Food Memories Part II.
My grandfather had a larger than life personality. He was tall, intimidating, and boisterous. The implanted emerald jewel on his tooth matched his deep round green eyes. I never recall calling my grandfather “Abuelo”. We all called him “Papi” and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Growing up Papi was always in the kitchen. He was either fixing a remedio casero or cooking something delicious that he shouldn’t be eating (Papi suffered from heart problems and diabetes due to a lifetime of chain-smoking + alcohol). His favorite thing was to indulge everyone in his famous pancakes. These pancakes weren’t your typical pancakes. Each pancake was an inch thick and filled a 12-inch skillet. He used about 2 boxes of Aunt Jemima mix just to make them. I don’t remember ever finishing a pancake. One was certainly enough for 3 kids to share.
My fondest memories of Papi were in the Dominican Republic at his oceanfront home. He had several tall coconut trees and would have young men climb the trees to get us the delicious fruit. We’d drink the water right out of the coconuts then eat the white pulp that we ripped out with our bare hands. It was messy + so gratifying!
Papi loved dramatics and flair when it came to cooking. I think that’s where my mother got it from. Living in front of the ocean meant he had an abundance of fresh fish for the taking. I remember Papi coming home with a huge live octopus once. He went to his backyard which was fitted with an outdoor fisherman’s sink and was going to kill the octopus with a machete. As a kid, I was fascinated to see Papi work with so much vigor to wrestle the sea creature.
Its tentacles suctioned to his forearm tightly like a vice grip. The octopus was not going to give up easily, but neither was Papi. The more he wrangled with it the tighter the octopus curled. I remember thinking the octopus was going to suck the blood out of his body with its suction cups. I didn’t want to see the aftermath so I ran back inside the house to safety.
The next day I was treated to a refreshing cold octopus salad. It was meaty + tender and like nothing, I had before (then again I was only about 8 years old + didn’t quite have an open palate yet so I had nothing to compare it to). All the other children were grossed out by the thought of eating octopus while I was the bravest one ready to eat more of Papi’s wrangling adventures. Being the quiet middle child that was often overlooked I felt like it was a way to bond with him and make him proud that I wasn’t scared to try something new. It was my way of being seen.
Being seen for who I am, has always been a struggle for me. I barely boast or tell anyone about what I’ve accomplished. In business, I often struggle with selling myself, while still feeling authentic. Even with writing Food For Thought. I find myself gasping for air in a cloud of self-doubt. As I sit + watch through the screen at social media accounts of folks in the same field as me gain thousands of followers for their content while my needle of followers hasn’t even hit the threshold of 1K yet, I silently judge myself.
Am I good enough? Am I doing enough? Will a publisher take a chance on me even though I’ve had so many years of skin in the game, but my social profiles say otherwise? Who will even want to buy my book? As these questions fill my head as I rise in the morning + slowly quiet down as I drift to sleep I have to remind myself to try and take a page from Papi’s book.
Papi rarely took no for an answer and always showed up as his authentically flawed self. Papi’s tenacity was unparalleled. It made a lot of people fear him, but it also was one of his more endearing qualities. He lived life on his own terms with or without the approval of others.
Next time I feel the pressure of “performing” or of self-doubt I will remember how Papi fought with the octopus + won. I’ll keep fighting to get my work noticed on my own terms + will value myself even when I lack confidence. I’ll show up flawed, real, + raw without the grace of a filter. I really think Papi wouldn’t want me to do it any other way.