The Many Cultures of BOCA!

By May 4, 2022 No Comments


BOCA holds weekly virtual happy hours as a way to destress and connect with each other. This past week we held a culture themed happy hour where we spent time learning about what makes each of us who we are. BOCAteers had an opportunity to share various foods and traditions from their culture that are important to them and their families. Not only does this help us bond as a team, it also creates a workplace of inclusivity as we build awareness around the different backgrounds that make BOCA so unique. BOCAteers share about their cultures below:

Kathleen Shanahan, Founder
My mother is an Italian, Argentine that lives full time in Mexico with my sister. My sister has dual citizenship – American and Mexican. My mom is now getting her Mexican citizenship. I think it is pretty awesome. The running joke in our house is the Mexicans need to build a wall to keep us Americans out, that was meant to be funny. There is a huge expat community in Puerto Vallarta. In fact, the Bahia de Banderas is incredibly international with people from the States, Canada, Russia and the list goes on that call Puerto Vallarta their home. So, wrapping this back to food: two of my favorite foods that represent both Argentina and Mexico are empanadas de carne and Milanesa, which is the Latin American version of a schnitzel — just delicious. 

Kayla Castro, Account Coordinator
My dad’s side of the family is Chinese, specifically Macanese from Macau, Hong Kong. Although immigrating over at the age of 7, he wanted to fit in and so he refused to take his Chinese classes and fully assimilated into U.S. culture. So, most of my Chinese heritage and culture comes from spending time with my grandparents. They would take us to dim sum by their house, which happened to be Hong Kong-style dimsum. They would shout Cantonese at the women pushing the dim sum carts and delicious food in steaming metal tins would be set on our table. My favorite wasn’t even from the carts, it was the pan fried chicken chow mein, which remains my favorite to this day. 

Jennifer Tolkachev, Vice President
I am Greek on my paternal side and Ukrainian and Polish on my maternal side. Interestingly, my Ukrainian grandmother’s family and my Polish grandfather’s family both came from an area called Galicia, which has gone back and forth between being part of Ukraine or part of Poland throughout history. It’s currently split between Western Ukraine and Southeastern Poland. The largest city in Galicia is Lviv, which has been in the news recently for being one of the cities under attack by Russia. Interestingly, and on that note, my husband is Russian and grew up in Moscow, hence my last name. He came here to get an MBA from UCI, and after we met he decided to stay. I’m a third generation American, and all of my great grandparents immigrated here in the early 1900s. They came through Ellis Island (some as young as 10 and 11 by themselves!), and we found their names on the wall there when we visited NYC a few years ago. Needless to say, we have a lot of cultures and traditions that we still honor and celebrate in our house — some of which are blended due to cross-cultural history and religion. Our religions are all similar: Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox and Ukrainian Orthodox. Growing up I got to celebrate two Christmases — Dec. 25th and Jan. 7th. And we typically have a different Easter than other Christians. Ours was this past Sunday, so I shared the traditional Ukrainian Easter bread called pascha (pronounced paska), which I make every year with my kids.

Anthony Lam, Account Director
My parents were both born in Vietnam but both of their parents were born in China so I am technically full Chinese. However, I grew up heavily with the Vietnamese culture which included the food and language (though my Vietnamese is not the best). My parents would always cook various Vietnamese dishes, including the more popularly known, pho. Other foods that may not be as well known include Thit Kho, a staple dish in the Vietnamese community and definitely one of those dishes that you would most likely only see at home. This dish usually consists of bigger cuts of pork belly and eggs, and is eaten over rice. Another not-as-well-known Vietnamese treat is Nuoc Mia, which is sugarcane juice. There aren’t many stores that sell this juice so it is definitely a hard-to-find drink.  

Wendy Brittain, HR Director
I’m basically a mutt with nearly 100% European ancestry. My first ancestors landed on this continent from England in 1630 and my last ancestor to arrive was my beloved Great Grandpa Louie, who emigrated as a teenager from Aero, Denmark, to settle in northern California. I’m mostly English, Welsh, Irish, Danish, and German and I’ve been fortunate to visit several of my family homes in Wales and Denmark. One highlight was visiting the home that my 10th great grandfather built on Aero in 1645. From a food standpoint, I grew up on my paternal grandmother’s southern cooking (Oklahoma style) and the German and Scandinavian-inspired foods that my mom cooked for us. One of my favorite traditions is making Danish æbleskiver every Christmas. It used to be my Mom’s job to make the traditional pancake balls for breakfast each year, but I’ve now taken over that duty and like to make them any time of the year (I just bought some buttermilk to make a batch this weekend!). 

Lauren Brown, Content Specialist
I am Irish and German and my husband is Jewish so our house is a blend of many cultures and traditions! We celebrate holidays from both sides of our families and incorporate traditions to teach our children about the things that are important to us. For the Jewish holidays we cook traditional Jewish foods such as latkes and kugel. For my side of the family, the food itself is not so much a representation of my culture, it is more about the act of preparing whatever it is we are cooking and then enjoying it together.

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