Carmen Diaz is a native of Puerto Rico, and she was three years old when her father joined the U.S. military in 1972. He was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. The family, which included a brother and a sister, traveled the world wherever her father was stationed. The U.S. Army brought the family to Fort McClellan in 1985. 

Carmen attended her first public high school in Anniston and afterward traveled with her family to Washington state. Her parents and younger brother were sent to Germany, and Carmen stayed behind to finish community college. 

Carmen graduated with an associate degree in business administration and took a job working for the Boeing Employee’s Credit Union. After her family moved back to the states, Carmen reunited with them in Alabama. 

Carmen married Tony Diaz and graduated from the New World College in Anniston. At one time, she decided to pursue a nursing degree, but the rigors of raising children, supporting her husband while deployed, and running their household left her with little time. 

Now Carmen works at the optometry office of Drs. Murrell, Svensen, & Ellis on 425 E 10th Street in Anniston and supports their business administratively. 

“I love working here and meeting new people,” said Carmen. My best friends are the older patients, and I seem to be drawn to older people.”

Her children are Maria, an Ohatchee teacher; Julian, who is a U.S. Marine stationed in Camp Lejeune in N.C., and Angelina, who is 12 years old, attends Jacksonville Christian Academy. 

Carmen loves to cook dishes from her native land.

“Cooking Puerto Rican food is so different,” she said. She shared three favorite recipes.

RECIPES

FRIED CHICKEN, PUERTO RICAN STYLE

(Pollo Frito))

1 whole chicken cut up

Adobo seasoning (available in grocery stores) 

Vegetable oil for frying

Carmen’s husband, Tony, cuts up the chicken into pieces. She makes tiny slits in the meat with a knife and sprinkles adobo seasoning on the chicken. She places it in a plastic bag or bowl and lays it in the refrigerator overnight. She heats the oil in a skillet and places the chicken in the hot oil without any breading on it, cooking until the juices run clear. Adobo season is a combination of salt, garlic, oregano, and black pepper. Other dry seasonings can be added to taste. 

 CHICKEN AND RICE SOUP

(Asopao de Pollo)

Two-three quarts of chicken stock

One cut-up chicken

Adobo season (see above)

A few frozen cubes of sofrito (see below)

One pack of sazon seasoning

4 medium potatoes diced

One or two cups of rice, depending on the number of people to serve. Let the chicken stock come to a boil and add the chicken until done. Season the stock with adobo seasoning, sofrito, sazon seasoning and rice. Add in the rice and cook until it is tender. Sazon is a blend of coriander, cumin, turmeric, garlic powder, salt, oregano, and black pepper.

SOFRITO

One onion

One green pepper

One bunch of cilantro

One teaspoon of powder garlic

Recaito (optional, it is a mix of onions, garlic, ajicitos, green bell pepper, and lots of cilantro and culantro.)

Place all in a blender and pour into an ice tray. Freeze until needed for soup and beans.