Published: August 31, 2020
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By: Ein Garcia, Cal Poly Pomona
Food and I don’t have the best relationship. Where to begin. For lack of better words, I have a bit of trauma with food. Food is something that I have to acknowledge I need, but don’t enjoy. I never really eat something because I like it, so much as I know I need to. My mother is full blood Puerto Rican and my father is Mexican. Growing up we would mostly eat heavier Mexican foods because that’s what my father and older brother liked. I had thought it was normal for everyone to pile their food like a mountain and finish it within 10-15 minutes. That’s just something I could not do; my system just could not process it as well as they did. I would often find myself left alone at the table with only a quarter of my plate finished trying to force myself to finish it to rejoin the others, or mocked for not eating fast enough or eating as much as they did.
Food was and still is, used as a weapon by my grandmother whether or not she knows it. I find it hard to explain but I will try. My grandmother will use food to control you and strip you of your freedom and independence. For her “food is love” but for me it is oppressive. I remember a moment when I was ten years old where she was trying to feed me and my brother some cookies; we refused, and she proceeded to say that if we don’t eat that our brains would die. Back when she was able to speak, she always said I was too skinny and needed to eat more. That why couldn’t I be more like my brother and eat as he did? Every moment I tried to make my own food she would know and immediately try to kick me out of the kitchen to make me what she wanted to. I would often feel invalidated and treated like I was incompetent. I often find myself realizing that I have not fed myself in months, not because I did not want to, it was because I could not. This continues to this day. I do not mean to be ungrateful, and I know some will say that why don’t you just appreciate what she does. To that I say, I do. I understand it is done out of love. However, when you refuse her, for any reason even the most sound, she can throw a fit, guilt you into eating the food by questioning your love for her, or just force it on you anyway.
This had led me to have anxiety, high blood pressure, and depression whenever I eat. I have anxiety even writing about this now. I also find my stomach clenching or “closing up” when I try to eat, getting nauseous, and sometimes developing headaches. Just in that past three months I have most likely fed myself only 10-15 times, which is not an understatement. This all leads me to a food that does not have that effect. Sushi was a much lighter food that I enjoyed eating. During a difficult time in my family, my mother would often get sushi after work to unwind. One day I asked if I could try it, which then sparked a tradition of sorts. Any time either of us would be stressed or would otherwise like to relax, we would get sushi and talk. Which I am happy to say still continues.