An American Job: Tapiando Cebolla

#52EssaysNextWave 16/52

Driving home an hour or so ago, I was driving thru what we call the ‘islands’ from the Bay to the Ranch. It’s one of the richest agricultural areas nestled between cities in the San Joaquin Delta. Just about all you see are fields, cornfields, tomato fields, onion fields and more.

On my way thru early this morning, all the workers were just getting situated in field after field. I thought to myself, “wow it’s early, they’ll be done for the day around 2 or 3 this afternoon.”

As I passed thru this evening, I was stunned to see workers STILL working. They had those huge work lights going to light their way. Now what really got to me was WHAT they were harvesting.

Tapiando cebolla”. Topping onions.

It must be said that I have not spent my entire life working the fields. However, I did work a few summers. Topping onions is one of the most unpleasant tasks of them all. This work involves shears and you are to trim off the long green stems of the onion and the stringy thin stems at the top of the onion and proceed to fill up sacks with the ‘topped’ onions.

The goal is to top all the onions in the long rows and put them into the sacks. I still remember looking down the row to see that we had sooooo many sacks left to fill to finish an entire row. Not only was I not the fastest worker, sometimes I’d cut my fingers with the shears…OMG imagine the stinging of the juice from the onions mixed with dirt, aaaaay! Miserable.

My eternal respect for those who harvest the food that we eat daily. It’s harvest season thus they are working hard around the clock. Topping onions is difficult enough in the light of day, but at this hour of the night, albeit it’s much cooler out of the hot sun, it must be even more complicated to work at filling those sacks in the dark.

As I write this entry, I shake my head, these folks are the topic of so much debate, so much racism and so much negativity yet there they are, en chinga, working it to get these crops harvested. And leave it to Latinos to find humor in even the worst work situation: I could actually hear them joking and laughing and the music going strong as they worked. These workers seemed so far removed from the intensity of the immigration debate…doing what they always do…working it.

I can only imagine how much more these folks could produce if people were actually grateful to them for providing food for their tables but, no, these workers and their families have to live in fear for so many things, discrimination, separation of familias, injury, illness…all this in the name of “American Jobs” which, by the way, no “American” wants to do.

My short time working in the fields was enough motivation to work at something else, anything else, but the fields. God bless our Latino brothers and sisters who take it for the team day (and night).

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Dinner Time: The Power of Connecting

#52EssaysNextWave  13/52

A rare day off.

Just in from dinner with familia.

After I invited the fam, I went round and round, do I feel like going?  why did I invite everyone?  I’ve been cleaning and all I want to do is relax.  I was actually nervous about getting together with my familia.  I’m overthinking everything.  What was that about?

As I sat there with them, I was happy.  I was relaxed.  And I noticed that they were happy and relaxed too.

I was able to talk with them, no need to get into heavy-duty issues, at least not that minute.  It was fun to talk about our day, our week, my sister’s workout, my baby niece’s friend Rafita from school, joking with my niece and nephew, just having fun.  No one with their phones out, just hanging out, at least for most of the dinner.

The type A in me always tends to make things more complicated than they need to be, turning everything into an event…the reality is that sometimes all that is needed is to connect, really connect, with the people whom we love.

How do we do this?  For me, it’s all about making sure that I DIS-connect in order to RE-connect.

  1.  Put the phone down.
  2.  Look everyone in the face, listen to them.
  3.  Enjoy their company.
  4.  Work will always be there, leave work alone.
  5.  Be present.
  6.  Relax.

Driving home, I realized how much I actually MISSED my family.   I miss connecting with them – especially when I’m so busy with events that it seems that there’s no time to connect.  Tonight is a sign that I need to connect more often.  No big event required.  No over thinking.  Sometimes all it takes is a table, chairs, sharing a meal, and good conversation.

Thanks, familia!

Making Salsa: How Brava is Too Brava?

#52EssaysNextWave  5/52

Have you ever eaten salsa that was too hot? too hot to enjoy the flavor hot? angry hot?   I’ve heard folks say, “I hope that it’s not too “brava/hot” because I was “brava” mad as hell when I made it!”

Making salsa when you’re angry is not the smartest thing to do.   Although now that I write it out, I can see how it does help get you out of a bad mood.  Some of us like to make salsa in the blender, easy enough.  However, anger and making salsa can almost render the blender useless…why?   It’s much more cathartic when you put that knife in your hand and chop things up or if you break out the molcajete, put the food in and smash it, literally, between a rock and a hard place as you prepare it.

Take onions.  Chopping up onions automatically make your eyes water.  Sometimes this watering of eyes works when you want to try to hide your tears, “freaking cebolla! it’s the onions making my eyes water, I’m not mad, I’m not crying, no…hmmmmm!

The feel of chopping tomatoes is so cool as you push it into a pile or into a bowl as you cut it up.  Chopping up that tomate may just help you get your anger out and then literally helps to cool it off that quick.

Chile – chopping up one, look how nice that looks, will it make the salsa hot enough? Let me try chopping up another chile and then, after the fourth or fifth one, it’s hard to tell if that little green pile of chile is too much or too little, so you just stop.   By the time you actually get to cutting up the chile, you’ve got to think about cutting out the seeds (or not).  Taking out the seeds takes a few minutes and that might be a good thing, because taking out the seeds takes a lot of the fire out of your salsa.

Cilantro – chopping up cilantro as small as possible is never a bad thing, especially as lots of people can only take cilantro in small doses.  Garlic – same thing.  Both possess pungent odors that can have you doing that “uff” thing wrinkling your nose because the smell hits your senses immediately.  Kinda like smelling salts LOL, intense smells can make you alert, and sober you up and out of your mood for a moment at least.

Then again, it’s been said that food made with love tastes amazing and satisfying.   I wonder how food made while angry must taste like.  With salsa, it’s hard to tell because it’s supposed to be spicy hot.    The only takeaway from this post is, if you’re angry and making salsa, to chop up the chile peppers last, and do not forget to take the seeds out, and, maybe,by that time, after that work, you won’t be mad anymore and the salsa will be nice and spicy, not angry hot.

Now I’m craving salsa…wait…I better check myself, what kind of mood am I in? LOL