1. 1. There is the desert and food stand and the expansive blue sky like a bonnet holding it all in. We are in Mexico. It is probably 1990, one can just walk straight across the border, no passport or fuss, just “American” to get back in, the password into the party. We are visiting my Nana Nati—short for Natividad—and we are at a food stand in the market. We have a lunch of pita pocket filled with ground meat and sauce (a gordita) and green glass bottles of orange soda, there are vats of horchata (milky coconut, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberry) and the smoky aroma of grilled corn is a fine mist. The cool of the glass bottles and plastic cups and the wrinkle of foil are tastes my hands still reach for.
t 2.The dead of summer 1999. I am cupped by my Nana Nati’s death (We go back to Mexico for the funeral. In the market I feel like an observer this time around instead of obliviously in the thick of it) and my freshman year of high school. I spend the summer mostly by myself and reading. I read Francesca Lia Block, Shakespeare and mythology books over and over. I have a summer job at a daycare in a women’s shelter. I only eat in the afternoons. I drink coffee and fix myself peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I order fruit and salads at restaurants. I read cookbooks and make muffins and kolacky and take them to my room and read some more.
2. 3.. 1989. My abuelo’s funeral. Us kids have to stay with my Madrina. I am small and the grown-ups are so big and I don’t understand death. There are hotdogs. Buns and ketchup and paper plates. I don’t understand why no one feels like cooking.
3. 4.. 2011. J.’s funeral. There is a brunch of fried chicken and sweet things and bread and eggs and bacon. I eat none of it. I want to stuff my face but the thought of it makes me sick. We go home and make tamales and red rice and pintos and eat that instead. I finally understand the true and absolute essence of comfort food: the child I once was still nestled in my stomach and screaming for something ancient and familiar.
4. 5. I am 16, it is 2001 and I live in an apartment with my friends. We are 16 and 17 year-old cast-outs and runaways and we have schemed our way into a $275/month 2-story apartment. There are no parents to tell us what to eat! I cook us Ramen with broccoli and some kind of dollar seasoning. We fill plastic goblets with ketchup and potato tots. There is cheap beer and cheap vodka. We are the kings of our castle.
5. 6. Sunday. 2014. I visit my mom on Sundays. We have split-pea soup, and spinach lasagna, and oranges. The times have changed. There is a brightness like a bonnet holding it all in.