Ginger & Garlic
Updated: Jul 4, 2019
I have a profound love for ginger & garlic. As a mixed-race Nusantara, ginger is a familiar plant, native to the islands of Southeast Asia and is a deep-grounding comfort food for my senses. Let me put it this way. I will have ginger ALL THE TIME, in every meal. Give me ginger ice-cream, ginger drinks, ginger, ginger, ginger. Because they calm me down. And then there's garlic. Even though garlic is not native to my birth region, I grew up in a diverse diaspora that continues to bring out the best flavours of this spicy "nug". Yes I call it a "nug" because garlic cloves are what I used to think gold nuggets looked like.
Living with Complex-Trauma means that triggers can happen on a daily, I repeat, daily basis. This makes having comfort food important but also tricky because we can abuse it, the same with other coping mechanisms. Like many folks, I have my own struggles of addictive tendencies and behaviours so I want to be clear that my choice of the word abuse carries with it a lot of compassion and understanding. Being someone who has gone through different forms of abuse, it is hard to accept that I can be abusive as well with things and with myself. So let's treat this subject of abuse with coping mechanisms very gently.
One of the fondest memories of growing up was watching my auntie pound garlic and ginger. I was always amazed at the sesame ginger chicken that she made and needless to say, that is a comfort food (I will cover this another time) that I will never say no to. As I work through trauma, I find the association of ginger and garlic to my auntie one that has been helpful. I have been retracing the moments of joy since complex trauma makes remembering the good times extremely challenging. I remember always coming up with a blank image in my head whenever I am asked what happy moments in my life were there. And it was as though I have amnesia. How do I forgot good moments? Do I surpress them so deeply?
The other complication of being part of a diaspora means that a part of me is cut off from the knowledge and ways of life that my ancestors had. Because of colonization, I often feel that I have been robbed of my cultural life, one that was meant to be filled with meaningful rituals and where everyone is interconnected, not disconnected. We would always share meals together which is not something I miss a lot of.
Ginger and garlic help me remember my cultural roots and how my ancestor treated ginger with deep respect for it's medicinal properties, which relates to a tidbit of my childhood. I used to have hives and according to my parents, they were sweat hives. I didn't know what that meant but all I knew was my sweat was too "toxic" for my skin. In an effort to help relieve my itch, my parents resorted to rubbing raw ginger on my skin, and it helped immensely. I later learnt that these "sweat hives" were actually stress-induced hives from being hyper-vigilant all the time.
One practical and somatic thing that garlic and ginger do for me is that sometimes when I feel frozen or am somewhat disassociating, a bite of raw garlic or ginger can bring me back to myself because all of a sudden, I am forced to focus on the spiciness in my mouth, which I thoroughly enjoy, by the way. Welcome to the wonderful world of masochistic coping mechanisms.
One other thing about ginger and garlic that gels for me is that fact that they are both roots. As a Virgo birthed in the year of the Chinese Earth Horse, I am all about the deep mud and deep waters. The essence of root healing and expressed through a spiciness that almost seemed impossible that a root vegetable can be that flavourful. What about our roots? What is the root of resilience? How do we nurture our own roots of strength and recognize that if we are reading this and doing things, that we are choosing to remain on mother nature's universe, and that our roots are deep and strong.
Ginger and garlic are great metaphors of strong roots that can stand well on their own and also compliment others, enriching flavours and taste pallets. The days of sitting in the kitchen watching auntie cook were the best days of my difficult childhood. Ginger and garlic remind me of my auntie and her kindness. As such, I consider them to be the aunties of the garden, always strong and flavourful.
Ginger - 薑 (Chinese, Pronounced "Ji'ang")
Garlic - 蒜 (Chinese, Pronounced "Su'an")