Feeding diaspora

‘They didn’t know we were seeds’: care and pleasure in difficult times

The phrase "They tried to bury us, they didn't know we were seeds" has become a motto for immigrant movements.

Supplied image

In these difficult times marked by heightened feelings of displacement, disillusionment and austerity, it is essential to foster pleasure and joy.

As a feminist killjoy, an artist and a critical thinker, I spend a lot of time reveling in the complexities and contradictions of life. As a food enthusiast, an anxious person and a hedonist, I use food as a response to any array of emotions that I experience, spanning from celebration to grief.

Food is immersive, immediate and process-oriented. It is a source of pleasure, connection and healing.

Food is a tool of emotional facilitation, and it is rooted in who I am and where I am at. In other words, patterns of eating and preparing food are reflections of my work, relationships, mental health, identity formation and access to resources.

It is difficult to care for ourselves or to eat with intention if we don’t have enough time, energy, self-worth or motivation. Anyone who is critical of self-care and self-love recognizes that caring for oneself is a process that is intimately tied to context.

We exist within systems of oppression that seek to keep people in line in favour of perpetuating the status quo.

Too often, politics of care are surface-level, self-serving and performative. Repeatedly being disillusioned by people and institutions who claim to represent and advocate for oppressed groups is further devastating.

In the pursuit of a good life, we must cultivate liberation, justice and pleasure as a self and community practice.

This is fundamentally a practice of pleasure activism, which author adrienne maree brown defines as “the work we do to reclaim our whole, happy and satisfiable selves from the impacts, delusions and limitations of oppression and/or supremacy.”

maree brown lists cooking and/or eating as a tangible form of pleasure activism. My friend making me dinner or sharing their cupcakes, my partner asking me what I want to eat or my mom asking me if she can drop something off are all transformative forms of community care.

When loved ones show up in this way, it decentres the individualistic mentality of surviving and thriving.

In keeping in mind maree brown’s sentiments, I am also reminded of the phrase, “They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds.” This Mexican proverb with Greek roots has become increasingly popularized by immigrant movements, highlighting resilience, persistence and intergenerational struggle and momentum.

Despite a weariness toward personal, familial, political and economic turmoil, I am energized by the capacity for food and other kinds of pleasure as regenerative sites of ease and care. Seeds of truth, interdependence and resistance will always come into fruition.

I reluctantly return to my optimism and hope as I fixate on the possibility for more, for something else. As maree brown puts it, “by tapping into the potential goodness in each of us, we can generate justice and liberation, growing a healing abundance where we have been socialized to believe only scarcity exists.”

Christina Hajjar is a first-generation Lebanese-Canadian pisces dyke ghanouj with a splash of tender-loving rose water and a spritz of existential lemon, served on ice, baby. Catch her art, writing and organizing at christinahajjar.com or @garbagebagprincess.

Published in Volume 74, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 19, 2019)

Related Reads