When you eat an arepa like Dona Berta’s arepas, it’s as if you were eating at your grandmother’s. It’s a direct reference to emotion, to nostalgia.
Did I ever tell you about the time a Caribbean fruit smoothie revived my soul?
Ok so I had a nervous breakdown in the late 90s, dropped out of college and came back home a hot mess. My mother took me to Trinidad, her birthplace, for a change of scenery and I was still pretty miserable for most of it but there was something that happened to me there that even in the midst of my fragmented existential inner torment I could not deny. And it stays with me to this day. I can never forget it.
My mom had a friend in Trinidad who made fruit smoothies from the patio of his house, a bright colored wooden house with a yard that brimmed with abundant fruit trees. All of the fruits and ingredients who used were locally sourced from the island. I remember going there with my mom and another friend of hers to get a few tall frosty blended fruit drinks before we got in a car to drive to the beach. Somewhat just as determined to remain as miserable as I actually was, I took the drink in my hand with no sense of gratitude and then I took a sip and my insides were dancing frantically against the will of depression. The taste was so joyful, so pure, innocent, open, unapologetically present and delicious.
These were not just flavors. This was the taste of something connected to spirit, something I would never taste again, something that could not be duplicated, the edibility of hope and life itself. I felt high and yet I was stubborn and inclined to stuff it down because it just didn’t go along with the heaviness that permeated my being at the time. But I felt it like a bolt of lightening and I know that drink made me want to live again. Taste made me want to live again. The seed was planted. Ridiculous? Maybe. But the reasons that truly let us know we’re alive don’t have to make sense to anyone else.