Brown Girls Self Care: Jenina’s Food List

Where most turn to food in times of stress, I retreat from it. There are days, I literally do not have the strength to eat. The way my life is set up, food itself has become self care. Not just eating it but, buying it, preparing it, and cooking it too.

I have in the past, in my grief, and a need to feel closer to home turned to my roots as a way to comfort my aching heart. The recipes, passed down to me from my mother and her mother before her, connect me to home. When I cook them, they fill my nostrils, my belly, my kitchen, and my soul with love.

Food is self care. It is the thing we retreat to when we are in need of comfort. It not only sustains but connects us to one another and to the past. Food has the power to wrap itself around all my senses and comfort and care for me.

Self care, is about taking those processes in which we “care” for ourselves and turn them into deliberate and radical rituals of self love that celebrate life. That is the kind of nourishment we need.

Which brings me to this essential list of sustenance for self care!

I know Asia is working on her own list and I can’t wait to compare and contrast. I wanted to focus on comfort foods but also on foods that comfort and care for our bodies in more essential ways.

Fruits and Vegetables

I’m not a vegetarian but I advocate introducing some vegan recipes into your regular rotation. Our bodies need fresh produce and I realize that for some, living in food deserts, that’s hard to come by. If you don’t have access to fresh produce, try frozen. Fortunately, they are just as nutrition (if not more) since they are flash frozen as soon as they are picked.

Finding ways to eat (or drink) your fruit and vegetables might be the most loving thing you do for yourself and your body all day. Whether it’s salads or smoothies, an apple a day or a vegan meal once a week, finding ways to incorporate the essentials into your diet is critical to your health and well being.

Pollo Guisado – Puerto Rican Chicken Stew

When my mother and father want to love you, they make you pollo guisado, pronounced poyjo geesow. When you are aching, pollo guisado is the cure. When you are tired, pollo guisado. Running on empty, pollo guisado.

It is a hearty stew, made from the ingredients you have on hand – leftover chicken, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, sofrito –  all stewed together in traditional spices de la cocina criolla (of Puerto Rican cooking) and simmered to a hearty perfection. Typically it is served over rice. I make this when I want to feel close to home. When I want to reconnect with my abuela, passed now for more than 14 years.

This simple dish, highlights the resilience and the brilliance of our people. Guisado takes what has been left over and passed over, the scraps so to speak, and turns it into something nourishing and divine…I believe the recipe must have been passed to our people from the gods.

It’s more than just stew, it’s a map of love and survival and when I eat it, I am nourished by them.

Banana Nut French Toast

During the week, when the kids are in school and parents at work, breakfast is often rushed. It’s rarely a meal families get to sit down to eat together but, on the weekends breakfast becomes a family meal again!

French toast is not the kind of thing you make “to-go,” so it’s become a treat. Especially when it’s banana nut french toast. An extra decadent recipe I reserve for Christmas morning brunch or the first day of Summer vacation!

It’s a rich and decadent comfort food, that brings me back to Saturday mornings, spent watching cartoons..

Cafe con Leche – Coffee with milk

There is no place I wont go for a cafecito of Bustelo con leche. My earliest memories revolve around coffee. My tias taught us soft, sweet buttered rolls taste sweeter dunked in coffee.

The smell of it literally transports me to mi abuela‘s kitchen, and the steady stream of conversation friends and family came to have with doña Aida over her coffee.

Every morning, between sips, I can feel that legacy, as I sit in the very early hours of the day, before the sun has even risen, and think of mi familia, near and far. In these moments I’m reminded of who I am.

This is a self care ritual now, a daily practice. I don’t just need my coffee, I need the process with which my coffee is sipped and savored. It isn’t just the fuel for my body, it’s a boost for my soul too.

Water is Life

It feels silly to even put this on the list of foods for self care but it is exactly why I’m putting it here. If you are thirsty, you are dehydrated! Drinking water is literally the simplest thing we can do for our self care. Given what is happening in Flint, Michigan and any part of the world where clean water is scarce, we can go as far as to say for some, it’s a privilege.

Water cleanses us from the inside out and helps us pass any toxins in our bodies. It flushes our bladder, liver, and kidneys. I add lemon to my water. I always feel healthier drinking my tall, icy, glass of water, with happy little slices of lemon bobbing up and down between the cubes. Beside the benefits to your insides, water also keeps your skin glowing, hair, and nails hydrated and healthy.

Plain old ice water will do but flavored water is my favorite thing. As I mentioned above, lemon is a great addition but cucumber, strawberries, basil, ginger, and honey, all have their own health benefits too.

We are hoping to focus on self care this month! I want us to treat self care like a discipline, essential to our well being, and feed ourselves fully.  Let’s discuss self care as a practice and share how we are, each of us, doing it. In this way we open ourselves up to new possibilities and ways to feed ourselves! We are looking forward to your feedback.

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