(Back row L-R ) Carolina Rieffolo, Connie Wonneberg, Darko Plavsin, (front row L-R) Busilak Harris, Ritz Santos, and Maria Elena Guiterrez Jackson from Immigration and Multicultural Services Society in Williams Lake share favourite holiday dishes and talk about what makes them delicious. Photo: LeRae Haynes

By LeRae Haynes 

Food is one thing that brings people together no matter what the celebration. Celebrating the holiday season, as well as the incredible cultural diversity that defines Canada, a group of six clients at Immigration and Multicultural Services Society in Williams Lake gathered to talk about food and share recipes from their childhood.

“One special dish I always loved for dessert was Leche Flan,” explained Connie Wonneberg, who was born in Nueva Ecija in the Philippines.“It was always there for holidays like Christmas and birthdays. It’s always good, but at Christmas it tastes even better—there is more love and giving. I learned to make it from my mom.”

Leche Flan. Photo: Ramil Sagum/Flickr
Leche Flan. Photo: Ramil Sagum/Flickr

Note: Leche Flan is traditionally cooked in an oval metal llanera, which is a pan about two inches high and six inches long.


Leche Flan


  • 2 whole eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 10 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. Water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  • Heat 1 litre of water in a large pan or steamer over medium heat. Cover.
  • Prepare a couple llaneras, or any deep tins, with a little butter or cooking spray. Divide sugar and water evenly into both tins.
  • Heat llaneras on low heat one at a time until sugar starts to melt, and becomes dissolved and syrupy.
  • Turn off heat when caramel syrup turns light brown.
  • Tilt the tins to coat all sides with the mixture. Set aside to cool.
  • In a bowl, whisk egg yolks and eggs together, pour in condensed and evaporated milk, and continue to whisk. Add vanilla extract and whisk until combined. Use a strainer and a ladle to transfer milk mixture into tins, getting rid of lumpy bits and air bubbles.
  • Place the tins in a larger baking dish containing ¼ inch of water. Bake for one hour. The flan is ready when your milk and egg mixture has set. Test it by jiggling the pan; if it seems set in the middle, it’s ready. If it looks watery, give it more time.

Note: Check on the flan every 15 minutes or so to make sure the water in the larger baking dish doesn’t start to boil, as this could cause the flan to overcook. If it begins to simmer or boil, add cold water to cool it down.

  • Turn off the heat and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  • Refrigerate Leche Flan for about 30 minutes before transferring to a plate. Serve cold.


Ritz Santos from Caloocan City, Philippines said her favourite thing to eat at holidays was Beef Morcon. “We only ate it at Christmas or New Years because it’s so expensive and tedious. It takes four hours and a lot of TLC to make it,” she said. “My mom and aunt made it and I learned how as a teen. We always had it on fiestas.”

“It was strange for me in Canada to eat moose: we don’t have them in the Philippines,” Ritz continued.“Once I was recovering from surgery and a friend brought me soup. He asked, ‘How did you like the moose?’ and I said, ‘What MOOSE?’ It was a different texture, but I like it now.”

A favourite childhood dish for DarkonPlavsin, who wasborn in Osigek, Croatia, is fresh-baked traditional cookies his mom used to make. “My mom and grandma cooked, and I was the one who tasted,” he said. “At Christmas the table needed to be full with all different dishes, and I liked them all. The day before Christmas you fasted all day: that was the tradition. You could eat anything but meat.”

He said a lot of the time they had traditional fish soup. “It was mainly poor fisherman recipes—they would cook whatever they caught, on an open fire on the shore of the river. The recipes are all very simple: just fish, onion, salt, and red pepper. The pepper should be really spicy—lots of it for the heat. Today, there are fish soup cooking competitions, and although the recipes are very simple, everyone makes it a little different.”

To Darko, there is no odd food in Canada. “I was a soldier; we ate everything,” he said. “We ate frogs and we ate snakes—and it didn’t taste like chicken; it tasted like snake.”

To Busilak Harris, born in Manila in the Philippines, a holiday favourite was a whole roasted pig, or Lechon. “You wash and shave the pig and stuff it like a chicken and sew the belly closed,” she explained. “It takes two men to put in on a bamboo stick and hang it. You pour boiling water over it to make the skin crunchy and you roast it over the charcoal for hours and hours.

“While it’s cooking you baste it with oil and spices: you use banana leaves to baste for more taste, and you put an apple in its mouth to add flavour and décor.”

She said moose was the strangest thing she has eaten in Canada. “We were at Elks Hall at an event and I saw some meat and asked what it was. Someone said it was roast beef,” she said. “But when I tasted it, it tasted funny and although I ate a little bit, I wrapped the rest in a napkin.”

Caroline Rieffolo from Mendoza, Argentina said her favourite dish was always a roasted chicken her mom baked for her birthdays. “She took a whole chicken and basted it with coarse salt, lemon, butter, and pepper, baking it along with sliced potatoes and sweet potatoes. She took garlic, parsley, and oregano mixed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and when the potatoes were ready, sprinkled it over each one.“It was my favourite dish for a long time,” she said. “I make it now.”

“My favourite thing my mom used to make was with zucchini,” said Maria Elena Guiterrez Jackson from Guadalajara, Mexico. “She boiled the zucchini, scooped out the seeds and flesh, and put it in a bowl. She mixed it with butter, eggs, bacon, salt, and pepper and put it back in the zucchini skin. She covered it with cheese, baked it, and served it with sour cream, salsa, and calabazas al horno,” Maria explained.

She said her craziest food story in Canada was when her eight uncles came to visit and they all went to Barkerville. “We were going to have a BBQ at the lake and I just grabbed something out of the freezer in a hurry,” she said. “We cooked the meat on the barbeque and it smelled really good, but when one of my uncles took a bite, it was so tough his false teeth came flying out on the ground. It turned out it was moose, and you really do have to marinate moose.”

Another food idea she shared was Pozole Soup, which she said is good for a holiday dish when you’ve perhaps partaken of too much Christmas cheer. She added that it’s spicy and helps you sweat out excessive ‘cheer’ and that it makes really good leftovers.

Pozole Soup. Photo: Randy Fung/Flickr
Pozole Soup. Photo: Randy Fung/Flickr

Pozole Soup


  • 1 can corn
  • 1 head garlic
  • salt to taste
  • 1 kg pork or chicken, cut in big pieces
  • 1 big tomato
  • 100g. chilemirasol or guajillo (a smooth, soft, shiny, dried pepper)
  • 1 pinch oregano
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 1/2 onions, chopped
  • 1 head lettuce
  • 5 lemons
  • radishes


  • Rinse corn and put it in a pot with water, the head of garlic, and salt. Cook on medium heat for 2 hours. Add meat and cook one hour.
  • Soak the peppers (after removing seeds) in hot water.
  • In a different pot, boil the tomato.
  • Put the peppers, the garlic clove, the tomato, 1 onion, and a pinch of cumin in a blender. Blend and strain it in a colander.
  • Take the meat out of the pot and add the blender mixture to the corn soup.
  • Simmer for one hour.
  • Shred the meat with your fingers. You can either put it back in the soup or serve it on the side.

Topping for the soup

  • Chop the rest of the onion and the lemons, and slice the lettuce very fine. Slice the radishes to go on the very top.
  • This soup is really good with chips and tostadas

Happy holidays from Immigration and Multicultural Services Society. For more information about IMSS services, please call (778) 412-2999, visit www.imsswilliamslake.canic.ws, or www.imss.ca or follow us on Facebook.


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