Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food & Love in Thirteen Courses

Josephine Caminos Oría

Book Cover

GENRE

BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIR ROMANCE COMEDY

    Core Theme

    A COMING OF AGE STORY ABOUT THE MAIN CHARACTER CONNECTING WITH HER OWN ROOTS IN ORDER TO SHARE HER LEGACY WITH THE WORLD.

    TIME PERIOD

    1980s & '90s,20th Century (multiple decades)

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    FROM SCRATCH (A LIMITED SERIES FOR NETFLIX CURRENTLY IN PRODUCTION WITH REESE WITHERSPOON), CHEF (2014), JULIE & JULIA (2009), NO RESERVATIONS (2007), MOSTLY MARTHA (2001), BIG NIGHT (1996), EAT, DRINK, MAN WOMAN (1994), LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE (1992)

    CHARACTER LIST

    CHARACTER LIST
    JOSEPHINE CAMINOS ORIA: 23. LEAD. SARCASTIC AND DETERMINED, YET UNSURE OF HERSELF.

    GASTÓN J. ORIA: 29. JOSIE'S HUSBAND. SEDUCTIVE AND STRONG-HEADED.

    POUPÉE CAMINOS: 50. JOSIE'S MOTHER.

    OLIVER CAMINOS: 54. JOSIE’S FATHER.

    DORITA GERMAIN: 75. JOSIE'S ABUELA (GRANDMOTHER) & INSPIRATION—MADE OF SUGAR AND SPICE, BUT THAT DIDN’T MEAN SHE WAS ALWAYS NICE.

    ALFREDO GERMAIN: 80. THE GHOST OF JOSIE’S MATERNAL ABUELO (GRANDFATHER).

    BISABUELA JOSEFINA: 70ISH. THE GHOST OF JOSIE’S MATERNAL GREAT GRANDMOTHER AND NAMESAKE.

    ABUELO CAMINOS: 80. JOSIE’S PATERNAL ABUELO (GRANDFATHER).

    OSCÁR CAMINOS: 27. JOSIE’S OLDER BROTHER.

    ÁLVARO GERMAIN: 46. JOSIE’S UNCLE ON HER MOM’S SIDE.

    VALENTINA CAMINOS: 30. JOSIE'S OLDEST SISTER & SUPPORTER.

    CAMILA CAMINOS: 28. JOSIE’S SECOND SISTER.

    LAURA CAMINOS: 25. JOSIE’S THIRD AND CLOSEST SISTER.

    FEDERICO CAMINOS: 20. JOSIE’S YOUNGER BROTHER.

    TRIPP: 24. JOSIE’S FIRST LOVE AND LONGTIME BOYFRIEND.

    TAYLOR: 15. JOSIE’S BEST FRIEND FLIRTATIOUS GIRL.

    HOPE: 24. JOSIE’S LONGTIME FRIEND WHO IS MORE LIKE A SISTER.

    MEGAN: 24. JOSIE’S FRIEND WHO IS ALL TEETH, HAIR & SPIRIT.

    ROBERT: 24. JOSIE’S ATHLETIC AND CULINARY TALENTED ONE-NIGHT STAND.

    GRACIELA ORÍA: 54. GASTÓN’S MOTHER.

    JORGE LUIS ORÍA: 54. GASTÓN’S FATHER.

    MARCO: 26. GASTÓN’S YOUNGER BROTHER AND LARGE ANIMAL VETERINARIAN ON THE ESTANCIA.

    CLAUDIA: 24. MARCO’S GIRLFRIEND.

    SOLEDAD: 20. GASTÓN’S YOUNGER SISTER.

    ROSA: 50. GASTÓN’S AUNT AND JOSIE’S MOM’S CHILDHOOD FRIEND.

    CATI: 40ISH. CARETAKER ON THE ESTANCIA.

    LÓPEZ: 45ISH. CATI’S HUSBAND AND HEAD RANCH HAND.

    EMILIO: 48. RANCH VETERINARIAN

    MARIBEL: 50ISH. COOK ON THE ESTANCIA.

    HAIRDRESSER IN SUARDI: 35. TOWN GOSSIP.

    MARTA: 39. ABUELA DORITA’S FAITHFULLY DEVOTED AT-HOME NURSE.

    DOORMAN: 53. JOSIE’S FAMILY LONG-TIME CONFIDANTE.

