This is Beatrice:
I originally met Beatrice through another friend who also lived in the city. The two were roommates while they did a volunteer program last year called, Jesuit Volunteer Corps. They were living in Harlem. Since then, my friend moved away but I still remained connected to Beatrice. We don’t see each other too often, but do make the effort to get together or at least chat here and there. Beatrice now lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn so to get to her house, I went on the R train and tranferred to the N Train. Luckily it was just across the platform. One dish Beatrice mentioned was slumgullion, a German pasta dish made with hamburger meet, onions, and elbow pasta. I found a recipe online and made this for our meal together. According to Beatrice, it tasted very similar to what she remembered! Phew.
Other foods we shared were some things she mentioned in her responses to foods she remembers eating like salad, mashed potatoes, but we also had a few things we have shared together like Indian and chocolate chip cookies for dessert! I explained to Beatrice my thesis and the process I went through in making everything we used. I realized that I shared a lot about myself with Beatrice that I never did before. She learned about my family, as I learned about hers and slowly our conversation was a back and forth between what she remembered doing in comparison to what I remember from my childhood. We both agreed that now that we are living away from our family, things have changed. Beatrice told me she never thought about family dinner as a ritual and how throughout her life, and her own family changes, they also changed their habits. Beatrice was also the first person who told me they frequently watched TV and did not necessarily eat at a table. Although as she got older, they did do that more. I think this process of sharing myself with others has really allowed and open communication between both sides. The intimacy and comfort of the food and the atmosphere play into what we talk about and how the conversation progresses.
The other dinner was with my friend Carisa. Carisa is actually from Oahu and we accidentally met one day last spring while she was coming in for a class as I was leaving. She saw my “Aloha” sticker on my computer and asked if I was from Hawaii. Instantly, we connected on many different levels. Aside from being the same age, Carisa also had a sister who lived and went to the same college as I did. Carisa and I also lived in the New School housing downtown in apartments that were only 1 floor away from each other. We lived so close, but never crossed paths. We exchanged numbers and kept in touch. We did not meet up too often, but through events like Hurricane Sandy, Carisa checked on me. Carisa is in the Architecture program so we are both busy, but we have set aside time to hang out this semester. I wanted to have dinner with her because she is what I closely associate to home, because we share the same home. We are both far away from our family and friends, going through the same “island girl problems” dealing with the weather and the school work.
For this dinner, I prepared food from Hawaii. I made SPAM musubi and Teriyaki meat. I also bought some chicken katsu (breaded chicken filets), potato salad, and Hawaiian Sun juice! Since Carisa is also very busy prepping for finals, we had our meal in her architecture studio space. We just made a little home on the floor with my table.
Although Carisa and I only met briefly and then hung out a few times after, we really get a long well. I think a lot of this comes because we were raised in the same place–Hawaii. Carisa is from Oahu, but still grew up in that same culture and community that I had growing up. We relate in many ways because of this. During dinner we talked about how SPAM musubi reminds her of soccer events and reminds me of the beach. Basically, having quick lunches on the go. She said that having the meal really made her happy and that in turn, made me feel happy. I was able to bring a small piece of home to her in the midst of stressful deadlines, in New York City, where we are a while continent and half an ocean away. I was also able to share with Carisa my personal story about growing up and how dinner rituals and my family was important as I grew up. She said that she was also not allowed to watch TV during dinner and her family sat together at a table nightly. We also both agreed that now that we are away, we find ourselves eating and watching things on our computers just because there is no one else to share a meal with. This also made me think of how many more people there are doing the same thing, eating alone, and having meals independently. It also made me think that sometimes, you think you’re the only person going through a certain situation when really, you’re not. Sharing this meal and time with Carisa was very relaxing for me. Somehow, I always feel at ease when we hang out, considering we don’t even do it that often. There is something about sharing the same home with someone, that allows a person to find a bond. I remember this happening a lot when I moved away from college. We somehow share the same values and ideas on certain things allowing us to get along well.
Here’s a picture of my box in the middle of the lobby at Parsons. It looks lonely, but is also able to bring together people and create community.