager, I started helping out in the kitchen and learning how to make them myself.
The 1891: Do you have a dish that defines your childhood?
Jimena: My family, much like Argentina generally, is full of immigrants. My mom’s side is Italian, and my dad’s side is Syrian and Spanish. This led to a rich and diverse food culture within my family. Everything from Sunday asado (barbecue) to handmade pasta.
The 1891: And is there a dish that defines your adult life?
Jimena: As I got older, I learned the importance of embracing and celebrating my Latin American heritage. Growing up I shied away from it because that was the easier way to fit in. But as I got older, I realized that my background is one of my greatest assets. Food has always been a huge part of my family’s tradition, cooking empanadas together is a way for us to spend quality time together and get a taste of home.
The 1891: Why do you enjoy this type of cooking and its community?
Jimena: Cooking and sharing meals is the main way my family shows affection. Every time we are together there’s a feast.
The 1891: In your opinion, what role does food play in Latin culture?
Jimena: Food in Latin culture is instrumental to the way we create community and the way we show love. Latin American countries have vastly diverse cuisines that are influenced by the native peoples and immigrants alike. Food is at the center of family traditions and passed down through generations. Each Latin American country has their own signature dish but one thing they all have in common is the appreciation from delicious foods made from scratch with plenty of love.
The 1891: How has your cooking changed over the years?
Jimena: When I was younger, I cooked simply out of necessity. As I got older, I have used it as a stress-relieving outlet. Now I pride myself on trying new recipes, documenting my meals on an Instagram page dedicated to my cooking adventures, and learning new techniques.
The 1891: What is your favorite restaurant in Denver/ Boulder for empanadas?
Jimena: I’m still on the hunt for my favorite empanada, but Lazo makes a great Buenos Aires-style beef empanada.
The 1891: How has food’s cultural significance blended with your legal career?
Jimena: Throughout law school and these beginning stages of my legal career I have found few moments that really allow me to decompress from the overwhelming aspects of this profession. Cooking is one of the ways I can de-stress and focus on creating something that brings me and those I feed joy.
Jimena Mohedas graduated from Boston University School of Law in May 2020.
She is currently a Deputy Public Defender in the Arapahoe County office representing clients at the County Court level. Jimena grew up in Colorado and attended the University of Colorado-Boulder, where she received a degree in Political Science and Italian.
Her parents immigrated to the United States in 1990 from Salta, Argentina.
Members can check out Jimena’s cooking Instagram via: @jimenas_kitchen.