    TÍA ÁNGELA: 48. JOSIE’S AUNT AND DAD’S YOUNGER SISTER WHO IS A NUN.

    LUCIA CAMINOS: 46. JOSIE’S AUNT AND DAD’S YOUNGEST SISTER.

    PAULINA: 22. JOSIE’S COUSIN AND TÍO ÁLVARO’S OLDEST DAUGHTER.

    Lucas Gastón Oría: JOSIE & GASTÓN’S OLDEST SON.

    Mateo Felipe Oría: JOSIE & GASTÓN’S SECOND SON.

    Nicolás Amancio Oría (Nico): JOSIE & GASTÓN’S THIRD SON.

    Ignacio José Oría (Nacho): JOSIE & GASTÓN’S YOUNGEST SON.

    MARÍA POUPÉE ORÍA: JOSIE & GASTÓN’S YOUNGEST CHILD AND DAUGHTER NAMED AFTER JOSIE’S MOM.

    GENTLEMAN CALLER: (70ISH). THE GHOST OF JOSIE'S GREAT GRANDFATHER.

    Logline

    A magical culinary memoir that serves up a must-taste of Argentina. Josephine’s memoir is the true story of a daughter’s love, loss and cross-cultural multi-generational legacy that unfolds like a magical realism novel a a la Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 18-34,35-54,55+

    Target Gender: Female Leaning

    Setting

    Pittsburgh, Pa / Miami Beach, Fl / Buenos Aires, Argentina / Suardi, Argentina / Villa La Angostura, Argentina

    Based on a True Story

    Yes

    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: with a Publisher

    Publisher: Scribe Publishing Co.

    Year Published: 2021

    Starting Description

    Josephine travels to her 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 that formed their kitchen arsenal.

    Ending Description

    Josephine’s travels from las pampas to the prairie aren't easy or conventional. She grapples with a transcontinental tryst with the Argentine man of her dreams & mystical encounters with the spirit world that lead her to discover a part of herself that, like sobremesa, had been lost in translation.

    Group Specific

    Argentina / Travel / Foodies / Home Cooks / Intergenerational Immigrants / Women

    Hard Copy Available

    Yes

    ISBN

    1735305189

    Mature Audience Themes

    Nudity

    Plot - Other Elements

    Coming of Age,Meaningful Message,Other

    Plot - Premise

    Quest

    Main Character Details

    Name: Josephine Caminos Oría

    Age: 23

    Gender: Other

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Insecure,Sarcastic,Romantic,Outspoken,Heroic,Religious

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Gastón J. Oria

    Age: 29

    Gender: Female

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Masculine,Adventurous,Charming,Confident,Engaging,Heartthrob,Sexy,Outspoken,Funny,Romantic,Seductive,Unapologetic

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Poupée Caminos

    Age: 50s

    Gender: Other

    Role: protagonist

    Key Traits: Charming,Complex,Confident,Decisive,Engaging,Gracious,Leader

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Dorita Germain

    Age: 75

    Gender: Lgbt

    Role: protagonist

    Key Traits: Confident,Engaging,Gracious,Outspoken

    Development Pitch

    A magical culinary memoir that serves up a must-taste of Argentina. If food is the universal language of love, sobremesa is the romance. Gather around the table with C-level career woman turned foodpreneur, Josephine Caminos Oría, as she cooks up a magical tale, told morsel by morsel, of some of her most memorable tableside chats—sobremesas—that provided the first-generation Argentine-American the courage to leave the safe life she knew and start over from scratch. In her coming-of-age adventure, Josephine 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 Josephine’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, Josephine’s own heart surprises her by surrendering to a forbidden, transcontinental tryst with the Argentine man of her dreams. To stay together, she must make a difficult choice: return to the safe life she knows in the States, or follow her heart and craft a completely different kind of future for herself—one she never saw coming. This other worldly, multigenerational sto

    Genre

    COMEDY, ROMANCE, MATURE AUDIENCE, FANTASY, DRAMA

    Brief

    This magical culinary memoir of a woman whose quest is to find a place to belong between two cultures. The true and fantastic story of someone who finds herself in her own roots, who finds meaning to life, and love in Argentina, a country where she was born, but never truly knew. Full of food, drama, loss and happiness.

