When you feel safe, the world feels less crazy. Comfort is relief, knowing that familiarity is there to soothe you. Whether you hold on to a teddy bear, a person, a place, a ritual, or an addiction…you hold on. Because we all need something to hold on to when we need a little reassurance.
Settling for Comfort
“I’ve been in this country since 1968. Long time now.” The woman had been speaking in Mandarin to another elderly woman across the table, but turned to me and spoke in English. She reminds me of a little marble, all wrapped up in quilted purple.
Continuing her story, she tells me she has lived all over the USA, including Michigan, Louisiana, and Virginia. When I ask what area she preferred the most, she chooses Virginia because, “It’s an important part of US history and close to DC.” After a slight pause she adds, “And there is enough diversity there. I only felt uncomfortable in the Deep South. Here in the city, it is too crowded and noisy.”
Usually, at these community senior events, people don’t talk much. Put on by the community to encourage socializing, they come for the entertainment and free food, less so for the mingling. When I ask about their immigration stories, they usually wave it off saying, This relative came, so I came, and that is that. I am here now.
Most of them ended up working in restaurants or construction, staying in their small communities and never attempting to speak English or explore further. It’s as if the trip across the ocean had exhausted all their travel and curiosity credits, like one clean chop from the kitchen cleaver. No going back, and seemingly no going forward. But why go forward when you already have everything you need?
One man had landed in Chinatown and for the past 26 years hadn’t ventured past its boundaries. How amazing to leave a huge country and then park yourself on an island called, Manhattan, never to leave a few square blocks of land, ever again. He had never seen Times Square, or the Statue of Liberty. Little Italy is just a few blocks over, but for him it is as far as a trip back to China. A few blocks more and there is Wall Street where fortunes were made and lost daily. He doesn’t care. What he cares about is that he can walk two doors down to get a hot bowl of congee for breakfast, and then walk one block south to sit in the park and practice Tai Chi with his friends. Life is simple for him and what he likes best about being in the USA is that “It is comfortable.”
The quilted purple woman has a lot to say about food. How Americans don’t clean shrimp properly. How all the desserts are too sweet. How everything is so greasy. No matter how much time passes, when you are from another place, your daily life will always be full of comparisons to your past life.
“I have many American friends!” she happily declares. “I feel very American. I did not vote for Trump! But I know I am Chinese. I like Chinese opera. I like Chinese food. It’s too bad my daughters will never like these things as much as me. They will never understand the beauty in Chinese poetry.”
A young family arrives to meet their grandpa. His daughter looks like a successful New York career woman, married to a handsome banker-type man. Their son is an adorable bouncy ball of energy, climbing all over grandpa’s legs. He has his dad’s fair hair, and his mom’s almond eyes. The grandpa perks up and it’s obvious he loves his grandson, but he says in Mandarin to his daughter, “This baby is so white. How can he be my grandson? He doesn’t understand me. You need to teach him better.” She stands awkwardly by her dad, letting out an annoyed Baaaaa (Daaaaaaad!) Her husband and son don’t get the memo. They just smile, satisfied with this most important form of communication.
We watch them for a moment and the woman turns to me and says, “My children never learned Chinese either. But that is ok. I had lots of friends who refused to allow their daughters to marry non-Chinese. It caused a lot of pain. Some of the daughters never came back. They ran off with their boyfriends, and my friends are so stubborn they don’t even want to see their grandchildren.”
I ask her why she stays in the USA. Now that her kids are grown and she is retired. She could live anywhere and do anything. Get away from the noisy city. Live in a leafy suburb outside of DC. Or live in a place with clean shrimp and endless Chinese opera.
“Because my daughters are married,” she says. “Just in case it doesn’t work out, I want them to know that they can always come back to the comfort of home. I stay for them.”
Eat Your Emotions: Comfort - Matcha GranolaPrint This
- 240g (1.5 cups )rolled oat
- 25g (1/4 cup) toasted wheat germ
- 50g (1 cup) shaved coconut chips
- 65g (1/4 cup ) matcha powder
- 100g (1/2 cup )chopped walnuts
- 50g (1/4 cup ) slivered almonds
- 100g (4 Tbsp) coconut oil
- 4g (1/2 tsp) salt
- 200g (3/4 cup) maple syrup
- Extra matcha powder to sprinkle on after.
- Chia seeds and dried fruit, such as raisins and chopped dried dates to add after.
- Preheat oven to 275 F
- Prepare a sheet pan and line it with parchment paper.
- Melt the coconut oil.
- Mix together all the ingredients, sans dried fruit.
- Taste to see if you like the sweetness level. You can add more now if you like it sweeter.
- Spread evenly over prepared sheet pan.
- Bake for 1 hour. Mix the granola and bake again for a few more minutes. It should be done with evenly browned.
- Cool. Toss in any dried fruit or chia seeds. Dust again with Matcha powder if desired.