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Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food and Love in Thirteen Courses

Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food & Love in Thirteen Courses

By Josephine Caminos Oría

Forward by Sofía Pescarmona, CEO of Lagarde Winery in Mendoza, Argentina


Sobremesa reads like a cross between magical realism and the food section of the New York Times. Delicioso!” – Beth Ostrosky-Stern, Pittsburgh Native and New York Times Bestselling Author

Come on in and pull up a chair to Josephine Caminos Oría’s Argentine-American kitchen table, as the career woman turned entrepreneur cooks up a magical tale, told morsel by morsel, of some of her most memorable tableside chats—or sobremesas—that provided the first-generation Argentine-American the courage to leave the safe life she knew and start over from scratch. In her upcoming culinary memoir, Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food and Love in Thirteen Courses (Scribe Publishing Company /On-sale May 4, 2021 / $24.95), Caminos Oría returns to relay a whole new revealing and illuminating chapter of her unconventional journey as a bicultural foodpreneur, mom and author who left behind a fifteen-year, C-level career to make dulce-de-leche—among other dishes that, like Caminos Oría, are neither from here nor there but a blending of her dual, and sometimes dueling, nationalities. Sobremesa delves into the backstory of Caminos Oría’s deep-rooted, multi-generational love story and bicultural sense of otherness that she briefly touches upon in the introduction of her first cookbook as food-memoir, Dulce de Leche: Recipes, Stories & Sweet Traditions (Burgess Lea Press, 2017).

The passion and lure resulting from year after year of obligatory sobremesas richly infused Caminos Oría’s Argentine-American upbringing. Today, these post-meal tableside gatherings serve as an evocative storytelling medium for culture, refuge, connection, self-discovery and remembrance of things past. In her coming-of-age adventure, Caminos Oría travels to her family’s homeland of Argentina in search of belonging— to family, to country, to a lover, and ultimately, to oneself. Steeped in the lure of Latin culture, she pieces together her mom and abuela’s pasts, along with the nourishing dishes—delectably and spiritually—that formed their kitchen arsenal. But Caminos Oría’s travels from las pampas to the prairie aren't easy or conventional. She grapples with mystical encounters with the spirit world that lead her to discover a part of herself that, like sobremesa, had been lost in translation. Just as she's ready to give up on love all together, Caminos Oría’s own heart surprises her by surrendering to a forbidden, transcontinental tryst with the man of her dreams who finally gets her to roll her double “r’s” like a true Argentine (trilling never did come to her naturally—a dead giveaway that, like sobremesa, part of her bicultural heritage simply didn’t translate). To stay together, Caminos Oría must make a difficult choice: return to the safe life she knows in the States, or take a chance on love—and most importantly, herself.

“Sobremesa set the table for a future I never saw coming, like the legions of ghosts and ancestors past who frequented my family’s dining room,” Caminos Oría says. “They’d come in—whether we acknowledged them or not—pull up a chair and make themselves at home among the rumpled napkins splotched with wine, offering up crumbs of messages here and there. I savored each one until they became imprinted on my taste buds.”

Without question, sobremesa’s ubiquitous ritual of post-meal gab and relaxation is served up as final, soulful nourishment in many countries, from Argentina and Chile to Spain, Mexico and Brazil. It’s a cultural phenomenon, yet, Stateside, sobremesa remains lost in translation. By means of culinary time travel, Caminos Oría aims to change that by shedding an authentic glimpse into the lesser known ingredient of Argentina’s Deep South culinary traditions. “Sobremesa’s endless table was a means for my parents to pass on their Argentine traditions and culture beyond DNA,” Caminos Oría says. “It satiated a hunger in me that food alone never could, tethering me to a home that had always seemed worlds away—one where the open fires of the Argentine barbeque, or asado, dulce de leche, Andean Malbec, and soccer are national obsessions. The current cultural divide gripping our nation has brought to the forefront the ethnically charged question, What does it mean to be Bicultural in today’s America? With Sobremesa, I aim to move the current in our collective cultural conversation forward by producing an intimate portrait of my bicultural family.”

Sobremesa postprandially taps our commonalities: the need to eat, the desire to share, the longing to belong, the craving to embrace a slower way of life. True to the slow-food lifestyle that Sobremesa espouses, the book’s narrative invites readers to do just that: to stay awhile and reflect on their own personal path, family history and dreams.

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My Interview with Josephine!

Describe your book - what can readers expect?

Sobremesa is my culinary journey towards finding myself somewhere in between the pampas and the prairie. Told through the evocative medium of the age-old, post-meal tradition of sobremesa—time spent lingering around the table well after the food is gone—Sobremesa is a love letter to the women in my life: my abuela Dorita, my mom, Poupée, my three sisters and last but not least, my mother country, Argentina. Readers can expect my story to transport them to the streets of Argentina without them having to leave the comforts of their own arm chair or reading nook. They can expect to find some of my family’s dog eared recipes that have been passed down by generations of women. They can expect ups and downs—with my family and love life. They can expect to be lifted up—both professionally and spiritually. My hope is that women who are at the crux of choosing between their personal dreams and family life will take heed from my experiences and the wisdom my abuela and mom passed down to me during family sobremesas. They can expect the story of a first generation Latin American truly finding her place among two countries. Readers can also expect the unexpected in my otherworldly story, which is grounded in spirituality and the legions of ancestors and ghosts who are always at the ready to be conjured back to mind through taste and smell.

