Food,Making HerStory

Martha Soriano Paynter

Martha is Melessa’s sister-in-law. She was generous enough to invite us into her home to share her story of growing up in Mexico and teach us how to cook her family’s favorite comfort food, chilaquiles  (find the recipe below).  Welcome, Martha!

I was born and raised in Mexico City, one of the biggest cities in the world. I am the middle child of three sisters. After a few years living there, we moved to Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico.  I remember having a normal childhood, not much different from other kids. My father was a very firm man. We could never say no to him or we would see his bad side. He had a drinking problem, so my mom was the one who provided for the family. My memories of her are that she was always working.

Martha on the right with her younger sister.

Martha on the right with her younger sister.

Everything was okay until I turned maybe 11 or 12 years of age. My parents started to have lots of problems and differences in their relationship. They started to argue and fight a lot. I don’t remember how it happened exactly or how my mom told us, but she informed us that he was not our real dad and that they were going to get separated. You can imagine how shocked I was with this revelation–two big truths that I never thought would be the case for my family.

I learned that my biological father died when I was little, so I don’t have memories of him. Being young, I didn’t understand how bad our situation was. My sisters and I felt sad and devastated, and I decided to live with my stepfather’s family for a few years. I didn’t know any better at the time. There, I was subjected to mental and physical abuse.  After five years, I knew that moving back with my mom was the best decision.

Martha on the far left with her sisters.

Martha on the far left with her sisters.

Being placed in this difficult situation, I matured very quickly.  I needed to help my mom support our family, so I dropped out of school and started to work instead. I later regretted my decision, and I went back to school to finish a three-year degree in accounting at a technical school. I worked and studied hard to complete my degree. It wasn’t easy, but the feeling of accomplishing something in my life felt good.  Another beautiful thing that happened during that time was getting to know God. I realized I wasn’t alone, and knowing how important I was to Him helped me try things that I never thought I could do.

My family’s economic situation wasn’t good. My mom struggled to provide for us, but we made it. Thanks to her, I was even able to serve a mission for my church in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas Mexico. Being away from my family for 18 months helped me understand God’s plan and gave me answers to my many questions.

When I got back to my family after my missionary service, I learned they had taken out a few loans to survive.  I decided to move to the USA to earn money and help them repay their loans faster. I didn’t have any idea what living here would be like. I came by myself, and I didn’t know much English. I was away from my family and friends, I didn’t know how to drive, etc.; but I was determined.

My goal was to work for two years, pay off my family’s debts, and go back to Mexico.  But two weeks after arriving in the US, I met my John Smith (in Mexico, some good friends used to call me Pocahontas). Marriage wasn’t in my plans because none of my previous relationships had been good. I didn’t have a positive view of marriage at the time, but Bart (my husband), soon changed all that.


I’ve been here for 16 years already, and I love all the things I have accomplished with my dear husband and our wonderful family.  We have two wonderful kids: Eva, 9, and Sebastian, 12. They are my life. We have been through a lot of good times and difficult times. For example, in 2013, my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer. This was a traumatic part of our lives. He is in remission right now, and I find comfort in the knowledge that we can return to live with God again with our family.


I know that we are all unique individuals, and we are here for a purpose. I never thought my life would be the way that it is right now, but I am willing to try my best. Never give up.  Life is just beautiful and full of surprises.




Chilaquiles by Martha Paynter

2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded


30 small corn tortillas, torn or cut into chip-sized squares

2 t chicken bouillon

1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed, washed in soapy water and rinsed well to remove stickiness.   Cut in half if large.

1 jalapeno (optional–remove seeds to decrease heat)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 c onion

2-3 c water

1. Fry tortilla pieces in vegetable oil over medium heat about 2 minutes per side, until golden brown.



2. In a blender or food processor, blend tomatillos, jalapeno, garlic, onion, and water until just slightly chunky.  Start with 2 cups water, and add more to create the salsa consistency you like, or to feed more people.