    Overall Rating

    EXCELLENT

    Point of View

    FIRST PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: GOOD

    Characterization: EXCELLENT

    Commerciality: GOOD

    Franchise Potential: FAIR

    Pace: GOOD

    Premise: EXCELLENT

    Structure: GOOD

    Theme: EXCELLENT

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    Yes, it is accurate.

    Draw of Story

    The relationship between Josie and her family, how much their Latin roots can be seen in what they talk and do. How far she needed to go after her identity and how this transformed her life and relation with the family’s legacy.

    Possible Drawbacks

    The Gentleman Caller presence. Everything about him seems a bit off, even knowing only Josephine can see him most of the time and how he relates to the family’s history, the scenes with him sound a little dissonant with the rest of the book, and the fact that everyone just ignores his interference and how much he affects Josie’s show that he is not that important to the narrative. I know this is some sort of homage to Magical Realism, which was a very important genre in Argentina’s Literature, but existing only in Josie’s head while every other character isn’t able to see this ghost most of the time does not look like Magical Realism, where the fantasy part is seen as normal by everyone.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY DOES NOT RELY ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    The setting in Argentina and its characters. Everything there looks idyllic, softer, and fun. Even when they talk about work, it is in a less tough and sad way. There is a lot of parties, and food, and beautiful people. The contrast between Argentina and the USA will be one of the more interesting parts of a movie about this story.

    Fanbase Potential

    There’s some potential when we look to the Latin public. Even the non-Argentine will find something familiar in Josie’s family and their relationship with their own culture, especially the Spanish-speakers South American people who share a lot of the food names, and traditions.

    Awards Potential

    It’s not very likely this story winning Awards because of the themes and the foreign-centered drama. But Josie’s journey has some potential for her actress, delivering drama, humor, tragedy, sensuality, and happiness all the time.

    Envisioned Budget

    LOW BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    CHEF (2014), NO RESERVATIONS (2007), MOSTLY MARTHA (2001), AMO LA COCINA (2011), MY FAMILY (1995)

    What’s New About the Story

    Argentina as a setting, for sure. All the people and the country’s relationship with its own obsessions like Evita and dulce de leche. These expansive, dramatic and hot people, which suffer a lot and smiles a lot. I think making Argentina the main setting in a movie or TV show about this story is what can make it even more unique.

    Lead Characters

    Their dramatic and explosive relationships. Everything is potentially a big thing for them, they always cry a lot, eat a lot, talk a lot, fight a lot, and love a lot. Josie stays in a country she barely knows because of a man that is almost a stranger to her. She ends up marrying him after rethinking every decision she ever made. They then move back to the United States to be jobless and to rebuild a life from the ground. It’s everything dramatic and satisfactory.

    Uniqueness of Story

    Unfortunately no. The appeal to the Latin public is a little too limited, and this is the kind of story we cannot predict will ever reach people outside this bubble. This can be improved with less influence of the Gentleman Caller and, maybe, with more focus on the cultural differences between Argentina and America.

    Possible Formats

    Film: Studio, Indie, Streaming TV Series: Limited Run / Mini-Series, Streaming

    Analyst Recommendation

    CONSIDER

    Justification

    Because of the characters above all else. They're charismatic and interesting enough to make this story ready to be adapted. Also because of its settings, all the cross-cultural conflicts, and a journey about belonging and family we all can relate to.

    Brief

    A magical culinary memoir that serves up a must-taste of Argentina. This is a true story about love, loss and cross-cultural multi-generational legacy that unfolds like a magical realism novel. When Josephine, a first-generation Argentine American from Pittsburgh who feels torn between two countries and cultures, travels to her family’s homeland, she expects to unearth some delectable family secrets. What she does not expect is to find her true home in the arms of Gastón, the young man charged with managing the family’s estancia. Surprised by love, she learns that the world can tilt on its axis from one moment to the next, demanding choices and commitments that shape the course of the future. Also unexpected, but welcome, are the visitations from Josephine’s deceased abuelo and the ghost of an elderly man who appears to be watching over her. Central to Josephine’s personal discoveries are her family’s culinary secrets—an alchemy of love, passed down through generations of women. Sobremesa is a reminder of a slower time, an exuberant, passionate place, and love as vast as the Argentine pampas.

