Dangerous Compassions

Mele Martinez

fat cutie

Hello, reader.  How are you doing?  I heard an amazing lecture about food and culture.  The lecture was given just recently by my new hero Mele Martinez.

It’s about food in Tucson.  Mele Martinez is amazing.


Wow, I love Tuscon.  It’s in Arizona, and sometimes I wish I could live there.  In the winter, it’s great!  I feel at home in Tucson, the times I’ve visited.  Feels unpretentious, a good size, and I like the people.  There’s a lot of Mexican people and white people, like where I come from.

Tucson is not in New Mexico, where my peeps on my mom’s side are from.  But it’s southwest.  Some flavors are shared.

A favorite part of the lecture was about Bamboo Terrace, a Chinese restaurant.  I like when Martinez mentions hearing Chinese, English, and Spanish spoken in the restaurant, sometimes at the same table.

I love the part about raspados.  Arguments about language fascinate me.  And authority, power, who holds truth.

Martinez reminds me of me.  I love her bravery of talking about loving food unabashedly as a fat person.  Yes, I want to be like her.

I love what she says about her dad’s handdrawn maps, life before googlemaps, and living in reference to the mountains.  I grew up in the Santa Maria valley.  Then when I went to school at UC Santa Barbara, I had the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other.  I did orient myself to mountains always.

Later I lived in the Owens Valley and did the same.

food writing

I was reading the “about” for Mele Martinez, and it mentioned she’s a food writer.  Oh yeah–food writing!  I used to want to do that!

I had a fantasy 20 years ago that I could be a traveling vegetarian food critic and food writer, specializing in Indian food.  Years ago I started a zine reviewing every Indian food restaurant in Las Vegas.  Wow, sorry I never completed that one.  It was overwhelming–there were so many.

Here in Oregon where Ming and I live now, I haven’t found good Indian food.  But my food choices are limited now that I don’t eat dairy or gluten, and a slew of other ingredients.


Recently Ming and I hit our one year anniversary of living here.  Almost to the day, I stopped wanting to move to New Mexico.

Did I already tell you about this?  I was at Quaker meeting worshiping God, sitting in silence, reaching inside myself.  I reached for the New Mexico desire as I was praying, to pray about New Mexico.  Strangely, the desire was no longer there.

I had wanted to buy a house in New Mexico the whole time Ming and I lived here.  Strange, to lose a desire like that, without ceremony or intention.  It created a shift in my identity, and a slight fear.


Yes, Oregon is my home now.  I accept the responsibilities that come with that.  I need to learn more about its plants, animals, racism, and all of its past.  It’s a big deal–what a task.

There’s a gravity, to being where I actually want to be.  I need to stop living for elsewhere and put down roots.  The commitment is enough to scare me for sure.

However, I was on FamilySearch recently and found several Zuni people who were my ancestors on my mom’s side.  I need to learn more about Zunis.  I posted a great lecture from a Hopi archaeologist in October–maybe you recall.

This need to learn about the southwest stirs in me, even though I don’t feel called to live there anymore.  I couldn’t find a certificate program about New Mexico, but I watch youtube lectures and dream.

Maybe the call will return.  But for now I’m an Oregon person.


Who are you, and who do you want to be?  How does place inform that?  I have several friends and housemates.  I don’t hear them talk about learning about their Zuni ancestry.

How did I get so different?  Are my differences ok?  It’s a lot of work and confusion, to have needs, values, and capacities not the same as the people I’m surrounded by.  Ming is co-pea in my pea pod.  But otherwise, I feel overly unique all day.

I can conceptualize my differences as random chance, autism, crazy, trauma, being a freak.  Or I can say it’s my long past past, ethnicity, genes, epigenetics.

I can say it’s my own choices–what I reject, and what I focus on.  What I cultivate in my soul garden–which wolves I choose to feed.  Maybe I feed the weird wolves, right?  I like that about myself.

Of course it’s probably a mix of all of this.  There’s so much to learn.

I felt less alone, hearing this lecture.  I feel at home and safe.  It’s important.  Grateful to Mele Martinez and all people who speak truth about food, our childhoods, culture.  She has a book coming out next year–a memoir.  Maybe we could make a book club and read it together.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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