Maria Lawton
My name is Maria Lawton and I was born on the semi-tropical island of Sao Miguel in the village called Rosario de Lagoa. When I was six my parents and siblings moved permanently to the US. We settled in southeastern Massachusetts, which has been a huge Portuguese enclave for over a hundred years. The area has a rich history of seafood and farming, and there are fantastic bakeries and butchers and restaurants that prepare dishes in the traditional manner, but what I craved most as an adult were the dishes my mother and grandmother made when I was younger.

We lived in a three-family house in the city of New Bedford, and if my mom wasn't cooking on the first floor I could be sure to go upstairs and find my grandmother baking something on the second floor. I have so many great memories of going up and down the stairs to get tastes from their pans, but I didn't appreciate those times until they were well in the past.

As my own family started growing I really wanted them to experience the tastes and smells that I remember from those kitchens in that triple-decker. Unfortunately, most of the recipes were lost to the ages because my mother never wrote them down (or she intentionally kept them incomplete in order to make sure her cooking always tasted best!). I resolved a few years ago to recreate as many of those recipes as I could and I enlisted my two sisters and all my aunts and cousins for help. My quest brought me back to Sao Miguel where I learned family recipes. It was such a joy to cook in my aunt's kitchen and hear all the stories of my family. It was a trip I plan on taking again to keep learning more. Being Azorean is something I am very proud of: it is who I am and I make no apologies about it.