Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vamos a Comer! (Let's Eat)

"He gives food to every creature.  His love endures forever.  
Give thanks to the God of the heavens.  His love endures forever." Psalm 136:25-26

Dinner at Taco Brown
 Today in our workshop, we talked about the importance of understanding the culture of eating wherever we go.  As Americans, we have a very specific view on what time we eat, where we eat, what we eat, and with whom we eat.  When we move into a new culture, those eating norms for us will most likely change.  I remember noticing this difference when I visited Italy while in college.  Dinner in this culture is a time investment!  I doubt the expression “eat and run” even exists in that language.  Dinner consisted of several courses with long periods of discussion in between the courses.  A dinner (not even a special occasion) could take several hours.  In some of the indigenous villages here in Mexico, the guest is often given a seat of honor, usually separated from the rest of the group.  One of our colleagues talked about being invited to someone’s house for dinner, her family was given a table outside under a nice shade tree.  The Zapotec wife served them dinner and then went in the house.  The family waited for the host’s family to join them, but they never did.  They ended up eating outside alone.  To the Zapotecs, this was a way of honoring their guest.  The culture of eating not only involves place and time of eating, but also the foods they eat.  Food that people consider common in one culture can seem strange and bizarre in another.  In some cultures, however, polite refusal of strange food is not an option.
Enjoying his quesedilla!
I mentioned yesterday that Kieran is our reluctant eater when it comes to trying new things.  He is starting to venture out a little.  Today, he ate cactus fruit at school and admitted to liking it!  He really enjoyed his quesadilla at dinner and before bedtime he told me that his new favorite food was Mexican yogurt!  Actually he said, “Mexican yogurt is the best thing in the world!” 

Elyse, on the other hand, is our adventurous eater!  She rarely turns her nose up at anything.  Every day, during our training, we have been provided with a delicious Mexican lunch consisting of some sort of meat in a sauce with vegetables or black beans and rice.  Of course, fresh tortillas are always included.  While Kieran is eating his jelly sandwich and banana, Elyse is building her own taco! She loves filling the tortilla with a little of everything on her plate, rolling it up and eating it!  Tonight we went to a local taco restaurant called Taco Brown.  A nice couple from the center treated us and it was wonderful.  Riding by on the street, you probably wouldn't even notice it.  It only had 6 tables!  

 However, the lack of space was soon forgotten when they brought out the plate of pork that had been cooked on a spit beside an open fire.  The pork was then cooked with tomatoes, onions, peppers and the most amazing cheese I’ve ever tasted.  It was served with a plate full of small tortillas.  Elyse took a few bites of her cheese quesadilla that we ordered for her, but she soon took over my plate of food.  At the end of the evening, we think she ate somewhere between 6-8 tacos!  

Our lesson in eating cross culturally has just begun, but as long as Mexico keeps making yogurt and tacos, I think we'll do just fine!  

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