Friends and Foodways – Mike the Tiger

A couple of weeks ago, I told my son that LSU’s famous tiger mascot, Mike VI, was dying of cancer. My son was in the middle of doing something, but he stopped short. “What?! But he’s MY Mike. The Mike of my time at LSU.” Yesterday, when I heard the news that Mike VI had been placed in hospice and euthanized, I burst into tears.

It might seem like the ultimate “first world problem” to shed tears for a university mascot when there is so much human misery happening around us. This week alone, the long-suffering citizens of Haiti are bearing the unbearable again after Hurricane Matthew; Syrians are dying by the thousands through war; and the United States is coming undone during the 2016 election. I’ve sat in front of my computer screen both numbed and horrified, but mostly unable (unwilling?) to fully process the enormity of the chaos and destruction.

My son and I are LSU alums, and we love our alma mater, but the overwhelming emotion I felt about Mike VI’s death took me by surprise. Perhaps when you have so much insanity swirling about, a small thing can come along and wipe you out.

 

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Mike VI.

But I do Mike VI an injustice if I consider him a “small thing”. Mike VI was more than a symbol, more than a pet to be trotted out during games, more than a specimen to be gawked at through Plexiglas walls. Mike VI was a beloved, fellow sentient being and I feel the loss of him.

 

Losing him helped me to finally allow myself to be emotionally vulnerable to the events going on around me, from the disheartening dispute surrounding Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline to the continued quest for justice through the Kaepernick protest and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Our world can be a difficult place and we have to find our joys where we can.

Shortly after hearing about Mike VI, I put together a recipe to honor him. Tiger Slaw is purple, gold and spicy – just like a football Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. I’ll be combining it with another dish in an upcoming post that celebrates an enduring friendship that began on the campus of Louisiana State University almost three decades ago.

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Rest well, Mike VI, and thank you for inspiring me to once again engage in one of the core ideas of the SoulCreole Project: recognizing food’s sacred ability to facilitate healing.

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