Without getting too deep into my personal political beliefs, let's just say that I wasn't too thrilled with the results of the presidential election. As a loud and proud feminist with many friends and loved ones in the LGBTQ+ community, I was a more than a little nervous about how the election would affect the only way of life that I have ever known.
A lot of my friends on campus were saddled with some pretty heavy hearts as a result of the election, and this was made most apparent in my Spanish class that following Friday. With a president-elect who has some less-than-rosy views on the Latinx population as a whole, it was hard to find the joy in the language during that lecture.
My professor, though pretty beaten up over the election herself, was faced with a room full of disheartened Spanish majors and minors. And, put in this situation, she reacted in the only way she knew how: with optimism and passion for her discipline.
Prof made it a point to remind us that we, as Spanish majors and minors, have the unique ability to really immerse ourselves in another culture and create opportunities for inclusion and understanding through our course of study–even in a time when a portion of the population isn't one-hundred percent focused on offering inclusion to minorities.
What she failed to mention however, is that sometimes the Spanish and Latinx communities often find a way to include the majority as well. And what better way to bring people together through food?
Call it, luck, divine intervention, or weird coincidence, but my class took a field trip that next day into New York City and ended up going to dinner at Vino Tapa in Kips Bay.
I'm usually a plain Jane when it comes to food—I mean, my siblings relentlessly make fun of me when I turn away buffalo wings for being "too spicy." So, when faced with a menu of tapas ranging from goat cheese, to grilled octopus, I wasn't sure how to handle myself.
I had no clue what I was in for when my class ordered the tapas sampler for our entire party, but once the plates came to the table, I instantly realized what all the fuss was about.
I ended up trying tons of foods that I wouldn't normally have gotten the chance to try at home or in my dining hall: torta española (think: Spanish quiche, but with potatoes), shishito peppers, patatas bravas–and it was all amazing. I actually think the goat cheese might have been my favorite (who knew?).
If you had asked me in January, June, or even the week before the election (when I went to another amazing Spanish restaurant, Mesón Sevilla) what eating Spanish food meant to me, I probably would have answered in short, stock phrases:
"Yeah, it was pretty good."
"It was a great excuse to get off-campus."
"Damn, I wish I was legal so I could have ordered a sangria."
But I really believe that food is instrumental in bringing groups of people together, and honestly, this country needs to come together now more than ever. So, as silly as it might sound, going out to one tiny tapas restaurant in America's most foodie city gave me a new hope after this month's political turmoil.
With this outing, I was able to eat food that I had never gotten the chance to try in my tiny, Massachusetts town. Cross-cultural experiences don't always happen to kids like me every day, kids who come from towns where it seems like everyone is the same.
So, will tapas save the future of democracy in our country? Jury is still out on that one. But can they provide hope that greater cultural inclusion and fewer prejudices are in America's future? Claro que sí.