Confession time. I love to cook. The act of cooking itself gives me pleasure. I like being in the kitchen contemplating what I am going to make for dinner. I enjoy takings disconnected ingredients and turning them into a unified meal.
I also love the act of feeding people. I love how happy it makes them feel to know that someone took time to nurture their bodies. I enjoy the camaraderie that sharing a meal creates.
It makes sense, I think. Sharing food is prevalent among Latinx communities, In fact, I have so many ideas about food that are tied to my Mexican upbringing. These ideas have helped in my growth as an adult. I offer three stories that highlight ways in which food sharing has taught me about the world.
Never eat in front of someone without sharing
My parents workday began at six o’clock in the morning at the meatpacking plant. By the time school got done in the afternoon, they were home to greet my brothers and I. We would open the front door to the smells of Mexican food and the sounds of music or Univision.
One particular occasion, a friend accompanied me home after school. Upon arriving, my stomach grumbled awake by the aroma of my mother’s home cooking. I said to my friend,
“I’m going to get something to eat.”
My mother immediately scolded me in Spanish, “do not say, I am going to get something to eat. Ask, would you like something to eat?”
After my friend left, she shared a story of experiencing hunger as a child and having to sit and watch others eat. It was a pain she would never allow anyone to experience in her presence. This lesson impacted me in a way few things ever have. It enabled me to see my mother, not as my mother, but as someone who had once been like me and whom I would someday be like. And, it impressed upon me the gift you give someone when you share a meal with them.
Sharing a meal can tell you a lot about a person
I sat across the table from my best friend and her new beau. We sipped our soft drinks as we waited for the waitress to bring out the appetizers. When our crab rangoon arrived at our table we all began to it.
“So, how long you chicas known each other?” He boyfriend asked as he chewed threw the half a rangoon he had stuffed in his mouth. His mouth widened as he laughed at his “clever” use of Spanish.
My eyes widened as I stared at my BFF in disbelief.
Has Molly had a meal with this man? My expression asked her. Molly, was her 60 year old mother whose favorite author was Emily Post.
Her head shook no and she looked down at the table. I sucked my teeth at her. After observing his table manners, I knew that he never would meet my friend’s mother. That was a relationship leading nowhere. I was right; it did not lead anywhere… for four years.
Memories happen when we share a meal
“Get the dessert.” My husband egged me on. “You are on vacation.”
I smiled at our waitress. “One chocolate flan, please.”
I was on my second cup of decaf when the two desserts we had ordered finally came out. My husband and son would be sharing one (my husband is not a big fan of sweets.) I would be enjoying my own.
The waitress put them down and left. When she was out of earshot, my son began to laugh hysterically.
“What’s so funny, honey?” I asked.
He shook his head and looked at his dad. “It looks like Shaggy poo.” He pointed with his head at the flan sitting before me.
I looked down at my plate. “Damnit!” I exclaimed. He was right. By then, the hysteria hit my husband. I shook my head at my crazy guys. I started to laugh along with them. I pulled my camera out and took a snapshot. They made my life interesting.
I have that photo hanging on the gallery wall on the stairs that lead to the basement. I remember that trip fondly and so do the guys. And, we have never looked at flan the same way.