What is your favorite part of a meal?

It really depends on my mood—sometimes I thoroughly enjoy opening a bottle of wine and preparing a meal for my family in the solitude of my kitchen. Other times, I enjoy baking with my nine-year-old daughter, Poupée by my side. I also enjoy watching my husband cook alongside my older son, Lucas, who has inherited his love of preparing a delicious meal. The anticipation leading up to a delicious meal always sets the stage. And of course, I enjoy the meal itself. But no matter how delicious, food is more than sustenance, it’s a portal to something else. It acts as a timekeeper. Food stops time. It marks certain moments and turns them into lifetime memories. It transports us back to certain places in time or back to certain loved ones. That’s where sobremesa comes in. I always enjoy the meals where, stomachs full, we choose to ignore the dirty plates, and settle in for a while. That’s when the magic happens. We let our walls down and the real conversation begins to flow…for the good and the bad, but mostly, for the necessary.

The thing I hate most about the meal is waking up to a kitchen full of dirty dishes. But then, as I begin to sip my yerba mate, roll up my sleeves and start rinsing the plates, I often get lost thinking about and digesting last night’s tableside chats, and before I know it, the dishes are done and I’m on my way to another day.

What has been your favorite part of your journey of returning to your roots?

Seeing my abuela and mom in a whole new light, and finding myself and true love somewhere in between. Meeting my husband, Gastón was the best thing that ever happened to me. Our love is strong because of its deeply planted roots—loving him helps me, to this day, to reconcile my dual and sometimes dueling cultures. Before Gastón I often felt an imposter in Argentina. He made me come to know and love that side of me. And finally, there is the delicious aspect of returning to my roots in my early 20s. I enjoyed nothing more than exploring Argentina’s culinary scene with Gastón by my side. To this day he continues to spoil me with his own culinary genius.

What difficulties/adversities have you faced?

As most of us, I’ve had many ups and downs. My story, however, explores the challenges of “otherness” that many bicultural persons in this country and beyond face. It also explores the feeling of being stuck…in love and professionally. For years, I was the only woman at the Director’s Table in the organization where I had built my career, and I knew it was up to me to do something about that. I’ve also faced many challenges in running my own business and becoming a published author, but it’s the no’s that often push me hardest and propel me to continue to reinvent my business, and even myself.

What advice would you give someone who wants to set out on a journey similar to yours?

I’m not one to readily offer up advice, as we are all in different situations and circumstances. But I believe in storytelling. And I find inspiration hearing about other women’s paths. They inspire me to find the courage to follow my own true north. My story is for all the women out there, who like me, drank the Kool Aid that tells us it’s selfish, even crazy, to follow our own dreams after a certain age, even if we intuitively know we are off course—especially if we have a husband and/or children to take care of at home. I’ve risked a lot in the past ten years. More than I care to admit. And it has not been easy—especially for my family. I’ve had to sell our home, not to mention other things to stay afloat. Even today, it still isn’t smooth sailing. Not yet, anyway. I’ve come across more “no’s” and closed doors than I'd like to recall. The worse is the hundreds of unanswered emails… the calls that go un returned. But I continue to try to live life on my own terms and continue to fight to be seen and heard. Because, for me, the thought of failing is worse than not knowing what would have happened had I tried. I l knew I had to make a change in my life when I realized I dreaded Sunday evenings—scared that the thought of tomorrow would always be the same as today—especially during those early years after I first founded my business, La Dorita Cooks, after feeling stuck in a career where I knew I’d reached my ceiling. My advice—surround yourself with a tribe of strong women who will lift you up and empower you. Share your hopes and dreams with a select few—as many will try to talk to you out of them (some even derive pleasure from doing so—likely due to their own frustrations, even if they are simply trying to protect you.) And, most of all, stay away from the ones that zap your energy and light, because we need to safeguard that for ourselves so we can light our own path and aspire to be our best—for ourselves and ultimately our families.

If you could cook only one meal the rest of your life, what would it be? Why?

No! No fair. I simply can’t answer as I like food way too much. But I’ll narrow it down to time of day…

If I had to eat the same breakfast every morning… it would be either cheesy eggs with palta on Ezequiel toast or fried green tomatoes eggs benedict.

Lunch: Lentil salad, a Spanish tortilla or most anything baked in a tarta.

Dinner: Milanesa with loads of lemon and papa fritas. Ñoqui de ricotta comes in a close second. Not to mention ceviche…

Do you see what I mean? I simply can’t narrow it down!

And finally… I can’t live without Sopa Pastina for Thanksgiving or when sick, or when my kids are sick. And to this day, I still eat a mushroom sandwich when I need a hug from my mom.

Empanadas al Cuchillo Recipe

Makes 60 empanadas, to be kissed long and hard. As a general rule of thumb: one or two empanadas are a snack; three or more a meal.