    What We Liked

    This is a unique story about love, loss, and the quest to unearth and rediscover one’s family roots. Sobremesa appeals to the voice in our head that asks: "Where do we come from? What does that mean? What is our ancestral legacy?" Although this story is told by a first-generation Argentine American, it resonates with most bicultural immigrants who live between two cultures and feel they are fully neither, nor fully both.

    Film: Josephine's quest for belonging follows a classic coming of age structure while her relationship with Gastón is a traditional rom-com. The complexity of Josephine’s family’s dual and sometimes dueling cultures, the spiritual dishes that form their kitchen arsenal, the story’s that surface during tableside chats, the reason behind her parents' departure from Argentina, the secret her abuela Dorita harbors and it’s connection to the ghost from the past who haunts Josephine in the most important moments of her life, forbidden under the table trysts, sudden life-changing loss and the legacy that diverts the course of Josie’s life with four children in tow—all add a bit of novelty to the story and make this a very touching and fun movie.

    TV: This is a coming-of-age type of story. The lead character's relationship with her family and heritage can be developed during a whole season, with each episode integrating a recipe as the book does. Sobremesa also offers a myriad of different scenarios in the United States and Argentina, delivering romance, drama, sexual tension, and cultural differences in the protagonist's process to discover herself and her life purpose with food and cooking as the main themes.

    Key points:
    1. Unique cross-cultural relationships
    2. Many fun and compelling characters, including the spirits of past ancestors
    3. The heroine triumphs at the end
    4. A big and close family
    5. Beautiful and appetizing food.

    Synopsis

    Sobremesa is set between Pittsburgh, PA, Miami Beach, Fl, Buenos Aires, and central Argentina from 1997-2013. Its narrative is like a linen-draped table whose structure is wholly dependent on the sobremesas (post-meal tableside chats) and the recipes listed at the end of each chapter—each labeled with an Argentine culinary idiom that reflects what’s going on at the time. Each of the 13 chapters opens with a memorable dish and closes with the sobremesa it inspired. Some, an elaborate family gathering; others a quick nibble of profound conversation at the breakfast table, along a roadside truck stop diner, even in bed. In Sobremesa, food becomes the keeper of memories and family traditions. It opens pathways to intimacy and lifetime bonds with one another, including those who are no longer with us.

    JOSEPHINE (“JOSIE”) was born in Argentina but was just six months old when her parents, brothers, and sisters moved to the USA. They established roots in Pittsburgh, PA, but still ate like Argentines. 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 JOSIE learned to make sense of the world. Stories of where she came from, and the people she’d left behind, were served to her during family sobremesas she savored like meals. Those tales not only nourished JOSIE’s imagination and sense of self, but they were also a means for JOSIE's parents to pass on their Argentine traditions and culture beyond DNA.

    As a child, “abuela” DORITA (Spanish for grandmother) spends many hours with JOSIE in the kitchen, teaching her about life, love, and cooking—both in Argentina and when visiting the family in Pittsburgh. DORITA is the link to JOSEPHINE's Argentine roots. Every time abuela is in Pittsburgh, she makes the kids speak Spanish and cook typical Argentine food like milanesas and dulce de leche, which turns out to be life-changing for JOSIE. But not before she gets a second chance at life at just sixteen, two days after she'd passed her drivers' license test. It was December 1990. Her family—minus her dad—is caravanning in three vehicles from Pittsburgh down to their second home in Miami Beach. After incessant pleading from her older brother OSCÁR, JOSIE reluctantly agrees to jump into the driver’s seat and take the wheel as the car is barreling down the highway at 70 mph, but she is neither strong enough nor tall enough to control it. Her older brother tries to help, but it is too late. Miraculously they survive, but JOSIE is left bed-ridden and unable to speak. As abuela DORITA feeds JOSIE the sopa pastina that nurses her back to health, JOSIE recounts the mystical details of the accident, relegating their salvation to dancing with angels and a mysterious gentleman who carries her from inside the car to safety. Strangely, nobody else sees him. This is the first appearance of the Gentleman Caller, a figure who becomes a part of JOSIE's most important moments and holds the key to abuela DORITA’S unspoken past.

