leo ariel (they/them) is best known for their visual poetry, installation art, and clairvoyant skills. Born and raised in Miami, FL, their work focuses on healing, relationships, and culture. Using spanish language and references to Cuban and Dominican cultural/spiritual practices, they reclaim and establish their voice as a nonbinary Caribbean artist. Their installations, writings, and performance are allegorical of growing up as a child of immigrants and surviving abuse in a world that actively works against gender nonconforming people. Installations use altar motifs as a means of reclamation and grounding of identity; striving to create representation and solidarity to the most marginalized.
“I have always wanted to host a performance in which I am preparing coffee and my favorite foods for an audience to experience. Tender Table is the perfect and ideal outlet and opportunity to do so. The sensory experience that comes from preparing coffee and ingesting these nurturing foods is truly a one of a kind experience that a coffee shop or restaurant cannot provide.”
What will you be presenting on? A typical Cuban dish, rice, beans, and plantains. (Usually eaten with some sort of animal protein, but for resource purposes will not be providing a protein.) I will be talking about the process, from learning from my elders to making it myself, memories associated with the dish, comforts the dish brings, and the revolutionary significance in making a pot of beans. The "dessert" that accompanies this dish is a must after any Cuban dinner. I will be talking about my relationship with the process of making the dessert as well as the spiritual significance.
Best piece of advice you ever got about cooking: Use tomato sauce, onion, and garlic-- always. Throw some spice/herb powder into the mix so that it cooks the spice and brings out more flavor.
If you could only eat one meal forever, it would be: Mangu with a fried egg, slow cooked pickled onions, fried tofu, and pan fried vegan salami. It's a Dominican dish made of green plantains that are boiled, mashed, and prepared similarly to mashed potatoes. Traditionally, it is served with a fried egg, fried cheese, cooked pickled onions, and fried salami.
Favorite food: Pastelón. It's like a latinx lasagna. Lasagna adjacent. Calling it lasagna would be discrediting it. It's a layered casserole of either yuca (cassava root) or plantain, usually containing ground beef and garnished with cheese.
Recommended reading: Dian Million - Felt Theory; Trauma Stewardship - Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, Connie Burk
Best meals: Pastelón, black beans, maduros (fried ripe plantains), tambor de papa ("drum of potato"-- also a layered casserole-ish dish), mangu, empanadas, pastelito de guayaba (guava pastry), congris (rice & beans cooked together), tostones (fried green plantains), arroz con pollo (chicken and rice "pilaf")
Food you’d like to try: Vegan arroz con pollo, any other rice "pilaf" type dishes from the african diaspora, all the steamed bun varieties