This video nails so much of what The Foodways Project is about.
I know Buzzfeed has some hit or miss material in terms of totally useless or counterproductive click bait, but I’m generally pretty happy with any of their videos about food. And this one definitely gives me the warm fuzzies.
First and foremost – the stories, oh the stories! In describing their dish, each person told a story of their family, their mother country, or an emotion or memory evoked by their dessert. That a plate of flan or slice of black cake could conjure up such rich connections to all parts of our identity is pretty friggin’ powerful.
And then there’s the emotions shared between each pair as they swap desserts. Pride for one’s own dish, gratitude for the other’s, joy, happiness, and lightheartedness. These people look like their having a good time – which is expected when you’re invited to celebrate your identity.
“I feel like, at home…having you eat that tembleque. Like, my heart is happy.”
I don’t mean to get sappy, but isn’t it super neat how deeply intimate and meaningful sharing food with another person can be? For many of our communities, food is a love language, a way to open up and get cozy. Swoon. Food.
I’m also really glad mainstream media platforms like Buzzfeed publish these kind of stories because they make a political statement – whether we realize it or not – that can reach a wide audience. The political history of the Caribbean is one of slavery, indigenous genocide, and white colonization (not unlike our own history), which has inevitably shaped the demographics and food ways of each unique region. As a politicized thinker, I was fascinated by each distinct dessert, their ingredients, and how a history of oppression has shaped their foodways, but can now serve as a tool for empowerment and celebration.
On a more face-value level, it’s rad to have a video that illustrates the variation in skin tone, identities, and food cultures of the Caribbean – a region that includes over 700 islands and 30 territories (aside: does anyone else feel super icky using the word ‘territories’?). As with literally every other part of the world, the Caribbean cannot be represented by one skin color, one mainstream identity, or even one food culture. These folks are a beautiful example of a small (and important) part of Caribbean/Caribbean American identity…and there’s so much more that’s not represented. But seeing racial representation in this video reminds me of the importance to make space to honor the complexities of each person’s identity – to check my biases and prejudice – and give people the grace to share what identities are most important to them, rather than imposing identities onto others.
Bravo, Buzzfeed. Now who knows where I can get a bowl of habichuelas con dulce in Seattle???