Shredded chicken chimichangas and taquitos
Pineapple jalapeno salsa
Pico de gallo, guacamole, and roasted shishito peppers
Watermelon herb agua fresca
Mini pineapple upside down cakes
The plan was to be back with the boys this week for the first time in over a month, but we got the news early Saturday morning that they had lost their privileges, so we would be working with the girls only again this class. Both A. and P. were still at CCYC, although for how much longer was the question. P. told us that she would have court in a few days to determine where she would be living. It looked likely that A. would be moving into a residential program within a few weeks. Understandably, their energy was low, and I could tell that they were distracted. Despite everything that was weighing on them, they started unloading the carts and setting up the stations without a pause. After so many weeks of Cultivating Change, their bodies knew the drill, even if their heads were elsewhere. Once we were moving, it didn’t take their minds long to find their way back to the room, and they were quickly joking and laughing with us.
Jan and A. were making the chimichanga filling, guacamole, and pico de gallo. Every few minutes, A. would pop over to offer me a sample of what they were mixing up. “Miss, try this,” as she proudly handed me a sample of what she had made. The girls have gained such confidence with seasoning and flavors that they barely look to the recipes anymore. It’s energizing to see how genuinely pumped they are about cooking.
As we sat down to eat, P. mentioned how sad she will be when A. leaves for her placement. She teared up imagining A.’s name being erased from the resident whiteboard. As we looked at their names on the board, A. laughingly mentioned how she hasn’t earned any demerits the entire time she has been here this stay. She told us how many times she lost privileges when she was at CCYC a year ago, and how her temper made her lash out at residents and staff, verbally and physically. She opened up about how much her behavior has changed in a year, how she can see that she has matured, and that she isn’t so reactive anymore. She said that now when stuff happens or people do things to upset her, she is able to just push it all aside and not let it affect her mood. It was a very powerful realization by someone so young. We congratulated her on that growth and reassured her that those tools will serve her well when she moves to her next placement.
We dug into the pineapple upside down cake, which was much more sugary than our usual fare, and P. quietly told me that it wasn’t our best effort. She said that she much preferred the zucchini bread that Jan made. I was thrilled to hear that, since it showed me that their palates are changing and they are seeking out more nourishing foods. As if to drive the point home, one of the counselors popped in to the shelter at that moment to ask if the girls wanted their lunch trays from the cafeteria. In unison, they called out a resounding, “No!” and turned back to the table to grab another chimichanga.
While we washed dishes at the end of class, Jan and I discussed how grateful we are for the longer sessions with the girls. Having the chance to sit around a dinner table and talk allows the girls time to open up and voice their concerns. That didn’t happen when we needed to race from detention to shelter for back-to-back cooking sessions. It also gives us the opportunity to really sit and listen, which helps to build the trust needed to share personal breakthroughs like the one A. had today.