Solidarity is a beautiful concept. The act of uniting with a downtrodden group, sympathizing with their struggles and taking on their purpose as your own results in a fellowship that binds together and is able to rise against oppression with newfound strength. Prior to the other day, I didn't realize that solidarity could be achieved through something as simple as freshly baked muffins.
The snow was falling fairly hard that day, and the windchill was causing the temperature to feel like -25. While I was awakening slowly to a new day, stretching myself out of the spell that sleep had put me under, my university professors were out picketing for better conditions for both students and educators. I had been in a daze for the past while, unsure of what to do with myself now that classes had ceased with little warning.
I had long been looking for an excuse to bake, and as I watch the snowflakes outside my window tumble upon the shivering faculty, I decided that I would make a large batch of muffins for them. Not just any muffins, however; I wanted to ensure that I baked them something filled with nutrients, fruits, and warm spices to help them get through the rest of their day. It is easily forgotten how food affects the body, and I wanted to ensure I could they would have energy, not a spike and crash. Most importantly, I wanted them to know I thought they were worth the time and resources it takes to make a good soul food – resources limited to me as a student.
There is a certain serenity that I find comes with baking; I find order in the measured ingredients no matter how I may be surrounded by chaos. It as if by mixing the pure, bland ingredients that we rarely touch otherwise with the loud, exciting flavors that we crave on our palates I am reminded that a certain balance is needed in life. If I'm lacking excitement or there's too much chaos I need only wait until life comes into equilibrium to create an invigorating new essence. With school out of session, things felt out of sorts and I needed that balance once more.
My love and I came together and made a giant batch of morning glory muffins, which we soon dubbed MAFA muffins after the name of our faculty association. As he grated and I measured, we soaked up the warm sunbeams streaming through the window, grateful for the warmth even if it was just a product of the glass. We decided half the muffins would go to the picketers walking outside, while the other half would go to those answering student questions at MAFA strike headquarters. Once in the oven, the muffins filled our humble apartment with rich smells and as soon as they were done we bundled up in our winter wares and stepped outdoors.
The cold cut through us as soon as we opened the door, and our muffins were quickly frosted with a sprinkling of snow. Soon we saw the first group of profs, and as we offered our muffins and gave them our support, their smiles instantly made the trek worthwhile. They were touched that students, out of school on a Monday for the first time in ages, would spend their mornings creating solidarity; one even took a photo. The reaction was the same everywhere we went, and despite the freezing temperatures I began to feel that maybe I was getting more out of the experience than the professors. Maybe this is what doing community together is really about – sharing muffins in the cold.
The baked goods were soon gone and we quickly exchanged the empty tray for another that was full and we headed towards the indoor headquarters. There, professors greeted us with coffee, words of thanks, and an invitation to share in the food with them as we discussed the current conditions at the school causing them to strike. Sometime between one of the professors talking and my love asking a question, I realized that this is what university has been missing these past few years – a sense of belonging for both staff and students together, not as separate entities. I contemplated this as I ate a BLT that someone else had provided, wondering if maybe food was they key to bringing people together – the key to solidarity
Food is often seen solely as a necessity, something that must be consumed in order for our bodies to give us the long hours of constant energy that we demand from ourselves. We often are in such a rush that we don't allow ourselves time to break bread with loved ones at the end of the days; food is eaten in solitude rather than in the company of conversations about triumphs and struggles. There is community to be made and strengthened over a meal, yet we often opt to grab a quick fix before running out the door.
Have you ever had a moment where you shared something with a stranger with the intentions of helping them – yet at the end of the exchange you find yourself wondering if perhaps they were the ones that aided you? I left my apartment that day with the intentions of showing solidarity and support. I returned feeling as though I had a new understanding of education beyond the borders of the classroom; education one can only receive through an exchange of knowledge and experience, over food lovingly prepared by hand.