    Thanksgiving is one of the American holidays that best encapsulates the spirit of "sobremesa”. While JOSIE's MOM has embraced the American way and cooks a perfect turkey, for JOSIE the holiday is all about MOM’s walnut and mushroom-laden stuffing. Thanksgiving 1997 marks the last holiday she spends with her boyfriend of eight years, TRIPP, a professional golfer aspiring to make it on the PGA tour. JOSIE believes they are headed towards the alter, but abuela DORITA predicts the end of their relationship. DORITA seems to know things beyond the familiar realm of the senses. Her intuition performs itself in her cooking: like most abuelas, she cooks without measurements or oven temperatures—a pinch here, a pinch there. Meanwhile, JOSIE and TRIPP try to make sense of a recent other worldly encounter with a platinum-white bearded stranger who walks into JOSIE’S home, interrupting an intimate moment before disappearing into the basement never again to be found. At a tea-time sobremesa, JOSIE faces the hard truth about her fate with TRIPP, yet chooses to ignore abuela DORITA’S warnings.

    Months later JOSIE is awoken in the middle night by the same stranger who seems to be of an era gone by. As she comes to understand he isn’t of this world, he warns her of imminent trouble ahead. JOSIE lives in a middle-class suburban community, with all the cliches included, even a golf club next door where TRIPP is not only a member but the club golf champion. A white picket fence that separates her family home from the golf course represents the growing cultural divide between the two. Later that evening after returning from a cruise trip with his family, TRIPP confesses to falling in love with an all-American girl on the boat who is everything JOSIE isn't—as American as apple pie. JOSIE is devastated, and left questioning who she is without him. The spirit of JOSIE’S abuelo ALFREDO visits her in two poignant dreams, planting the seed that it’s time JOSIE return home. The question is: home where? At sobremesa JOSIE learns about her MOM’s own supernatural experiences with her dearly departed great-grandmother JOSEFINA, JOSIE’s namesake, who visited from the grave years back when their family home succumbed to a rampant fire.

    As JOSIE begins to settle into single life, she runs into TRIPP for the first time since their split. As JOSIE gets a glimpse of his new girlfriend, she begins to understand that TRIPP stands torn between two very different worlds—one of tawny, sweet sticky dulce de leche, and another of comforting and familiar milky-white vanilla pudding. JOSIE’s MOM makes one of her famous mushroom sandwiches to sop up her tears, still, the warmth that JOSIE normally receives from her favorite food cannot overcome her repressed sadness. JOSIE’s rage surfaces and drives her to have a steamy one-night stand with an old high-school friend, Robert, who seduces her with his culinary skills in the hot steamy kitchen of the cottage house across the driveway from her parents’ home. JOSIE is caught red-handed and her machista FATHER devises a plan to get her out of Pittsburgh for a while until things cool off.

    JOSIE's family has cattle ranches in Argentina. They are administered from afar by her parents with the help of employees in Argentina, specifically two brothers who run the business. So, when El Niño strikes, it becomes the family dinner topic and her parents' main worry. The ranches are a foreign topic for JOSIE until the day her FATHER decides that she'll go to Argentina for a month to “help with the books.” That should be enough time to set her straight. On the eve of her trip, JOSIE dreams with the ghost she’s come to know as her Gentleman Caller, who stands alongside a younger, familiar man whose stair is so intense it knocks JOSIE from her bed.

    Upon arriving in Argentina a cold August morning, JOSIE meets the young man in her dreams, GASTÓN, son of her godmother and her parents' employee. Standing beside him in the airport is JOSIE’s Gentleman Caller, who comes and goes according to his own mysterious whims. JOSIE questions why he continues to follow her and whether GASTÓN can see or sense him. Until then TRIPP is the only other person who has seen him. JOSIE and GASTÓN spar at a roadside sobremesa after sharing a meal of milanesas of all types. They connect right away, provoking each other all the time, as JOSIE sees him as the typical machista womanizer she’s so often been warned about. Later that night JOSIE begins to see GASTÓN in a different light and soon cannot get him out of her head and thoughts. JOSIE can't help feeling comfortable in his presence and opens up to GASTÓN in a way she never has with another man—TRIPP included. At another meal she uncovers la verdad de la milanesa, the hidden truth, behind GASTÓN’s blatant flirtatiousness. After confessing she is falling for him, GASTÓN does not return her affection, leaving her embarrassed and confused.

