It’s hard to know who you are when all of your references have disappeared – your family, your job, your roles. It’s hard for me to know who I am. And yet, I must be someone because I’m still here, right?
I am a meal composed of many recipes and even more ingredients. I am a multi-layered thing, constructed of texture and flavor, hot and cold, sweet and savory. Hours of preparation and years of experience, with a little sprinkles of accidental creativity, are part of my makeup. I am the meal because I am complex, filled with contrast, and so necessary for survival. I am more than a single dish because I am filled with such variety. But it is the spices that make me fabulous. My spices are bitter, sharp, tart, sweet, and salty. They are the result of having been torn apart and put back together again. They are the smoky residue of the nearly burned bits which, when skillfully handled, add depth. I am beaten, bruised, battered and seared. Kahlil Gibran has eaten meals like me: “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
The recipes used in my meal aren’t particularly original. Whose life is constituted of unique experiences? But the meal, a composition of many influences and experiences, is totally unique. The individual dishes, while sometimes extraordinary, are less so. A meal can be a work of art or a thrown together mess of easily accessible items, pulled from closets and cupboards. I have been carefully constructed if only by a divine hand that I cannot see or feel. I am a rich and satisfying meal fit for queens, kings and gastronomes. Those with simple tastes are not likely to appreciate me. In true nomad fashion, I have gained something from everywhere I’ve been and left behind a part of myself.
I am the mother who no longer has a son. I am the CEO who no longer has a company. I am the friend who no longer has a community. But in my aching emptiness, I am full of flavor, worthy of being devoured, appreciated, savored, applauded, cherished, delighted in, gulped and even guzzled. I am still here with all of the artifacts of my identity.