“Tell us about food: what you ate today, your perfect meal, your favorite seasonal foods. You can talk about junk food or healthy food. You can rant and rave and even apologize for over-indulging at dinner last night. You can confess an addiction to sweets or even a nasty drinking habit. Of course, this isn’t about just what we consume and imbibe; it’s about life and conversation and the people we meet around the table. Don’t just tickle our taste buds; invite us into the experience.”
I’ve eaten some pretty janky things in my day. I remember the first day I went to the corner market for our village in Tanzania and I saw what I assumed to be some sort of chunk of cow meat hanging from a rusty nail on a tree in the blazing 3 pm heat. I say I assumed it was meat, because it was mostly covered in flies. Imagine my surprise when my teammates not only purchased this meat, but cooked it, fed it to me and I didn’t get so much as a stomach ache!
There was the time after spending three weeks traveling around villages away from our home base in Kasansa, eating rice and beef jerky, when we arrived in Dar Es Salaam, the capital city—I was sitting in my hotel bed (oh, what glory after sleeping in a tent for weeks) and my team leader strode in and handed me an entire 16” pizza. I swear to you, I’ve never smelled something so beautiful in all my life. I’m pretty sure I cried, but you didn’t hear it from me. I promptly devoured the entire thing in under 20 minutes and enjoyed every minute of it, until the stomach cramps hit me hard a hour or so later because I just stuffed my body full of cheese and bread (two things I hadn’t had in a while.)
The list of really weird/really good things goes on and on (mostly due to my time overseas), but I really stopped caring too much about what I’m eating the past few years. I’ve eaten some pretty gourmet meals in some lovely places, but to me the meal is a supporting character to the headliner of the meal: who you’re eating with.
One of my favorite meal times that I can remember was one where I ate little and the food wasn’t phenomenal, but the company was precious.
It was a quiet day at our house in the village, with most of my kids in school and most of the team off ministering in the neighboring villages. Three of the kids I got to know the most (Albert 10, Janet 7 and Kasian 4) had come up to the house and we’d just had them take turns bathing at the faucet in our front yard. I managed to find some leftovers we had sitting out (it was plain spaghetti), some fresh tomatoes (which the kids loved to eat just like you or I would eat an apple) and I found some koolaid mix that I whipped up in our little plastic cups for the three munchkins. We sat on our little stoop with my dog Pilot, who was surprisingly well behaved considering there was food involved.
The day was lovely, filled with breezes and shade and it was a welcome change after all the blazing Tanzanian heat that we usually had. I had such a feeling in my chest, perhaps the way mothers feel as they look at their little ones and recognize how fleeting these moments together are. I watched them sip their drinks and deftly tear off chunks of the spaghetti just the way they normally would for a hunk of ugali, feeling so unbelievably sappy. I wished with all my heart that I could eat cold spaghetti and drink lukewarm juice for the rest of my life if it meant sitting with these three on that dirty little stoop in the shade.
Oh, my little ones. I miss you so.