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Vol. 6, No. 6 | What Reconnecting With My Biological Father Taught Me About Food
So this is one of the heavier things I’ve written, but I promised myself that if I was going to write and be in food and beverage, this time I wanted to show more balance. I’ve written this a million different ways. Mostly in my head, but I also have a few drafts tucked so far away that I can’t even find them.
Anyway, about six months ago, I reconnected with my biological father. The results of a health physical brought back what seemed at the time, like some worrying cholesterol numbers. It turns out everything was fine, but it led me on this search to understand my family health history. I realized that there was a whole half of myself that I knew nothing about. I was adjusting what I was eating and incorporating all of the other things that I was learning in my nutrition certification course, but what was actually necessary for my health and to prevent future heart problems, was healing the pain that I’d buried down so deep that I’d convinced myself that I was okay.
Before this all happened, I’d spoken to my biological father twice in my life:
I met him for the first time when I was 16. I was on a trip with my family to Jamaica. I remember my mom telling me to put on something nice, but she didn’t say much else about it. As I walked down the steep gravel path in wobbly heels at my grandmother’s house, I didn’t know that my father would be standing in the driveway. When this was arranged, I’m not sure. I’d been asking for about a year about who he was. I didn’t get many answers. Now, here he was standing before me. In that moment, I felt incredibly uncertain, more than my usual shy nature produced. A velvet dress in Jamaican heat also wasn’t doing me any favors (It was sleeveless, but still). I can’t remember what we talked about or even how long the encounter lasted. Why he wasn’t in my life until that moment or what conversation was had with my mom for him to resurface is still a mystery or maybe I’ve forgotten.
A few years later when I was about 21, he sent me an email and we corresponded for maybe a month. I don’t recall what the letters were about.
(Even though this is number #3, we didn’t talk so that’s why I said two above. Didn’t want you to think I did a switcheroo.) Two years ago as my restaurant/bar was closing he sent me a message on Facebook. It was an already emotional time for me and it brought up too many things that I didn’t care to deal with…that I was simply unable to deal with…so I didn’t respond. I think that’s the first time I realized that I was angry. But between the restaurant closing and Anthony Bourdain's passing, I just didn’t have room left for other emotions.
When I made the decision to reconnect with him I felt very peaceful about it. I picked up the phone and called without any expectation of what would come. Since then we’ve spoken a few times and I met a brother that’s lived an hour away from me for a few years. I understand that this will be an ongoing process.
The most important part of this journey though is that I learned how connected everything is. People think of food as the things that we eat, but food is everything that we feed ourselves. It’s having healthy relationships, healing old wounds, pursuing work that you love, moving your body, an ongoing spiritual practice, etc.
As I gave myself the space to heal and forgive, I found that everything became a lot easier. I craved healthier whole foods. I wanted to show up in the world more than I had been. My voice (and skin) became clearer. I lost the 15 pounds that seemed like it would never go anywhere. I felt better than I had at any point in my life, despite being in the middle of a pandemic. This was the food that I needed.
I’ll be in Jamaica in a few weeks for the Holy Sip dinner and up until this very moment, I’d decided not to visit my father. (No real reason, maybe some fear.) But something about writing this changed my mind. So thanks for letting me process this with you. And I’ll remember not to pack any velvet for this trip.