food

Food Politics: What you eat is how you are

Everything this girl who can eat wants in a breakfast-including pulled pork omelet

Thought I saw a double-headed dog and had to blink twice. Was I hallucinating? Was their weirdness afoot? I looked around. Fortunately, I saw a sign posted outside a Hispanic eatery that said “todays special rice with chicken”. Ok. All was right with the universe. The daily special is always rice and chicken (or pollo guisado or ropa vieja) at the local Hispanic eatery and at the local community based organization.

According to personality psychology (by the way, a dying field ) in a comprehensive, empirical, data-driven research finding (lol) there are five BIG personality traits: extraversion; neuroticism; conscientiousness; agreeableness and openness. That last one is actually closely tied with food choices and with the world of the community based organization. Yes, conscientiousness, the activists will have you know, is their driving force (but it’s amazing how at times the most unethical things happen- that’s another blog entry down the road once we know each other a little better. I don’t take ethics on the first date). Openness is a general appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity and variety of experiences. You would think openness to experience would be a prerequisite to working in a CBO. Alas, this is the exception rather than the rule.

I have attended trainings where people suggested that for Latinos/Hispanics you should consider running an intervention in a kitchen because Latinos like to eat. Besides being slightly offensive, it is just not an accurate observation. We were once almost run out of a training session because we served sandwiches for lunch instead of a carb-heavy; sleep inducing rice and beans meal. We once put on an event of close to 200 hundred people with 20 different sessions and the main feedback was that the food was a little salty.

Basically what you have in the CBO world is food politics. While for some, food choices may signal openness, in the CBO world it signals which culture is being put front and center. As a colleague of mine has stated—how you eat your beans is a sign of your cultural orientation. Do you eat frijoles or habichuelas? Is it black eyed peas or gandules? Pork is just as important. Do you eat pulled pork or pernil? Cultural sensitivity in part at the CBO world entails making sure you serve the beans and legumes correctly.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t like any type of beans but I do like the “caldo”-which is the sauce that allows me to try to pass. I am Latina, but it’s not my sole and definitely not always my first descriptor. I am a complete aberration. I eat curry, Ethiopian food, and I’ll try most any ethnic food–the spicier the better. I even have it for breakfast.

I understand that there is something comforting about the familiar. That is after all why they call it comfort food. For me that just entails a plate of mac/cheese with gouda, bacon, pulled pork , some curry and yellow rice followed by a basil lime daiquiri (Rum, now there I am Puerto Rican). I often use willingness to try new foods as a way in which I measure people. Those who are closed off to new experiences, be they travel, music, or food, I find are closed off in a number of other ways. Lets have some injera and hang together.

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