    At the estancia, GASTÓN finally confesses to JOSIE that it’s his work relationship with her parents that’s keeping him from returning her affection. More confused than ever, JOSIE avoids GASTÓN, who continues to play coyish under-the-table games. The tension between them slowly builds until it comes to a crescendo soon after the yerra, or cattle round up where the gauchos castrate the testicles from young bulls. The yerra is followed by the traditional fiesta, where the men gather to slowly barbeque the creadillas they’ve harvested throughout the process. It’s believed that eating calves’ testicles increases a man’s sexual prowess and performance. GASTÓN’s included. They begin a secret relationship which boils over rapidly. JOSIE decides she needs to see where the relationship can go and decides to stay in Argentina for a few more months for GASTÓN, a man she barely knows. Soon after JOSIE learns at sobremesa—from none other than his unsuspecting mother—that GASTÓN has the heart of an artichoke and is always bringing home a different girl every weekend, scattering his leaves left and right. As they clear the dishes, GRACIELA drinks the remains from JOSIE’s limoncello cordial, causing crazy images to race through her head. GASTÓN playing footsies with JOSIE under the table, the two of them holding hands, his hand sliding up JOSIE’s thigh while GASTÓN sips his café con leche at the breakfast table, a kiss he steals behind a bathroom door, the reflection on the computer monitor screen of their arms interlocking, touching, grabbing. With that one sip GRACIELA comes to realize, clear as day, that JOSIE’s heart belongs to her first born. As they say their good-byes, JOSIE hears GRACIELA from the other room. “GASTÓNCITO, Ella no. Do you hear me, son? Not her. I mean it. You can have anyone you want. Anyone but her.”

    Back at the estancia JOSIE confronts GASTÓN about his womanizing ways. SHE has already been down that road and doesn’t want to suffer the same fate with GASTÓN, even if she has fallen head over heels in love with him. After a heated discussion, GASTÓN convinces JOSIE he is ready to commit to a serious relationship for the first time. She believes him and begins looking for a full-time job in Buenos Aires so she can see through their newfound transcontinental relationship—still a secret to everyone with the exception of GRACIELA. JOSIE’s parents give her just over two months to find a job. If she doesn’t, she must return home to Pittsburgh. After seeing her parents and OSCÁR off in the Airport, JOSIE’s GENTLEMAN CALLER makes an unannounced visit in the family’s Buenos Aires apartment imploring her to be patient. GASTÓN and JOSIE make hand-cut steak empanadas with his father, JORGE LUIS. At sobremesa that evening JORGE LUIS and GRACIELA welcome JOSIE into their family after confessing she’d passed their empanada test—according to Doña Petrona (Argentina’s own Julia Childs per se), “any guest who dared eat an empanada with fork and knife at her table would be sentenced to never, ever again be invited back.”

    Before accepting a new position with Standard & Poor’s in Buenos Aires, JOSIE nervously calls her parents to tell them about GASTÓN. They are thrilled. Or so they make it seem. JOSIE’s MOM flies to Argentina to celebrate her 25th birthday. At sobremesa that evening she tells JOSIE and GASTÓN about the tumultuous time she fled her house in Mendoza, Argentina’s wine region, as a teenager, gun-in-hand during an attempted military coup. JOSIE begins to fully understand why her parents left the place they called home in the early 70s in search of stability for their family. After ringing in the New Year in Miami with GASTÓN and JOSIE’s family in Miami Beach, everyone seems to embrace their relationship, and her upcoming move to Argentina. At the stroke of midnight, JOSIE’s Mom passes out twelve grapes to each person. If the grape is sweet, that particular month will be a good one. If it’s sour, it’s going to be a bad month. JOSIE’s first three grapes are terribly sour; a sign of things to come. Upon her departure, JOSIE’s parents, once again fearing they are losing control over her, suggest she cool off her relationship with GASTÓN to focus on her new job. When JOSIE refuses, getting up prematurely from the table, she soon pays the price for the misunderstandings that can arise when sobremesa is all together neglected. As her parents cut ties with her, back in Argentina abuela DORITA takes JOSIE in. GASTÓN continues to work at her parents’ ranches in Santa Fé, a mere seven hours away by car. Over severqal months, the move to Buenos Aires, the fight with her parents, and dealing with a long-distance relationship in Argentina takes a toll on JOSIE. She gives GASTÓN an ultimatum: resign from his position as administrator of her family estancias if he wants to continue to date her. They split for several weeks, leaving their future together uncertain and JOSIE questioning whether she should stay in Argentina. Alone again, JOSIE discovers a newfound freedom until GASTÓN appears in her apartment unannounced with a tableside marriage proposal and unexpected blessing from JOSIE’s parents. Moment before they finally consummate their relationship, JOSIE is overwhelmed with sexual arousal as GASTÓN pretends she’s a piece of meat and explains the various points of the asado. JOSIE and GASTÓN marry a year later in Argentina and then again in Miami Beach.

