I will never forget the time I was working at a local high school as a school social worker. Sometimes the students would come up to my office and chill during lunch time. I’d usually take a break and eat with them. I don’t even recall what I was eating this particular day, but there was a lot of greens/veggies-no rice or French fries in this particular lunch meal. One of my students took it upon herself to ask “Ms., why you keep eating white people food?” My brain stalled on that one and years later I’m not even quite sure what to say to the countless curious Black folks who ask the very same question in different ways when they see me eating kale, quinoa, bulgur wheat, chicken that isn’t fried or whatever they just can’t readily identify on my plate.
This whole notion that eating healthy is a white people thing or a “bourghie behavior” actually leaves some people *insert health conscious Black folks* feeling some type of way. That if salmon trumps ribs as your choice on a menu you’re just being extra. That eating healthy is other people’s habits and people of African descent only acquire this taste in food once they earn a couple of degrees and take flight to other parts of town.
I’m Haitian. So I’m quick to remind folks, our ancestors ate and Haitians are today still do find their sustenance from the land. Our juices are made fresh. Our vegetables are a melange of eggplant, chayote (that’s militon for my Zoes), carrots, scallions, onions, garlic, parsley, bell peppers–all to create the legume meal that I love so much. I don’t need meat in mine. Some crab maybe. Some lambi (conch) maybe. With some white rice. And “sauce poi blanc”. Mezami, my tastebuds just took a detour!
I remember being raised in a home where neither pork nor any shellfish was permitted in my diet. Part of that was my mom’s personal Levitical biases and part of that was that she knew better so she did better with our meals. Olive oil was a staple. Except for the time we lived with another family and overdosed on hotdogs and bologna, she preferred sliced meats from the deli that didn’t have all that salt added. Oh! Did I mention my mom wasn’t white and that we didn’t live in some uppity neighborhood? So it irks me to no end when people make broad stroke comments about diets being white or black. Granted I do maintain that Haitian food is THE best food in the world-and since this is my blog I’m only stating facts. Lol! Digressing again.
So I got me and the hubster back on a juicing plan. I dragged out my Breville juicer and it is holding court right next to my smoothie machine on the kitchen counter. One bottle per day. Nothing major. He’s 45. I’m 42. Our bodies demand extra attention and what better way to do so than to make a concerted effort to get some extra veggies in our system the raw way. So we got celery, carrots, ginger, apples, lime, strawberries, kale all up in this latest batch. The celery gives it this refreshing taste. The ginger spikes it up a notch. The carrots and apple balances it off with some sweetness. And the lime, believe it or not, brings it all home flavor wise.
There are some of us who didn’t grow up with the best cooks or best diets in our lives. And if you’re like me, living on my own in college caused all types of rules to be broken. I went from eating no pork to eating the Friday night griot. Every Friday. Of every week. These days I probably eat it once per quarter (yes I mind my junk food intake in terms of quarters) cause it takes about that long to leave your system anyway!
Circumstances may not have allowed for healthy balanced meals. We all joke about the red juice that causes ADHD to go undiagnosed in many households. Food deserts is a reality. For me to get a juice on the go, I would now have to leave my predominately urban community and head either east towards the beach or west towards the Everglades. It takes effort to do right by your temple. It takes money and time. The first time I got back juicing I promise you I burned 1500 calories between the setting up, breaking down, washing and then mopping my sticky kitchen floor. Then you think of the time and energy you take to do some random activity and you realize the return on the investment really does beat out the annoyance.
I have had non-Black colleagues quickly hide their amazement when I ask about the nearest vegan option or plant based option eateries. Once they get over the shock that I’m not asking for the nearest bbq joint (and no offense to them cause I can gets down with some ribs too), they are more than happy to share in the love of healthy foods.
So next time someone makes some off color comment about your coconut black rice, adashah, kale, toasted coconuts and avocado lunch (and it’s usually some poor, misguided brotha or sistah) don’t give them the side eye. Take the time to let them know what’s on your plate and point out the health benefits of your meal. They may roll their eyes and go about their high cholesterol, diabetic living or they may dwell on your comments and who knows? You may have gained a convert to eating healthy–not White.
Our ancestors would be honored to know that you too are eating off the land and honoring the food traditions that transcend race and yes even color lines. I’m Black. Been eating Black since 1975. Whatever that is. 🙄😂