More than ten years ago, I attended a mother-blessing, also known sometimes as a blessingway, for one of my closest friends. Andrea was due shortly thereafter with her second child, a daughter. Surrounded by a small group of powerful, loving women, Andrea and her still-gestating daughter were touched by healing hands and given tokens of energy and affection in the form of beads to make a bracelet Andrea could use as a focus in labor.
Mid-way through the evening, we gathered in the kitchen of the host, Andrea’s friend, for food and drink. She bustled around in front of the stove and returned with a steaming ceramic bowl of refried black beans, smelling strongly of garlic, and a platter of corn tostados. We all slathered the crunchy, oversized tortilla chips with the savory beans, and I knew that, perhaps in small part due to the circumstances heavy with love and support, I’d fallen in love with a food.
Corn tostados and refried black beans became a go-to dish for my family for years to come. There is no meal as simple and satisfying. We have nearly endless variations to top the beans: sliced avocado; a variety of salsas; chopped mango, corn and tomatoes; olives; peaches; cucumber; and whatever cheeses allowable by the medically restrictive diets we’ve followed.
This meal has survived the six-food-elimination diet for eosinophilic esophagitis (substitute Daiya shredded cheese); the GERD reflux diet (eliminate the tomatoes); and the fat-free diet (fat-free cheese, no oil in the beans). It can be ready in under 30 minutes. A stack of tostados fit neatly in a reusable plastic container and so do a family-size portion of refried beans. The entire meal is even tasty at room temperature.
Most importantly for us, this meal does not seem strange to most people. It’s easy for each person at our table to customize their serving to their own liking, and having this in our family repertoire allowed us to avoid what might have been the worst part of any of these crazy diets we’ve had to follow: isolation. When Andrea’s friend showed me how to press fresh garlic cloves into a can of store-bought refried black beans, how to drizzle it with oil and mix it in a pot on the stove, she did so in a kitchen filled with other people steeped in joy and support. She anointed this meal a community affair.
This meal was blessed with the union of loving spirits. This meal saved my behind, time and time again.
That mother blessing blessed more than just Andrea and her daughter. It blessed me, too.