Wednesday, January 30, 2013

You Don't Have To Live Like a Refugee

Sometimes being a Mexican-American from the Midwest is confusing. I know there are thousands of us out here but now being in New York, I feel like more of an alien than ever before. There is such a huge Latin community all of which have such strong roots here. But Latins from Puerto Rico, the Dominican, Cuba, Spain. And then there are all the actual Mexicans from Oaxaca and Puebla. Plenty of them. Then, way over here in the uber-hip young affluent African American community of Fort Greene, there is me, some nasal toned hick sounding, not even tanned, old bird from Indiana. And people that say, 'oh you're just white' because they also are Irish or German or Italian second generation. Well to them I say, no see that's where it also feels different. Growing up as a hispanic in the Midwest I was NEVER able to feel 'just white', never to forget that we were not the same. And just naturally being a little kid, I felt very different. My parents spoke a different language sometimes as did most of my relatives. We ate different food. We celebrated different holidays. We had a restaurant that served odd foods that the locals at the time had a hard time pronouncing. Some kids were prejudiced against me. Not because I was just like them but because there was some big so called difference. Just as an African American could never be white after being here for generations I suppose. And beyond that I can't even explain it too much. It is just what it is. I certainly didn't make that rule. Maybe if you have a different color of skin, that's when you can never totally cross-over? I don't even want to be anything other than what I am but I'm just saying that sometimes I feel odd, or like some freaky rare bird out here. Not a beautiful exotic one like a parrot but more like one you see and say 'oh that's a shame'. I know I wouldn't feel like this in the West. There are plenty of people all over there, even in office that are 2nd and 3rd generation. Even in Chicago I wouldn't be an oddity. I've talked about not eating all the regular foods at home during my childhood like meatloaf, fried chicken, casseroles but also not feeling cheated out of anything either. Most of the food I had at home was amazing, peasant type Mexican food, made simply and healthy. A real special part of my memories that I hold dear. And the nuns at my Catholic school made enough home-made dishes that I never felt deprived. The chicken soup I remember, my grandmother made with big chunks of cabbage and a crystal clear broth. A squirt of vinegar. Maybe you'd get a 1/4 piece of potato in your bowl along with big chicken chunks. Other than that, the only other soup I remember was Menudo and that was a more serious spicy soup eaten during special occasions or after a family night out that involved lots of drinking. But soups in general have always been a little foreign to me until recent years. Now I've made so many. Split pea, potato and leak, vegetable, beef with barley, bean soups, chicken and rice, and more. So my soup fear has left me now and I'm even able to do 'on the fly' type soups like this semi-pantry quick soup made with Turkey Sausage, potatoes, white beans, mustard greens, carrots and celery. The creaminess came from just smashing and blending up a 1/2 cup of the beans then adding that to the beef broth. Instead of cooking the vegetables first, I just add everything to the pot and let it come to a boil, then simmer about 1/2 an hour. Seems to make a difference and I like to think the veggies keep more of their vitamins this way. Lots of fresh cracked black pepper boosts all the flavors of this soup. I hope I don't sound like I'm complaining about feeling offbeat. In many ways it's been like having the swimming pool all to yourself. But I do feel a bit lonely sometimes, wishing I had a few more members, especially at times when I feel I could use some back up.

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