Today I am so pleased to welcome Adriana Herrera to Joyfully Jay. Adriana has come to talk to us about her debut novel, American Dreamer. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!


I am so excited to be on Joyfully Jay to share some of the foods that are synonymous to celebration for Afro-Caribbean people. I’m always happy to talk about my food and my culture, so this is a special treat. One of the heroes in m debut novel, American Dreamer, is a Dominican food truck chef whose dream is to bring Afro-Caribbean food to Upstate New York.

Nesto’s passion and love for his roots and culture are at the heart of American Dreamer and I think it’s what makes him a character readers seem to connect so well with. The general reaction from readers seems to be that Dreamer induces SERIOUS cravings for Caribbean food!

Nesto is Dominican and his three best friends (who also get their own story!) all have Caribbean roots. Camilo’s first generation Cuban/Jamaica, Patrice arrived to the U.S. as a child from Haiti and Juan Pablo is from a Puerto Rican family with a long history in New York City. They are all deeply connected to their families and culture, and food it as the center of all their celebrations.


Dominican Pasteles: Pasteles en Hoja are a staple Dominican homes during the holidays.  Puerto Ricans and Trinidadians also have their own version of Pasteles too. Pasteles are very similar in preparation to tamales which are a very popular in Mexico and Central America. However the batter for Dominican Pasteles is traditionally made with green bananas and yellow plantains. There are some variations made with yucca (cassava) as well, but the OGs are made with plantains. The filling is typically seasoned ground beef sprinkled with raisins and green olives.  Once the batter is filled the pastel is then wrapped in banana leaves and boiled until it sets. They are tender and delicious and you can’t have holidays without them in the Dominican Republic.


Jamaican Gungo Peas and Rice: In American Dreamer Nesto talks a lot about the connections and threads that exist in the different cuisines of Afro-Caribbean countries. He discusses how our ancestors, the West Africans who were brought to the islands as slaves gave us all shared roots. One of the dishes that is eaten throughout the Caribbean is made with rice and pigeon peas. In Jamaica they are called Gungo peas. Dominicans and Puerto Ricans call them guandules. We ALL eat them in basically the same way, with some variations to the preparation. For Jamaicans Gungo Peas and Rice are a holiday dish, and it’s a mainstay in family gatherings.


Cuban Buñuelos: This is the sweet dish in the list, and leave it to Caribbean people to figure out a way to make pastry out of root vegetables! Buñuelos are a DELICIOUS pastry made with yucca and Malanga, which is deep fried and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and a delicious sweet syrup. Some call them Cuban Beignets. Buñuelos are traditionally made during the holidays, and they go FAST. If you ever see them on the menu at a Cuban restaurant, get them! You will not regret it.


Haitian Soup Joumou (Pumpkin and Beef Soup): This is a very special dish. It is traditionally made on New Year’s Day which is Independence Day in Haiti. Haiti was the first Black Republic in the world and Joumou is a central part of how they celebrate such an important date. There are some similar dishes to Joumou in other islands, like Sancocho in DR and Puerto Rico, but Joumou has its own special flavor. The mix of spices with the Caribbean pumpkin and specially marinated beef, makes for a delicious, layered taste. Like the others it is labor intensive and has many MANY ingredients, but it is WORTH it. It is absolutely delicious and one of many favorite Haitian dishes.


Puerto Rican Pernil: In the islands pork is king and pernil is an MUST for any holiday celebration. Pernil is a pork shoulder cut that is baked in the oven for HOURS until it is tender and full of flavor. The secret however is in the marinade. Each family has its own secret recao (marinade) recipe and the pernil is usually allowed to saturate in it for AT LEAST a day before it’s made. In American Dreamer Nesto gets his friends to help him make the recao, which involves peeling a large amount of garlic! If you’re lucky enough to get an invite for a Caribbean holiday, keep an eye out for pernil and make sure you get extras, because it is SOOOO GOOD.


No one ever said big dreams come easy

For Nesto Vasquez, moving his Afro-Caribbean food truck from New York City to the wilds of Upstate New York is a huge gamble. If it works? He’ll be a big fish in a little pond. If it doesn’t? He’ll have to give up the hustle and return to the day job he hates. He’s got six months to make it happen—the last thing he needs is a distraction.

Jude Fuller is proud of the life he’s built on the banks of Cayuga Lake. He has a job he loves and good friends. It’s safe. It’s quiet. And it’s damn lonely. Until he tries Ithaca’s most-talked-about new lunch spot and works up the courage to flirt with the handsome owner. Soon he can’t get enough—of Nesto’s food or of Nesto. For the first time in his life, Jude can finally taste the kind of happiness that’s always been just out of reach.

An opportunity too good to pass up could mean a way to stay together and an incredible future for them both…if Nesto can remember happiness isn’t always measured by business success. And if Jude can overcome his past and trust his man will never let him down.

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

This book is approximately 94,000 words


Adriana Herrera was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last fifteen years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people, getting unapologetic happy endings. When’s she not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a social worker in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

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