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Comfort Food for the Soul

It’s inevitable. The temperature goes up and down like a yo-yo for a week or two and I get sick. Exhaustion started to take over my life at supper time this weekend. I looked in the cupboards and stared blankly at the shelves. I knew there was food in there, but was so tired I

It’s inevitable. The temperature goes up and down like a yo-yo for a week or two and I get sick. Exhaustion started to take over my life at supper time this weekend.

I looked in the cupboards and stared blankly at the shelves. I knew there was food in there, but was so tired I just couldn’t figure out where to start.

So I packed up the kids and went to see my parents. Dad made me some chicken soup and after a few spoonfuls I began to morph from a fading weakling into my normal chipper self. It wasn’t special soup, just some powdered chicken broth and noodles, but it was exactly what I needed.

Seeking comfort is one of the first instincts we have as human beings.  Since the beginning of time, mothers offer the breast to their crying babies and we learn that nourishment equals warmth, love and solace. In the Cayuga language the word for breastmilk – ononkwa , has the root word for ‘love’ built right into it.

From a scientific perspective, things that taste good to your mouth release hormones in the brain which improve your mood.

Hamburger Stew with Hot Bread spells perfect love to my husband and kids. When I was growing up no matter how bad the day went, if it ended with Bean Soup everything was okay. For some of our Ongwehowe ‘cousints’ in the South it’s Tripe Soup. Once I even saw a Cree man deep fry wild rice!

Growing up my mom would make a little table and bring soup in special dishes to us if we were home sick. Sometimes she would put tea in a fancy cup or flowers in a jar, anything to cheer the mood of feeling unwell.

It was a special kind of tenderness that we got when our little bodies were working hard to get better, and it made all the difference in the world.

When it comes to our common injuries as Indigenous people across the land, nothing leaves a more bitter taste in your mouth than being told it’s time to toughen up. I couldn’t believe the first time I heard someone say,  “Can’t they just move off the reserve, get jobs and move on with their lives!?” It’s a painful level of ignorance, fueled by an ethnocentric worldview sick with misinformation.

It is exactly the opposite response that the multi generational injury warrants. It is the opposite of comfort food.

So what is the proper response? Keeping a good mind when faced with ignorance to that degree is hard, and the ‘eye for an eye’ approach never ends well. The reality of life is that sometimes when you need comfort, and you end up having to make your own “chicken soup” even if you don’t have the strength.

There is a great love potential here at Six and the next phase just may be in the hands of our allies.

This is the time for you to pursue truth, and lift up Indigenous people wounds and all. You don’t need to rescue us from the reserve, but just to bring a little table and a jarful of flowers while we work out the healing going on inside. It is the practical response to the Idle No More movement, and comfort food for the soul that will last for generations.

It is stronger than your racial guilt, it is mightier than pity.  It is a true and merciful love for humanity that can break through the pain and heal a man, a family, and a nation.

By Nahnda Garlow

Nahnda Garlow

Nahnda Garlow

Nahnda Garlow, Onondaga under the wing of the Beaver Clan of Six Nations, is Outreach Editor for the Two Row Times. Her popular column, Scone Dogs and Seed Beads brings weekly thoughts on current day indigenous identity. Nahnda has been a journalist with the Two Row Times since it's founding in 2013. She studied Journalism, Human Rights and Indigenous Studies at Laurier University. She is a self-proclaimed "rez girl" who also brings to the Two Row Times years of experience as a Haudenosaunee cultural interpreter, traditional dancer and beadwork aficionado. Nahnda is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association.

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