    JOSIE and GASTÓN move back to America for a job in a company where she spends only five months before being laid-off as a consequence of the dot-com bubble crisis—just two days after the couple commits to a 30-year mortgage on their first home. GASTÓN is left unable to work for close to a year before receiving his green card, leaving the two dependent upon JOSIE's parents. Two years later they move to Pittsburgh so GASTÓN can work with JOSIE’s brother, OSCÁR. JOSIE gets pregnant with their first child soon after at the age of 28. She’s told she’s having a girl, who they name ISABELLA. However, after being bedridden with toxemia, JOSIE discovers she is in fact carrying a son. LUCAS is born shortly after, at 8:25 pm, the same time Argentina’s mythical First Lady, Evita Perón, entered into immortality 50 years prior. Not even a year passes when JOSIE discovers she’s unexpectedly pregnant with MATEO, her second son. MATEO becomes ill as an infant with life-threatening asthma that challenges both JOSIE’s faith and marriage. JOSIE’s GENTLEMAN CALLER visits MATEO in the hospital. He improves enough for the family to travel to Argentine for the holidays with LUCAS and MATEO, who are ages two and half and twelve months old. In Buenos Aires, JOSIE and GASTÓN share a compelling tea-time sobremesa with her TÍA ÁNGELA and her sisterhood of nuns where GASTÓN and her confess, among other things, their opposing views of living in the States. It’s clear GASTÓN dreams of moving back to Argentina, but their careers and livelihood are back in Pittsburgh. At odds, JOSIE and GASTÓN travel to the small, Patagonian town, Villa La Angostura to celebrate New Year’s with his family. For the first time in months MATEO is breathing easily and does not require hourly breathing treatments. GASTÓN and JOSIE walk miles and miles through a magical myrtle forest that reminds them why the fell in love in the first place. After putting the boys down for an afternoon siesta, GRACIELA, walks in on GASTÓN and JOSIE in a moment of passion. Her response: “Sigan no más. Carry on.” That evening, after eating the most delicious dish of freshly caught trout, JORGE LUIS offers up a toast at sobremesa, raising his glass. The table erupts in laughter as Gastón’s parents, brothers and sisters all clink their glasses, and in harmony proclaim “¡Sigan no más! Carry on!” GASTÓN and JOSIE’s third son, Nicolás (Nico) Oría, is born swimming in mischief nine months to the day.

    Back in Pittsburgh, JOSIE unexpectedly becomes pregnant the following year, leaving her to believe, or at least hope, that their baby girl ISABELLA is finally on her way. JOSIE has a falling out with her MOM, who claims JOSIE’s obsession for having a girl is not fair to her other children, especially considering their financial situation. JOSIE holds onto steadfast hope that the girl is on her way. Instead, she gives birth to her fourth son, Ignacio José, who they call NACHO in March 2008. JOSIE is 34. Months later, JOSIE's GENTLEMAN CALLER shows up again in the middle of the night beckoning her to return to her roots. She wakes up the next morning tasting boiling milk and sugar in the air, feeling a sudden, urgent need to make dulce de leche—the same one abuela DORITA made for her as a child. JOSIE asks GASTÓN for gallons of whole milk and calls DORITA for the recipe, who reluctantly recites it to her. It takes a lot of time for her to perfect the dulce de leche, but JOSIE seems to be being guided by a supernatural force that is greater than her. With DORITA’s upcoming 90th birthday, JOSIE decides to stamp the dulce de leche jars with her abuela's face and give them to her and the family as party souvenirs. This idea naturally evolves to JOSIE trying to sell some jars in the local small markets, while juggling a full time career and four boys in tow.

