A travel expert on PBS advised that to really know a culture, you must eat their food. And he went on to eat dried bugs and stewed goat intestines. All the while I was thinking, YUCK — I’d have to be pretty darn hungry.
But upon reflection I realize how true that was. How much we find out about each other by looking at what we eat. Just watching this simple slide show you'll discover a lot about me. You can see that I come from the land of oysters and crab — very specific East Coast seafood because I grew up in Southern Maryland. You'll see the people I love and hang out with.
I come from Daddy’s turkey sage dressing and holiday Jell-O salad we call Pink Stuff which I’ve been making long before my children were born and they’re both in their forties. And to be fair, I also come from my mother’s version of seafarer’s stew, which consists of 7 different cans opened, stirred together and heated in a single big pot. (FYI, cream of mushroom, cream of tomato, can of milk, pearl onions, potatoes, salmon and tuna.)
While we might like to think about food as fuel, it's so much more than that. Food is so intrinsic to who we are and what we do and so necessary to our survival — but also part of celebrations — birthdays, anniversaries, promotions and just about anything we share with others, including losses.
So, this Thanksgiving while you're thinking about what to eat — or not eat — think about where you're from and what is essential to celebrating who you are. Become a food anthropologist that tells your story so you'll know more about yourself and your attachment to the foods you eat. Only by knowing where we've been can we support where we're going.
When I was in my early 40's my older brother Bill came to visit me in Austin. We went to lunch with several of my women friends. Somehow over the course of the meal we got to talk about losing your virginity. It was a sweet memory for me, as I recalled a passionate escapade with my high school sweetheart. It was then much to my shock that Bill piped up that in fact he had been my first encounter when we were kids.
My immediate response was that he was full of shit. And then he relayed the story of luring me into a neighbor's shed. A place we were forbidden to go. He went into a full accounting that ended with him throwing me out and slamming the shed door in my face. It was that one small detail about the door that sparked my memory and made me realize that in fact Bill was telling the truth.
You see, I do remember standing in front of that faded red door, feeling feelings I did not recognize. Often, I saw images of that door in my dreams. While I have no memory of what happened inside, I clearly remembered standing in front of that door with its red paint weathered and chipped. The hinges painted over with the same smear of red, rusted metal peeking through. It had happened to me. And since that was the only part I could remember I had to believe his story.
It seems for decades I had buried that part of me — buried that memory. Never told my mother or a teacher or a friend. Never told anyone I became involved with up to that point. I pushed it so deep inside I believed that it never happened. Even as a volunteer at the Austin Rape Crisis Center, I never thought of myself in terms of being a survivor. Yet there was this revelation in the middle of a Chinese restaurant with friends all around me — all of us shocked not only that it had happened, but at the casual, boastful way he told of my being raped.
Memories of events are hard to pin down. People often have different recollections of the same event. That doesn't make one right and the other wrong. It can only be one's own truth. This is why I'm so grateful to women who come forward with their truth, with their memories. I’m so sorry they had to go through these events, but am so grateful that they are able to put it into words and emotions — grateful that they have the courage to give voice to their memories of pain.