What Do Dresses & Fajitas Have in Common?

I’m back from Portland, Oregon, where I attended the Golden Crown Literary Society’s (GCLS) annual conference. While most people have blogged, or will be blogging, about their experiences there (including me at Women & Words), I’d like to explore something else.

Where I work, there is a large Hispanic community and many of the women I work with are of Hispanic heritage, which is how I came to learn the word faja. Faja is a Spanish colloquial word for “compression garment.” Why am I talking about this? I’ll tell you.

This was my first time presenting an award during the ceremony, and it also would have been my first time accepting an award (on behalf of Ylva Publishing for When The Clock Strikes Thirteen, although we didn’t win). I felt that I should look especially nice this year.

So I bought a dress. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am not particularly confident about my body, and I was concerned about how I was going to look in it. I found the dress the week before the conference and when I tried it on, I thought it looked pretty good, but that I should probably buy a compression garment of some kind. Spanx are popular now; in the old days, it would have been a girdle, and in the old, old days, a corset.

During the course of that week, I was extremely busy getting my stuff for the trip together and finishing up some tasks, as I knew that I wouldn’t get anything done for a solid week until I returned from Portland. On top of that, I had an extremely stressful last few days at work. Consequently, I had no time or brain capacity to go shopping for anything.

faja
Faja

As I matched up my dress with shoes, bag, and jewelry, I kept going back to thoughts about my curves, and when I finally packed the dress the day before my flight, I grabbed a girdle, something that I had purchased the year before, also for a dress for GCLS, and threw it in the suitcase. Up until last year, I was dead-set against wearing any such thing—I thought that items like that were abusive toward women and torture devices used to make us feel inferior and brain-washed. Then I saw my ass jiggling in the dress and caved in.

To make this increasingly long story short, when I got to Portland, I let my insecurity get the best of me and ran to the Target down the road from the hotel and bought a compression garment, known among Latinas, at least in New York, as a faja. I had wondered for a long time where the word faja came from. It seemed so odd and random. Then one day, I was talking to someone about it and she was so amused by the word that she looked it up, and when I saw the word faja on the screen, I had a moment of clarity. I instantly knew that faja was derived from the same root word as fajita.

Fajita
Fajita

A fajita is a bunch of stuff rolled up in a tortilla. I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out the connection.

Being the word geek that I am, I had to get to the bottom of this. I looked up faja and found out that it means “belt” or “sash” in Spanish. Both faja and fajita come from the Latin fascia, meaning “band” (the tying kind, not the musical kind). Also, interestingly, fascia is “a sheet of connective tissue covering or binding together body structures (as muscles); also : tissue of this character” (Merriam-Webster.com).IMG_3137

Again, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make the connection.

My stuff was rolled up like a fajita, all right. Getting that thing on was a chore. But it did the trick and I was able to get through the ceremony fairly confident that I looked nice. And I received many compliments attesting to that.

On that note, I thought I’d end this blog with a recipe for a fajita. Why not?

Vegetable Fajitas

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 green bell pepper, sliced into strips
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 flour or corn tortillas
1/4 cup salsa
1/4 cup sour cream (optional)

1. Heat oil in a large skillet; add onion and bell peppers. Saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, and salt and continue cooking over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 5 more minutes.

2. Warm the tortillas in the oven or directly on the burner (a few seconds on each side). Place equal amounts of the vegetables on each tortillas, then add equal amounts of salsa and sour cream. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 fajitas.

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