Thursday, April 5, 2012
Yesterday, my boyfriend (who is from Botswana) took me to a little nook nestled in the capital for lunch. Along with having delicious food, the deli also had a little market. While we were waiting for our food, I decided to peruse the shelves and see what they had. To my shock, awe, and excitement, I saw an array of things that I have been missing over the passed year. They had things like tahini, grape leaves, shells, and black beans. Nearly jumping out of my skin, I went back to the table to revel in my happiness. I think he was humored by my elation and entertained me for some time while I gushed. And then he asked me something that made me pause. He asked me how I knew of all these foods if I wasn't Greek or Italian or so on. My immediate thought was because, but then I had to stop and think about it. I have never given the country of origin of my favorite foods much thought before or, for that matter, why or how I know (and love) them. In America, the variety was always so available and almost everyone knew about international cuisine, either from eating it or having seen the different restaurants scattered all over the place. We have so many options that they become commonplace. I have always had access to all sorts of foods. It's not the same in Botswana. Even in the major cities, the "variety" is limited to Setswana food, Indian (because of a large Indian population here), Chinese (same reason), and a couple different "Western" foods (like KFC, pizza, and burgers). Given this, how would anyone who hasn't had access to it learn about a food as strange as grape leaves? And what do you do with this odd sauce called tahini? Needless to say, this spurred an interesting conversation about food (and foodies) from around the world and the differences in how cultures relate to food. And, in the end, I foresee it inspiring me to cook him a bunch of different foods that he's never had the chance to try. Who knows, maybe one will even be his new favorite? Food: bringing people closer one meal at a time.