I Never Thought Mac-n-Cheese Would Bring Me to Tears

I Never Thought Mac-n-Cheese Would Bring Me to Tears

I’ve been a clean eater for several years now.  Multiple surgeries and health complications forced me to abide by the “Eat to live” mantra, although I’ll always be a true foodie at heart. I’m the girl who won’t eat just any store bought cake, it has to be Michelin starred restaurant quality, served warm, a la mode and with a strong espresso by its side. That said, due to healthy living I seldom indulge and I’ve taught myself to make a few of the traditional soul food dishes I grew up on as vegan or low fat as they can possibly be. 

So fast forward to about a week ago. My husband randomly brought home soul food from a holiday office party with too many leftovers and offered me a plate. My instinct was to say no, but sheer exhaustion from the thought of having to come up with something else for dinner allowed me to give in.

I warmed the food taking in the familiar aromas and quietly sat down in front of the tv to enjoy my meal. I took a bite of the baked chicken, candied yams, collard greens and then the mac and cheese.   Hold on a moment…this was REAL mac and cheese. The kind my grandmother and her sisters used to make at our annual Thanksgiving dinner parties throughout my childhood. The kind I’d almost throw a fit  for because someone declared, “Lets serve the elders first.”This was real mac and cheese, not the weight watcher friendly imposter I’d been making for years and as I ate this plate of my childhood I had to fight back my tears. Being in a room of love, surrounded by family members who are no longer with us, the sense of comfort from my heritage and our traditions, I felt it all in that single bite of macaroni and cheese.

As I processed these feelings, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride in my culture and longing for lost loved ones at the same time, and then it hit me. 

I had just experienced a mere glimpse of missing family and feeling homesick, a mere screenshot of what it feels like to long for a part of you you’re no longer connected to. I can only imagine the intensity of this feeling if you’re a child in foster care who has lost all cultural connections. Statistics tell us that black children are twice as likely to be removed and twice as likely to be placed in transracial homes. God has given me a desire to teach families of Black children in foster care how to care for their hair and skin care needs. It’s how my beauty business, The Joy of Curls, came to be and foster care is woven into the fabric of who we are as a brand.

adoptive mom styles daughters twists

I was told Black children in foster care need to maintain cultural connections, and to me it felt like a directive of what I needed to do. 

When a child enters the foster care system, they don’t just lose their family, their home, toys and everything they know, but the indescribable feeling of being at home in their culture and all the sounds and smells of familiarity and interconnectedness that it brings. The feelings that can’t be replaced…

It’s important for those of us accepting the role of Foster Parent to find every way in our power to make sure the children in our care aren’t experiencing cultural isolation in the midst of the grief and loss they experience the moment they enter care.

What does this look like?

  • Finding a church home that is culturally diverse.
  • Making sure the kids in our care are not the only person of color in the room most of the time. 
  • Locating extra curricular activities with children and coaches who share the same race as our children.
  • Finding out what foods are important and meaningful to them and making an effort to provide authentic soul food prepared by someone who knows all about it. 

These are the experiences that are in our control. This is a part of loving and caring for a child that is as natural as providing food, clothes and education. I never thought mac and cheese would bring me to tears, but I’m so glad it did. This experience allowed me to remember that in the midst of sharing hair and skin care tips, teaching foster parents the importance of preventing cultural isolation is essential!

Joy Hankins is the founder and CEO of The Joy of Curls, a plant-based textured hair and skin care brand with a mission to donate products to the foster care community. You can learn more by visiting the website: or through Facebook and Instagram: @thejoyofcurlsbeauty