Something seems to bond us all here in Tucson. And even though recently our group has spent limited time together because of home stays and site placements, the one thing that bonds us all together still is food. Let’s be real, I’m always down for Mexican food. I’m always down for pizza (preferably with mean, but I can work with the vegetarians too). But these last few weeks demonstrated that food means more than something that I enjoy but something that drives almost all of my interactions.
First of all my home stay these past three weeks has reminded me of Grandma’s house, both Wells and Vega. Food is always at the center of any party or any kind of interaction. My Nana (Wells) and my Grandma (Vega) have always pushed food on their guests because it is the most tangible form of love they can give. And this notion is beautiful. This is also true of my homestay family. The Carrillo family was also shoving all of the food in front of me. From the second I got home from work to when they went to bed they were always asking me if I was hungry because there was always enough food for me to eat more. I would often turn them down because I always feel full after chugging gallons of water during work, but this did not go unappreciated. In my opinion, this generosity of food stems from an innate curiosity to learn about one another.
I find that food has connotations of openness because it provides an opportunity to be invested in someone without the pressures of being in formal setting. Who wants to be serious when you’re chowing down on some tacos like these?
The way in which people bond over food is unique because there is a shared experience, which usually evokes nostalgia and hopefully a willingness to be yourself and provide others a glimpse of yourself in a short time span.
Here in Tucson it seems super relevant because we are constantly around food and what it means to be culturally open to all of the different things that we are trying on the daily. For instance, gluten free cookies, soy chorizo, or a lot of flax. It may seem simplistic but I think this is how we must approach DukeEngage. Often we don’t have to eat the things that make us uncomfortable or kind of queasy, but what is the harm in trying something new? Sometimes you do not feel inclined to eat Nopales for breakfast, but often we must push ourselves to reach a potential we were not even aware. More often than not, I do not really want to be interacting with some of the homeless that Southside Presbyterian Church feeds on Mondays and Fridays, but I try to remind myself of the simple things that bring us together. In these instances, it isn’t language and it isn’t similar backgrounds but it’s the smallest act of humanity that reminds us of the things that bond us together. Some of these can be a smile, a handshake, or just some nice eye contact. But in this, I still think that the easiest way to truly get to know someone is over a meal, because you are sharing a tangible form of love.