Many of my personal life lessons have been learned over a good plate of food. In the past, it was a meal someone else had made: my mother, my sister, my grandmother, my aunt, my boyfriends…
Lately, I’ve impressed myself with the little homemade meals that I prepare for myself. I taught myself how to make a brown-sugary salmon & simple tortillas. Cooking for myself has been liberating and confidence-boosting. Carl, the consummate foodie, always made it his mission to critique meals and would often be caught betraying his daughter at big dinners like Thanksgiving while subtly telling me that what I made could use “a little more” of some ingredient or other. I had begun to lose the pleasure that I had gotten from a well-prepared, home-cooked meal.
Years ago while in a rather unhappy place in my life, I was working at a vitamin production plant. I hated it because there was a lot of hypocrisy there, health violations & I’d always come home covered in vitamin dust, remnants of bovine powder sprayed all over me (whose over-powering stench, if you’ve ever smelled it, makes one want to wretch).
But when I worked there, I had met a young Polish man; an immigrant who most likely didn’t have his papers yet. He spoke with a very heavy accent, but managed to ask me out for lunch in a little Spanish eatery across from the factory. I went. Even with a deep Polish accent, the man managed to speak better Spanish than I! He ordered his whole meal in my native tongue, carrying on simple conversation with the attendants who worked there. “How did you learn that?” I asked. He’d just politely shrug and said he learned through his coworkers who went there everyday. I was amazed that he ordered caldo de pollo. I was too embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what that was. It was the best bowl of soup I ever had.
Oddly enough I learned a lot by watching this young man come into work everyday without complaint. When he did mouth off, it was always about the product he was mixing or to complain about a piece of machinery that wasn’t working to his specifications. He always seemed in control of himself at a time when I was less self-assured & so I learned a lot from him. I’d clock in early mornings (before 6am) primarily because he inspired me to never give up even if the odds are stacked against you. He also had fun, but he didn’t party as hard as some of the workers there. He was friendly, but not familiar.
A meal is also great for healing (as when I recently took Sara out for dinner). She’s at peace now, and it’s good to see her happy. We all still mourn Carlos’s passing occasionally, but we’re a little relieved too; he isn’t suffering anymore. I have made my peace with Sara as well. I’m aware of all the mistakes I made in playing the parent too closely. She’s become a wonderful adult & barring any mishaps in her upbringing, she’s an amazing young woman.
Its also nice to have a special someone give you a special treat made just for you. But that’s something to savor & cannot be shared.