So this past weekend, as you all know, I celebrated my 21st birthday---and if you didn't know, well...now you know! But anywho, I received a couple of "little" packages but it's not so much the size of them but more of what was inside. We have all heard it, "don't judge a book by it's cover." Well, when I opened the hot pink flower-decorated gift box and the other cardboard box, my eyes lit up like a Christmas tree! [which retail likes to advertise as being "right around the corner" but please let Thanksgiving pass first, then we can talk!]
But I digress. So, what was inside these packages? Well, there were birthday cards, a cereal box, different kinds of peanut butter, the spices used to make molé (pronounced "mo-lay") , and an 8 pound bag of pinto beans! These birthday packages are doing more than supplying me with nourishment, they are a bridge connecting Chicago to Paris...Mexico to France.
"Food to a large extent is what holds a society together and eating is closely linked to a deep spiritual experiences." (Consuming Passions:The Anthropology of Eating)
This quote reminds me of when I was writing my final paper for my "Media Cinema Studies" class back in the Spring Quarter, and I was analyzing the importance of food in Latino culture, a topic in my paper. Food is much more than something you eat...it is an art, a science. It wakes up memories from "way back in the day" and stirs up emotions and feelings.
By observing my mom cook in the kitchen ever since I was a little child (well I'm still young...and quite petite in stature...), I have learned that you need more than the "best" and "finest" ingredients to prepare a good meal. You need patience to let the cooking do it's "thing" and have the ingredients magically fuse together to create flavorful fork/spoonfuls--something which I am all too familiar with thanks to my mother's talented culinary skill. Love for what you cook, "Sin amor, no te salen bien las cosas." Meaning that it's not simply about putting all the ingredients in a bowl and following the "directions" but about truly enjoying and loving what you are making and for who! Creativity to not be afraid to try new "outlandish" combinations you would never have thought up of even if it doesn't turn out.
Examples: Peanut Butter on a tortilla--Jazli, I am still in awe; avocado with rice--Julissa, thanks to you I have an addiction; Hot Sauce & Peanuts--Natalie, you put hot sauce on everything...I shouldn't be suprised. How about a sweet thin crust pizza with Guava and Cheese--I know what you are thinking: GROSS!--BUT it's so tasty and you can only get it in one place that I know of: Boca Raton, Florida. What's the strangest mix I have ever heard of? Ready? Gummy bears, honey, and milanesa (breaded steak). I will never forget when I saw this, I don't think I'll ever get that daring though. Think you can top that off? Be my guest, do tell!
Call this entry a dedication to food or perhaps you might simply think I have an "obsession with food" if you will. But, I see it as something more. Being in France where Mexican cuisine lacks in representation or authenticity, I have learned that food plays such a central role in any culture--France still has some catching up to do. Haha, just kidding! What do many of us wish for when we are sick? Perhaps a warm bowl of soup that our moms (or any relative) would make us. How about when we are far from home--yours truly--find yourself "craving" or even yearning for the simplest things from your hometown. And TRUST me, it's not only me thinking about food. I have come across many conversations at IES that relate to food and begin with either "I miss..." or "The first thing I'm going to have [ to eat]..." Food is what connects us to what and who we have grown up with. What is the thing that unites us for celebrations, holidays, or a simple night out with the girls?...or guys?---you guessed it: Food.
I found a store that sells "American" products, even this Mexican brand!---Clearly overpriced....But still...I know where to go now....This was EPIC!
I couldn't go a month without making some sort of Mexican food so the easiest things that came to my mind were quesadillas and guacamole, however I hadn't eaten beans (my pride and joy of "Mexican" cuisine) in about two months--GASP! Cesar, on of my friends from DePaul who came to visit from Belgium, not only made some "guac" but also refried beans the night before leaving. Those two simple creations lead me straight back into my mom's warm-colored kitchen where there are always wonderful aromas lingering in the air. Our kitchen is my favorite place in my house although the multi-colored painted walls of my room are hard to compete with! They say the kitchen is the "heart of a home" and I couldn't agree more.
I leave you with these words of wisdom from author/writer Virginia Woolf:
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well...