    Arriving in Argentina for DORITA's birthday, JOSIE keeps a promise and goes to visit her abuelo ALFREDO’s grave in the name of her abuela, where she makes the harrowing discovery that her great-grandmother JOSEFINA died on the same day as her abuela DORITA’s forty years before on her 50th birthday. This makes JOSIE curious about her family's past, but DORITA chooses to leave such painful memories where they belong—in the past. After sharing a meal of sorrentino’s with abuela DORITA and her MOM, JOSIE discovers through the sobremesa chit-chat why the women of her family have a tradition of cooking and baking their way out of sorrow. DORITA’s father abandoned her family when she was just a young girl. Gone—without a trace. JOSIE’s graveside revelation haunts her for months to come, foreshadowing a life-changing loss that upends JOSIE’s world as she knows it.
    Back in Pittsburgh, JOSIE and her MOM partner up to establish the dulce de leche startup named after abuela. JOSIE continues to juggle the side-business with her full-time career and demanding family schedule. Then, just as JOSIE is about to blow out the candles on her 36th birthday cake, she receives a harrowing phone call. “Come now. She’s in the fight of her life.” It’s then that JOSIE realizes her family history will soon repeat itself. Unbeknownst to JOSIE at the time, “Mom, you forgot my birthday,” from earlier that morning are the last words she would ever speak to her. Days after her passing, JOSIE’s MOM’s spirit takes a seat at the dining room beside JOSIE as she begins to write her eulogy. JOSIE asks her what she should say. “Tell them we lived between las pampas and the prairie. And that they can always find me there.” JOSIE’s Mom feeds her the courage to hours later, on the eve of Christmas Eve, eulogize her in front of a packed church. Among them, her Gentleman Caller.

    More than two years pass since JOSIE’s MOM’s passing. She travels to Argentina for abuela DORITA’s 93rd birthday with a bottle of La Dorita dulce de leche liqueur under one arm and her infant daughter, who she named POUPÉE (after her MOM) wrapped in the other. POUPÉE is ten months old and meeting for the first time her great-grandmother DORITA, who, after losing her daughter has an underlying sadness about her that comes with acceptance. At sobremesa JOSIE tells her abuela she is certain that her MOM had everything to do with sending her the baby girl she had desperately been searching for all of those years. How during her pregnancy her MOM and GENTLEMAN CALLER had begun sending JOSIE messages through balloons, leaving her questioning whether they knew one another and if their spirits were in cahoots.

    Dorita’s advanced Parkinson’s has left her mostly bedridden. JOSIE watches her as she sleeps on the morning of her birthday. She is sleeping restlessly. Calling out for her father. “Papá. Papá. Papá.” When DORITA awakens, she confesses to JOSIE that they are not alone in the room. Then, as JOSIE goes to fetch DORITA’s head scarf in her dresser drawer, she sees the man DORITA is speaking of in the mirror. Their eyes lock. JOSIE realizes that it is the same man who pulled her from the car wreckage all of those years ago. It’s the same man who has been haunting her ever since. Could it be DORITA’s long lost father, whose name was forbidden to be spoken aloud? Back in the kitchen, DORITA watches JOSIE make ñoqui. During sobremesa, DORITA falls fast asleep in her chair at the dining room table after pouring a little too much dulce de leche liqueur in her coffee. Baby POUPÉE wakes up at the same moment, crying out in hunger. As JOSIE picks her up to nurse her she witnesses a sobremesa beyond this world. It’s there in the quiet of DORITA’s living room that her GENTLEMAN CALLER reveals his identity as he takes a seat beside his wife and JOSIE’s great-grandmother JOSEFINA at the table. JOSIE also comes to understand that her recent innate passion for boiling milk into dulce de leche is a way to preserve her Caminos-Germain family history on her MOM and abuela DORITA’s side. As she prepares to return home to Pittsburgh, JOSIE says an excruciating good-bye to her beloved abuela DORITA for the very last time.

    Fourth months later JOSIE and her sisters travel to Argentina for Dorita’s funeral to represent and pay tribute to their abuela, who also lived the latter half of her life straddling two cultures. Together they lived their world in Spanglish—Dorita was their Argentina, and they, her United States of America. Years later, while baking with her now six-year-old daughter POUPÉE, JOSIE reflects on her family’s longstanding sobremesa practice and after-life experiences, including a message she’d recently received from her MOM a decade after her parting where she wishes JOSIE a happy birthday. She hadn’t forgotten after all. As long as JOSIE continues to cook their recipes and honor the time-proven sobremesa tradition, she’ll continue to stay connected to her ancestors—most certainly JOSIE’s MOM and abuela DORITA who’s spirits continue to live on.

    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.