4 cups water

3 tablespoons salt

7 tablespoons pork fat, or high-quality lard cut into pieces

12 to 13 cups all-purpose flour

2 raw eggs, lightly beaten

Or 4 20-piece packages of La Salteña Tapas Criollas


10 large eggs, boiled and peeled

¾ cup pitted green olives

3.5 pounds top-round sirloin

4 1 /3 cups scallions, white and green parts, chopped

17 ounces (2 1 /3 cups) vegetable shortening (I prefer Spectrum Natural Organic All Vegetable Shortening)

5 cups yellow onion, chopped

5 heaping tablespoons Spanish paprika (pimenton dulce)

Salt to taste

1 heaping tablespoon cumin

2 heaping tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes (non-spicy)

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (adjust accordingly to your heat preference)

½ cup raisins (optional)

Make the dough

Place water and salt in a small saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Add the pork fat and stir until it melts. Transfer to a large wide bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature. Gradually add 5 ½ to 6 cups of the flour, mixing with your hands, until the dough forms a ball. Generously sprinkle flour on a work surface to prevent dough from sticking. Knead the dough, adding more flour until it will not absorb any more. The dough should be on the drier side. Divide the dough into quarters and form into four discs, wrapping them in plastic. Refrigerate and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Make the filling. Boil the eggs 12–15 minutes. Remove from water and allow to cool. Peel and cut into slices. Set aside. Cut the pitted green olives lengthwise into three or four slivers, depending on the size of the olives. Trim the fat and nerves from the sirloin. Slice lengthwise into strips, and then line up the strips, and slice into 1-centimeter cubes or chunks. Be careful not to mince the meat too finely, as this should be a rustic chop. Wash and slice the scallions 1 centimeter thick. Set aside in a bowl. Heat the shortening in a large skillet with high sides over medium-high heat. Add the yellow onions and cook, stirring until softened and translucent, about 5–7 minutes. Add the paprika, salt, cumin, red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper, stirring well to combine. Add the cubed beef, stirring to combine. Add the olives and raisins (optional). Once the beef has a nice golden sear, remove the filling from the heat. You do not want to overcook the meat, as it will finish cooking with the empanada. Carefully stir the scallions into the filling, making sure not to break up their form. Continue to carefully stir the filling every 10–15 minutes until cool. Cover and chill the filling completely, at least 3 hours (preferably overnight) in the refrigerator. Form tapas if you are not using store-bought discs. Cut one of the dough discs in half, keeping the other half covered in plastic empenadas al cuchillo 195 until ready to use. With a rolling pin, roll the dough onto a generously floured work surface into a rectangle about 1 /8-inch thick. You can also use a pasta machine to do this. Using a biscuit cutter or water glass, cut the dough into 3½-inch circles. You should be able to get 6 circles per batch. Transfer the circles to a floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Assemble the empanadas

Stir the eggs into the cooled filling. Place 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling in the center of each empanada. The technique to master in this recipe is to hold the open empanada with one hand while using the other hand to crimp the outer edge to seal it, as well as adding a decorative braid. The less dexterous among us should use a fork for this. With your finger, wet the circumference of the disc with water to create a seal-tight edge. Fold the bottom of the dough to meet the top of the disc, encasing the filling and forming a half moon, and press the edges together well. Make ½-inch edges by pressing the rims between your fingers to create a rope along the edges. The empanadas can sit uncovered at room temperature for 20 minutes before baking or can be refrigerated for up to 1 hour before baking. Preheat the oven to 490°F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the empanadas on the prepared pans and brush them with the egg wash, if using. Bake them for 28–30 minutes, until their bottoms are golden (rotate the pans in the oven halfway through baking, back to front and top to bottom, to ensure that all of the empanadas bake evenly). Transfer the empanadas to a cooling rack; let them cool for 3–5 minutes before serving.

About the Author

Josephine Caminos Oría was born in the city of La Plata, Argentina, and raised Stateside from infancy on in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Gathering around a table large enough to sit her family of eight, plus two for her abuelos on her mom’s side, food and the sobremesa that accompanied it, was how Josephine learned to make sense of the world. Stories of where she came from, and the people she’d left behind, were served to Josephine during family sobremesas she savored like meals. Those tales nourished Josephine’s imagination and sense of self, setting the table for Josephine’s second act—a family and professional life focused around Argentine food and culture. It was in her early 40s, with five young children in tow, that Josephine took a chance on herself, leaving a C-level career to make dulce de leche. Today, Josephine, along with her Argentine husband, Gastón, is the founder of La Dorita Cooks, an all-natural line of dulce de leche products and Pittsburgh’s first resourcebased kitchen incubator for start-up and early stage food makers. In addition, Josephine is the author of the cookbook as food-memoir, “Dulce de Leche: Recipes, Stories, and Sweet Traditions” (Burgess Lea Press, February 2017). The Orías, along with their five children, Lucas, Mateo, Nico, Nacho and Poupée, and golden retriever, Andino—are currently living la vida low-country in Charleston, SC.

For more information about Josephine Caminos Oría, please visit She can be found on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Sobremesa will be released nationwide in May 4, 2021 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop and wherever fine books are sold.

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