by Monica Diaz
In Hispanic culture, food is extremely important. Contrary to popular belief, food cannot only be used to make ourselves better; I have learned that, when it comes to Hispanic women, food brings the most comfort when it is used to feed others. From cooking tortillas for the men to eat when they come home, to making sure all visits are entertained with coffee, coke, sweet bread, etc., Hispanic women find comfort in feeding those around them. However, unlike other cultures we have no specifics when it comes to “comfort food”; for Hispanics all food can and will, in time of need, be comfort food.
As women in the Hispanic community, we tend to be nurturing and seek to comfort those around us, trying to make the best of every situation. I have found that many times stressful situations, such as fights, disease, or death usually end up with the women in the kitchen fixing something to eat to offer solace for the mourners or visitors. Recently, I have caught myself falling into such customs and have addressed this issue many times to the members of my family. I believe this tradition of feeding others to make ourselves feel better stems from the need to be in control of at least a small part of the situation. As in the case of deaths, people tend to feel out of control, and as humans, we try to regain some of it through food and cooking. Since we cannot control disease, accidents, or lives, we resort to the only thing we can control: we can make sure at least no one is hungry.
On the other hand, as my grandmother used to say “you can conquer all men through their stomach”. Men, unconsciously or consciously, tend to look for women to marry who can cook. They blame feminism for those women who prefer not to cook or find no fun in the activity. Furthermore, food and cooking become the main ingredients in most fights during marriage. A very dear friend of mine confessed that the one who cooks in her household is her husband. Although I did find this peculiar I did not think much of it; however, when she made the same confession to her mother and mother-in-law during an after-dinner discussion about the tastiness of the macaroni and cheese my friend’s son was eating, they were shocked. Apparently a woman who cannot or will not cook for her husband is an abomination in the eyes of the Hispanic community.
I know what some are thinking: it’s just food, why talk on and on about it—it’s not that important! But the point I am trying to get across is that food is extremely important, especially in the Hispanic community! Not only because we must eat it to survive, but because it is so controversial. Food can cause families to come together or it can even draw them apart if not used properly. Therefore, before rolling our eyes at the thought of yet another boring sermon about food, it is crucial to remember that there is more than meets the eye when talking about it. If you dig deep enough in these “trivial” moments—like this macaroni and cheese—you might find interesting and meaningful stories which say a lot about our particular cultures.
Monica is a senior at Sul Ross State University, majoring in English.