I’ll admit that my level of alcoholic intake does not put me anywhere close to the allotted amount on those health pyramids, but I really try hard to think about what foods I put into my body. Lately, I’ve really been into reading about nutrition, especially relatedto fitness. I’ve also thought of my comfort foods just the same: fried chicken, real chips and salsa. There are a few more. There is nothing like good southern fried chicken and I realize that it’s disgusting, with every lick of my fingers, but I will also note that I probably only have it twice a year. Recently, I read Get Naked by Margarat Floyd and it pretty much rocked my world concerning some of my choices; she does an excellent job at giving you suggestions and tips while also being realistic and practical. Regardless of our nutritional choices and how we choose to live, food brings people together on a common ground that everyone can relate to…it is just that simple. When I was 20, I lived in Greece for a short stint and I ran out of money. I remember that my boyfriend at the time wanted to spend our last 500 drachmas on cigarettes and we got in this huge fight over it because for me, that was my last connection to sustaining my then current reality. It scared me to think that I had to go even a day without being able to obtain what I needed. Of course, I’ve had those days sense then, but my inexperience with going without was a real lesson in what life was about. And I did. I went without. That night, there was this huge celebration with a bunch of Albanians and they cooked this very bland pasta with tomato sauce, but they shared it with everyone; they shared it even though they had nothing. In the midst of being broke, tired, isolated, alone, and hungry, these Albanian men gave everything they had to all of us and we didn’t even ask for it. Some of us didn’t even need it. They did it for the connection and the joy.
Food can make everything ok. When you throw a party, where do people mingle? In the kitchen. People are closer when food is involved. Communication lines seem to ramp up. Smiles increase. Understanding becomes a norm. Sometimes when you feel desperately separated from someone sitting directly across from you, food is the magic solution. It is also multi-cultural, sensual, dynamic, sexual, and the list goes on. Food can be the best healer of any brutal day we’ve had if we let it.
And this is why I actually ended up loving Lima. You see, being from a once small southern town, I’m not really into being in big cities. Granted, I like to visit them on occasion, but typically on trips, I don’t use up days in the large cities because they are all turning into the same thing: materialistic gigantics. If you take a city such as Barcelona, I’m in because I know that there is a unique aspect there that I won’t find elsewhere, but normally, I choose to explore the other aspects of a country. The only reason my sister and I decided to go to Lima in the first place was because I had researched about how amazing their independence celebration was suppose to be. We decided we should be in a big city for a big celebration; all over, it was stated that it was one of the best on the planet.
That turned out to be a let down; however, Lima had other things to draw me in. Yes, we went to the ruins and to some of the other attractions and they were awesome-I even got to go into some very old catacombs, but nothing can really replace my food experience. And that is huge for me to say because up until this trip to Lima, I was a loyal Mediterranean girl; I have always expressed that Greece, hands down, is the place to go for grubbin grub where you can’t go wrong. Lima changed that. It didn’t matter where we ate, who recommended it, what the book said, whether it was in a market or not, or if it was just a stumbleupon decision: the food was always good. And I tried it all: alpaca, spicy sandwiches, cuy, chicherones, chicken their way, tacu tacu, ceviche, tamales….best of all, I always got to eat these experiments with my sister!
My sister and I are 10 years apart, part of the reason for this trip together. We both entered new decades this past year and we wanted to celebrate that together. But, when we were young, my sister was somewhat of a thorn in my side and it wasn’t because of who she was-it was because I was a spoiled baby, turned middle child at age 10. I had to take care of her a lot by myself too, which didn’t help her chances of being overly liked. To her, I always demonstrated love (there were a few squabbles) and I never ignored her, but for the first few years of her life, inside, I was pretty torn up about it. In my eyes, she had stolen my spot and I didn’t really know how to handle the attention she was getting with the attention my brother always got. Don’t get me wrong, I had involved parents, but being the middle child just isn’t easy. Obviously, it all turned out better for me in the end because I figured out that having a sister, regardless of when, was way more important than being the baby. She also brought, to our pretty energetic family, a sense of calmness that continues to this day. Sarah is just one of those people that everyone loves being around.
So sitting there with her, wherever we were eating, in Lima, reminded me of how important sharing food with my family really is to me; we joked about how proud our dad would have been of us for some of our selections, and for me, this funneled a series of memories through my mind because both our dad and mom always instilled dinnertime with the family. They didn’t require that you be at the table, but if you weren’t, that was pretty strange. Regardless of the craziness of life, whoever was present, whether dad was on a flight trip or brother had some game, we had dinner together. Even after the divorce, this continued in separate houses. The art of cuisine has always been celebrated in my family and being in Lima with Sarah to celebrate their independence ended up being a celebration of our family and its total love affair with food, wine, spirits, and just getting down on the tastes that this planet has to offer. My taste buds are still gleaming from the workout and I can’t wait for the next meal I get to have with my family.