“…I couldn’t make eclipse glasses out of cereal boxes because our cereal came in bags.”

With the recent eclipse, some tutorials were popping up on my Facebook timeline talking about how to make eclipse glasses out of cereal boxes. All I kept thinking about was when I was a kid I couldn’t make eclipse glasses out of cereal boxes, because our cereal came in bags. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, because we had the occasional bran flakes that came with our commods.

Have you ever had commodity food? For those of you who haven’t, it’s a part of a federal food distribution program for Natives. And if you really think about the history of commodity food you realize that one of Native America’s staples, Fry Bread, is an off spring of those government rations. I’m sure for most of my Native sisters and brothers especially know about the golden brick. It was the glorified and highly anticipated commodity cheese.

However, if you have ever survived on commodity food you would know about another one of my favorites, commodity peanut butter. As my Mother would grow tired of making school lunches in my later years of grade school, I became responsible of making my own lunches. I remember the first time I tried to make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with commodity peanut butter. I attempted to spread the peanut butter when instantly the peanut butter crumbled the bread. Commodity peanut butter is like trying to put on your high school jeans after years of binging on frybread, honey, and powdered sugar, everything just kind of crumbles and falls apart… including your self-esteem. I used to ask my Mom, “why can’t we just get JIF.” My Mom hated when I complained, and rightfully so. She grew up often times without food, but my Mom was also patient with me. She showed me a little trick. She said, “JD, go get the pancake syrup.” I did, and she continued, “Put about a teaspoon of syrup and mix it together. Now try to spread the peanut butter on the bread.” And boom! Wouldn’t you know, I had made knockoff JIF. As I reflect now, Natives are the syrup to the stiff consistency of our society, because we can make the best of anything.

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