Friday, November 20, 2009

For the Love of Food

I am NOT a food connoisseur, far from it. I am slowly learning how to pay attention to my meals, but it comes about as naturally to me as knitting or standing in a field during thunderstorms. However, since arriving in Zambia, I have noticed a dramatic change in my diet: mostly the increase of my intake of both salt and sugar. My daily cup of salt comes from the Zambian staple of “n’shima,” Zambians eat n’shima for lunch, dinner, and even for breakfast in a slightly weirder and runnier form (yumm). N’shima, combined with some form of meat, veggie and sauce is simply fun to eat. I feel as though I am transported back to kindergarten as I scoop the n’shima up with fingers, vainly attempt to sculpt it into a perfect ball, and collect a delectable side dish on the journey to my mouth. This custom feels particularly fitting and confusing when I am wearing a suit; eating with my fingers, messing with play dough and inevitably dropping beans into my lap. What is not to love?

Despite their filling and fun main course, Zambians seriously lack good dessert. For an American girl with a sweet tooth, this is especially disappointing at the end of a super salty meal. To make up for it, I have developed a keen “sugar vision” to help me find delicious snacks in the flat. Peanut butter, chocolate, ice cream, milo, cookies- anything I can get my hands on! All of a sudden I am addicted to peanut butter and would give my left arm for a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups. Sweet snacks are a topic of daily discussion for the suffering muzungus in my flat, “did you use the last of the milo?” “did you buy more ice cream today?” and “why in the world would you eat all of the cookie dough?” Everyone is suspect, common courtesy goes out the window, and the last one to the cookie jar loses. A food’s value lies solely in whether or not you can put peanut butter on it, for example: apples- yes, oranges-no, bananas-yes, green beans- no.

Thankfully, we have a baker in the flat. The goddess is named Sara and no, you can’t have her. Thanks to her delicate Southern hands, I have so far eaten half a container of quiz bar cookie dough and devoured homemade peanut butter cups with scary intensity. Her brother, Luke, brought further treats into the flat this past week: dove chocolate and a large bag of Tootsie rolls. They were both gone within 24 hours. At this point, when you take away the chocolate and peanut butter, you take away my will to live. And I am okay with that. In fact, I think I will go have a peanut butter cup right now.

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