When we went out tonight I thought to myself, “What a silly anniversary to keep.” Though that never gets in the way of having an excuse to order stuffed french toast. When taken from The word “tradition” holds a strange connotation for me I guess. Most of our family traditions growing up were for us kids. At least I had always assumed that they were. We celebrated Easter the same way every year, because us kids liked it so we wanted to do it again. We opened presents in the same way every Christmas because kids need some sort of structure to know what to expect in these sort of events. When I grew up I didn’t think I’d worry about keeping any special traditions of my own, though I always heard “you’ll start your own traditions when you have your own family.” I just always assumed that I would set up those traditions for my kids when they come around. Then I had a few sad holidays with no traditional aspects, and they were horrible. For several years I celebrated Christmas out of the country, and nothing about it felt like Christmas. In Brazil I ate tacos, in Peru I watch Titanic on TV then fireworks with my sister-in-law over Skype, and ate lemon pie. None of which says “Christmas” to me.
Today my husband went through something I remember far too well myself. He cooked a few (delicious!) Peruvian dishes since we had a friend coming over for a Road to Morocco movie night. After the careful shopping, chopping and assembling, both the causa and mushroom ceviche were ready. When I arrived home from work I saw nothing but disappointment and frustration on his face. Then he uttered those oh too familiar words, “it just doesn’t taste the same.” He explained that the potato wasn’t good and the avocado was weird. So with a heart full of fear I tasted a small corner of the dish. Delicious. But to someone who grew up tasting what it “should” be like, it was wrong, completely wrong.
I remember many muffins that came out too hard, cookies too grainy, sauces too salty and so much worse because the ingredients acted differently than I expected them to based on my past experience in the US. And choosing substitutes was even more frustrating all together. Did I ever mention the time I broke down crying in the cheese section of the grocery store because I didn’t know which one would taste like back home?
For those expats far from home, cooking can be comforting and infuriating at the same time. It took me days to assemble a semblance of a Thanksgiving meal. But after all those hours of cooking (from scratch) it finally felt familiar. And with just a nibble of a peanut butter blossom I felt like I could sit down for hours chatting with my mother. But if it’s off, and that hope of perfection lingers in only a memory, there is nothing more heartbreaking.
Here at work, our department is full of tea drinkers. It seems as if the pot is always boiling or at very least, always hot. Our “chocolate drawer” is actually filled with tea bags. July and August were perhaps our highest months of tea consumption, despite the heat. Even our office plants drink (cooled down, left over) tea; they grow like weeds now. In short, we are a tea office.
I must say there is something so fabulous about a cup of tea. The hot water melts away stress built up slowly throughout the day. The soft flavor awakens sensitivity to the hints of subtle beauty in the world. The warmth of the cup soaks into your hands reigniting the consciousness of the connection between the mind, heart and body. And a conversation on the other side of a hot cup of tea resinates longer in your ears, reaching further into the depths of your soul. Nothing quite compares to the morning’s first cup of tea.
I once had a grief counselor talk to me about the value of “sitting down to have a cup of tea with your grief.” The basic concept is to become friends with your grief, face it straight on, experience it and understand it instead of avoiding it. Once this daily or weekly meeting is over, stand up and live the rest of your day away from your grief. I can think of no better setting to address such a difficult reality on a regular basis, with a hot cup of tea soothing the one wound which takes the longest to scar.
I am sure you have heard the theory of people being like tea. It is when we are put in hot water (difficult circumstances) that our true flavor (character) can bloom and be fully appreciated. Or maybe that is not a common thought, and I just created a brilliant new metaphor. Someday I will revisit that thought.
Excuse me, I have to get back to work; it’s tea time.
Let me just start out by saying, I know that 5 de mayo is not a huge celebration in Mexico. I realize that for the most part it’s an excuse used by most Americans to eat Mexican food and drink margaritas at discounted rates. I enjoyed it most when living in California, because there were always some of the most enjoyable fairs celebrating hispanic heritage. I have studied enough about El Día de la Batalla de Puebla to fully appreciate the day’s complex history. So no, I don’t think it’s Mexico’s Independence Day.
However, as a “typical American” I do use it as an excuse to celebrate our southern neighbors by indulging in a bit of Mexican food. Last night was no exception. Unfortunately Daniel and I are on both a budget and a healthy eating streak. So my only way around it was to use my acquired skills to produce an edible meal for us at home. This resulted in homemade “refried beans,” salsa (although a bit too spicy) and tortillas. My tortilla press has been sitting unused for too many months, and it was a joy to get it out again. I’ll admit, my homemade tortillas as not as good as the expert’s, but they are passable. So this year the Taipe house celebrated, ate, laughed and appreciated the diversity which our world can bring us. Isn’t it just wonderful creating a family painted with the colorful world around us?