When my best friend in high school was deciding whether she’d leave California and go East for college, her mother walked into her room one night and, apropos of nothing asked, “pero ¿quién alimentará tú?”
Maybe “but who will feed you?” isn’t quite the universal caring-mom question, especially not to an independent, strong-willed 17 year old, but it was what her mother had at hand in the moment. “S.” sort of scoffed at her then, and assured her mother she could feed herself, but the tender concern with which her mom asked still resonates in my head today. Her mother was constantly feeding us, or trying to. More than once I was admonished that “cereal is not breakfast” and through my protestations (and reassurance that I would make something more substantial), she would make me a sandwich or chilaquiles, instead.
Her mother loved us through feeding us. Her mother, an immigrant, often worried over me more than my own did. She fed me, sheltered me, and she and her husband occasionally offered me pocket money, well aware that there was no such thing coming from my own house.
Her parents are not Muslim, they’re Catholic. And Mexican. I can loudly denounce the new administration’s bans on Muslim refugees, his idiotic plans to build a wall along the Mexican border, but aside from calling my Congresspeople and protesting, I’m at a loss as to what else I can do. I feel helpless. There are 16 fairly pressing things on my to-do list, and the only thing I can bring myself to do is make food: Miso chicken and gravy. Whole orange cake. Rhubarb hand pies. Chicken dip with dill. Lemon ricotta pancakes with sautéed apples.
S.’s mom loved us and worried over us by making food and haranguing us into eating, and it seems she passed that tradition down. That food isn’t all for me; I plan to bring it to work over the course of the week in an attempt to boost flagging morale among those of us driven to rage and low-level hysteria by every bit of terrible news released throughout the day. It’s the best I can do to keep our strength up, to keep moving, keep fighting.