Weeks ago, my seven-year-old daughter Paige came home from school giddy with excitement. She’d been invited to join an extracurricular activity: American Sign Language classes.
The only catch? The classes would meet at 8 a.m. twice a week — long before the school bus could get her there. And, as a lower elementary school student, there isn’t an early bus to usher her in.
That would be my responsibility — and it would impact the morning for all of us.
Ultimately, I said ok, signed the paper and rearranged our morning schedule to accommodate the earlier start. These classes were important to her.
Paige first began learning sign language a year or two ago through occasional little lessons in school. She was fascinated by it — by how movements could convey language and how a simple arrangement of fingers could spell her name. Since then, she’s checked out books from the library on it, and practiced signing whenever possible. Although she doesn’t presently know anyone who communicates primarily through sign language, she wants to understand and be able to “speak” it.
Over the last few weeks in the classes, she’s mastered her ASL alphabet, learned different words and phrases and come away with a greater understanding of this language that so few of us speak. And she’s jubilantly arisen early twice each week to get ready and head off to her class.
I’m glad I said yes. I don’t know if Paige will ever use sign language to communicate with those who cannot hear, but she has the building blocks to do so. That’s pretty awesome.
Given Paige’s interest in ASL, I recently watched a TED Talk by Artist and TED Fellow Christine Sun Kim, who was born deaf. In it she shared how she used to think sound was for the hearing, but discovered that ASL can be a lot like music — melodic and beautiful.
I’d never thought about that — about how sound could be more than what we hear and how it can be experienced by those who are unable to hear.
“It can be tactually felt … Sound is like money, power, control, social currency,” Kim said in her talk.
In a way, cooking is similar. It’s melodic, and something that takes a symphony of motions to complete. Even with the simplest of recipes like Restaurant-Style Salsa, the arrangement of motions necessary to complete it matter to what the final dish conveys.
Sure, you could just toss all the ingredients into the food processor, turn it on high and walk away. But the result would be a muddy-colored and flavored something that lacked the appeal of a well-crafted salsa.
But instead, if you take the moments to chop, combine and pulse, the salsa will be more vibrantly colored and the flavor brighter, cleaner.
Cooking is a language we can share, if we’re willing to.
Kim also touched on one more point: sound etiquette, which is something that’s often overlooked — something I acutely noticed in a movie theater recently as one gentleman tried to carry on a normal volume conversation mid-movie and another spent minutes — yes, minutes — opening a bag of some crispy treat. How often do we absently snap gum? Or crunch chips? Or slam doors? Never really thinking about those around us … that’s what social etiquette is. It’s paying attention to how the sounds we make impact others — and caring.
Maybe we don’t do that enough. Maybe it’s time we should.
- 1 28-oz can peeled plum tomatoes, not drained
- ¼ cup chopped red onions
- ¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1-2 jalapeño peppers, lightly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped (optional)
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tsp salt, or more to taste
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp sugar
- Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to desired consistency. I like to leave it a little on the chunkier side.
- Serve with tortilla chips.
- HINT: Like your salsa mild? Use 1 jalapeño and remove the seeds before adding.