3. Pour salsa and bouillon into medium pot, bring to boil.  It will turn greenish-yellow after boiling.



4. Add chicken and bring to a simmer.


5. Pour chips into salsa mixture, mix gently and boil 5-7 minutes, stirring only once or twice.  Mixture will thicken as it boils.


6. Serve as a main dish with sour cream and queso fresco (if it comes in a round, crumble it).



Buen apetito!


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  • Natalie Douglass
    October 13, 2016 at 11:19 am

    What a wonderful story of love and inspiration. I wish Martha and her family all of the best! Thank you for the recipe, sound like something my husband will love!

    • Martha
      October 14, 2016 at 1:40 am

      Thank you

  • Heather Lindsay
    October 13, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    There is something about her countenance, she just radiates Christ. She seems like a very loving and sweet person. I am looking forward to trying this recipe!

    • Martha
      October 14, 2016 at 1:39 am

      You made my day, thank you

  • Melessa
    October 13, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    You are amazing Martha! You work hard and have the sweetest spirit. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Your cooking and baking is sooooo yummy!!! I can’t wait to try this recipe. I hope it’s as good as how you make it.

    • Martha
      October 14, 2016 at 1:38 am

      Thanks, love you and like everything you created your are really good

  • Karla
    October 13, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Thank you to Martha for sharing her very personal story. She is a brave woman and a wonderful example. ❤️

    • Martha
      October 14, 2016 at 1:41 am

      Thank you

  • Martha Paynter
    October 13, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Please if you try the recipe, don’t forget to wash the tomatillos with soapy water they are sticky, you definitely don’t want that

    • Laura
      October 13, 2016 at 7:17 pm

      Thank you, Martha! I’ll edit the post now to reflect that.

  • Allison T.
    October 13, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story Martha! My sister has raved about your fabulous cooking over the years! I am really excited to try this recipe; I have a feeling my family is going to love it!

    • Martha
      October 14, 2016 at 1:43 am

      Hope they like Chilaquiles

  • Carly Pederson
    October 13, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    What an inspiration! Beautifully written. Nice job Martha! You are a special mother and wife! ❤️

    • Martha
      October 14, 2016 at 1:35 am

      Thank you so much

  • Lillian Soza
    October 13, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    Gracias por compartir tu historia Martha! I’m so excited to make those chilaquiles!!! I think the last time I had them was at the Family Reunion. So tasty!!!!!

    • Martha
      October 14, 2016 at 1:33 am

      Yes, those are the chilaquiles from family reunion

  • Laura Roman
    October 13, 2016 at 11:55 pm

    Martha thank you for telling us your story, I’ve known you for a very long time and I know you are a very brave woman. Our heavenly father knows how valuable you are. That is why he has blessed you with a beautiful family that surely will be forever. I love you very much. Keep doing your best. May God bless you for all the love and support you give your mother and sisters.

    • Martha
      October 14, 2016 at 1:31 am

      I love you too, thank you for your good example of endure to the end.

  • Doug
    October 14, 2016 at 2:44 am

    Your just great. And a great cook. I know Janel will paste and copy the recipie it is her favorite.

    • Janel
      October 14, 2016 at 3:04 am

      Yes, it definitely is! I tried making it once from another recipe but wasn’t the same. Missed your loving touch. XO

      • Martha
        October 14, 2016 at 1:55 pm

        You both are my favorite heroes ever, you life is just beautiful Christ like, love you too

  • Elane Teasdale
    October 14, 2016 at 3:47 am

    I was lucky to meet this amazing lady last week. Knowing now what she has overcome makes her even more amazing. Thanks for letting us know her a bit better.

    • Martha
      October 14, 2016 at 1:56 pm

      It was nice talking to you to

  • Allison Davey
    October 14, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    Martha is one of my personal heroes. She is courageous, creative, tenacious, and loving. Plus she does it all with grace. Thank you for sharing your story, Martha.

  • Bart Paynter
    October 19, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    I love this recipe. After I watched the Pixar movie Ratatouille I said to myself that chilaquiles are the mexican equivalent – simple, delicious, comfort food.

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