November 21, 2020
Overwhelmingly, I am exceedingly grateful that I live in a country and time where food is abundantly available and safe to consume. I know that there are plenty of people on this planet who do not have the same conveniences or resources available to them as we do in this country. I am also painfully aware that even in this country, we face a feeding crisis.
Those are posts for another day. There are two foods that I am most grateful for: congee & popcorn, and both for different reasons with a connected cause.
If you’re not familiar, congee is a porridge made of rice. And it is often considered medicinal in Chinese therapies. About seven years ago, I had a stomach removal surgery that went awry. After months in the post-operative stage, and still unable to eat even minimal amounts of solid food, I was literally dehydrating and starving. In the wealthiest country in the world….
One fateful day, one of my coworkers, a Chinese-American immigrant & one of the best chefs I have ever had the pleasure of working with, forced me to try congee. I was “faking it till I made it” at work and the mental and physical exhaustion of trying to hide my condition from my team was winning.
I could barely lift the utensil to my mouth.
One sip from the spoon, and the warmth from the liquid seemed to soak into my parched lips and mouth like water to a barren field. On the second sip, I could feel the heated congee pour down my throat. The bottoming out as it hit my stomach was practically audible. The third sip filled my torso with warmth that transformed my soul.
From that day forward, I had congee every day for six months. I slowly regained my health. Then my mind. And finally, my wit and humor. I still have food issues but I firmly believe the congee was the medicine my body desperately needed at that time. It allowed the healing to finally begin.
As for the popcorn, that’s much more simple.
It’s a mental connection.
When I was little, one of the shared rituals I had with both my mom and my aunt – though never together – was to watch a movie and eat popcorn. After I lost my stomach, I was told that I never again could eat foods like that. They call them slider foods: popcorn, pretzels, crackers, chocolate, etc.
Ok, you’re not supposed to eat them. Most people in my situation don’t eat them because either they follow the rules, or they are physically uncomfortable doing so.
For me, I couldn’t eat popcorn for a very long time after my surgery. I couldn’t eat much of anything for the first two years. Eventually, I was able to stomach a little bit of it. And while I now realize it’s a bad habit, at the time it was a much longed for comfort of times when life was simpler and safer