“Mom, there’s no soy milk in the fridge.” Donny informs me as his head is buried inside the fridge and his backside pokes out from behind the door. “Oh, baby carrots! I haven’t had these in so long (two months), and the best pear/apples! Baklava…cheese…mmm can I make some eggs? I love those.”
I don’t think Donny was home for more than ten minutes before he was into the refrigerator or asking what was for dinner, then requesting to accompany me to the grocery store. This is the first time he’s been home since leaving in August for college. His mind is hyper aware of how he’s expanding his self view, world view and family view. He’s a little like having a hot potato to pass around the family.
It’s the feeling we have about what we eat at home that intrigues me. We become attached to certain foods and they become the definition for home. I think about a few weeks ago when I had eight Ugandan boys visiting for the weekend. They’ve only been in America for a few weeks and they’ve been instructed to eat everything that is offered to them. I could tell they were obedient to these rules, but I also watched their faces as they tasted foods to determine what they really enjoyed. Being a mom who has boys, I understand when a plate is devoured they loved it, and when it’s lingered over it’s a chore to eat. I served them strawberries one morning. It hadn’t occurred to me they don’t grow strawberries in Uganda. It’s a regular food here that we don’t think much about, so I figured they’d love them just as everyone here does.
I watched as they bit into it and their faces puckered as if it were a lemon. Eye contact was shared around the table as they endured the few on their plates. When I served them grapes they were eager for second and third helpings. The leader explained they are still getting accustomed to American foods. I thought of what we ate when we were in Uganda: matoke which is a mashed banana that really does taste starchy like potato, passion fruit, papaya, mango, plantains, stews, rice, chipotee (a flat bread), goat, beef, chicken and fish. When my boys get served these foods while we are in Uganda I hope they behave as well as the Ugandan boys did when they received our usual fare. Those hard as rock strawberries that have been engineered to never spoil, be perfect sized, flavorless, dry, tart and without fragrance really should be left at the store to rot. Those boys from Uganda have palates for freshness. I respect that as much as their good manners. We’ve become so practiced at eating these packaged fruits that we’ve forgotten what a strawberry tastes like just picked from the pretty garden plant. That’s why I grow strawberries in my veggie patch, I don’t want my boys to forget what real food tastess like. I also don’t want them to think that American food is the only right food either. I hope they will have open minds to understand the people in Uganda love the food they can grow there and it is as much a meaning of home to them as pancakes and syrup are for us in America.