There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where a Klingon* is attending a banquet on the Enterprise. He points at the caviar, and asks what it is. Data answers: “It is the unhatched eggs of a large, scaled fish…” before Troy cuts him off and says “It’s a delicacy. Delicious.”
My co-worker Natefo and I went to The Corner Hut for breakfast this morning. She highly recommended the stew made from large and small cow intestines. Delicious! (Sure I eat tripe at home — but then it’s not called “intestines.”)
My theory (newly developed, coincidentally) is that food tastes best when we forget to think about what it really is. The trick? We must call everything by its name from a language we do not speak, and never our own. Then, it’s romantic! Have some caviar, dear. Some seswaa (“pounded beef”)? Lovely. And donuts (“fried wheat paste”)!
During our orientation, we had a chance to chat with Precious, a Botswana national, who gave us advice about life in her country, including the food. “Everything over there is organic,” she told us, and it is accidentally true: local vegetables are small, and gnarled, and spotty, because there isn’t a lot of water and pesticides are expensive. The tomatoes aren’t polished, the peppers aren’t waxed, and the potatoes aren’t scrubbed and sprayed, because Botswana consumers haven’t been trained to expect artwork-like perfection in their vegetables — they are sensible; they shrug, and cut off the spots.
And there is no “low fat” anything. In a country where many people live on a few dollars a day, and where HIV causes appetite and weight loss, the supermarkets simply don’t bother to stock things that don’t have lots of calories. The closest I could come to my preferred skim milk is 2% — and that’s labelled “low fat,” as a warning, I suspect, rather than a selling point.
Oh, and: I have to admit that I didn’t go and get an HIV test today. I could say that I didn’t have time: I went to a movie directly after work with Gulnur and another WUSC volunteer, Stephanie — but that’s an excuse. To be honest, I didn’t even ask about HIV testing, even though I know they do it where I work. I’ll admit it: I was too nervous. I didn’t know what they’d think. Even though I was sitting in a waiting room full of HIV positive kids who all went through this, in a place that is seeking to make a safe space for those who are HIV-positive, I still found reasons not to do it. If it was that difficult for me to broach the subject — me, from a low-risk area with a low-risk lifestyle, with no real fear of stigma and no stake in the community here — well. Thus, our challenge.
Still: I’m going to try to try, again, tomorrow.
* Yes, yes, it’s Worf’s brother Kurn. Nerds.