Unless you are an absolute curmudgeon priest, one of the delightful requests that you often hear as a parish priest is, “Father, we’d love for you to come over for dinner!” Over the years of my active priesthood, I’m still charmed and delighted by this invitation. It is usually followed by, “Is there anything that you don’t eat?” Honestly, for whatever reason, from my earliest years as a child, I was never a fussy eater. Part of that could very well have been because my mom was an excellent cook. Practically every evening we had a home cooked meal that virtually spanned the globe of world cuisine. My mom’s ancestral heritage was Mexican/Spanish. With this genetic background, she was particularly skilled at preparing Mexican food, especially the New Mexican variety from where her mother originated. Red and green chile prepared from scratch were a weekly staple at the table. Freshly made beans with warm tortillas as well as all-time favorites such enchiladas, beef in red chile, and, of course, tamales at Christmas, were all staples at the Holquin table. But mom had also mastered Italian cuisine as well as good old Americana cuisine with her legendary pot roast. Needless to say, I was raised with a somewhat spoiled palate!
This past Christmas, my sister, Melinda, gave me a wonderful and unique gift. It was one of those genetic ancestry kits. This one was from Ancestry.com. I dutifully supplied the specimen required – a little saliva in a vile – and off it went to be analyzed. It took a bit longer for me to get the results, probably due to the Christmas rush. Then, out of the blue, I got an email from Ancestry telling me that the results were ready and available online. I logged on to their site and low and behold, the mystery of my ‘catholic’ palate was revealed!
My stock response from folks who inquired about my nationality was invariably:: Mexican, Spanish and a little French and German. Most of that information was culled from anecdotal family stories. Little did I know just how varied my ancestral genetic make-up was. Here are the raw numbers:
29% Native American – North, Central & South American
10% Iberian Peninsula
6% Great Britain
3% European Jewish
2% Europe West
2% West Asia
Reflecting on this genetic “Heinz 57” variety background, things started to fall into place with innumerable “Ah ha” moments. In my traveling days, there was a preternatural love for Italy and Greece. Having lived there and traveled there often, there was always a strange feeling of ‘being at home.’ Next to Mexican cuisine, I rank Italian right up there as some of my favorite. My love from my earliest years for Greek and Byzantine culture, love of icons and humus, seems to make a lot more sense now. In all honesty, though, the one that really threw me for a loop was the 14% Irish! Where the heck did that one come??? Although I do have a great love for corned beef – which I understand is not all that popular in Ireland – this part of my ancestral make up came as a total and complete surprise.
All of this has piqued my interest to explore in greater detail my genetic make-up. Another site, 23andMe, trace with greater specificity, the matrilineal and patrilineal genetic lines that can shed more light on this incredible discovery and help explain, Why I like to eat everything!