FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

In Your Country You Eat What You Like; In My Country We Like What We Eat

“In Your Country You Eat What You Like; In My Country We Like What We Eat”

Uttered in a matter of fact manner, Sam’s poignant words touched a chord so profound – it seared its way into my cranial limbic system, and embedded the words in those variegated layers of the brain into which experiences and learning are compressed and deposited.

“In your country you eat what you like.”

Much like a Google search engine, the recalling of past experiences is prompted at magical lightning speed during which the synapses trigger a series of electric waves to zero in on a particular past experience. The instantaneous filtering and staging of the past helps the individual relive the retrieved experience from the long-mid-and-short-range brain’s hard drive.

“In my country we like what we eat.”

While watching CBS’s Sunday Morning show on November 20, 2016, Sam’s words echoed repeatedly and loudly. And for a while I relived a 1965 mid-November experience.

Each Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter celebration, feasts with which a plethora of foods are associated, I am reminded of the following quotation: “In your country you eat what you like. In my country we like what we eat.”

In mid-November 1965 Arkadelphia’s First Baptist Church’s WMU (Women’s Mission Union) president called the dean of the local university and requested the names and contact information of two freshman foreign students the elderly ladies wished  to invite for a pre-Thanksgiving evening of fellowship and a question/answer session. The invitees were to talk about traditional native customs, education, family life, and Baptist missionary work in their respective countries.

Sam Afolabi, a Nigerian national, and I, a stateless Palestinian from West Jerusalem, Palestine, headed to Miss Francis Crawford’s lovely home on Riverside Drive, just a block away from campus. Some 15 ladies crowded into one of Arkadelphia’s oldest and loveliest homes. Because of the warmth with which Sam and I were received, and because of their gracious and genteel demeanor, Miss Crawford, Miss Martha Green, and Miss Maude Wright and I connected in what would become a meaningful friendship that lasted until their passing away several years later. In their early seventies, each of these ladies was unmarried, had professional affiliations with the university, was well-travelled (at home and abroad), loved art, music, good books, and good conversation, and each was an active member/officer and generous supporter of the Clark County Library Association which held its monthly meetings in a red, brick, Greek Revival style structure which welcomed its avid readers into its high-ceilinged interior richly bedecked in dated oak furnishings, shelves, card files, and newspaper/magazine racks.

Built in 1906, the library’s four Ionic style columns on which the portico (whose raking cornice and pediment are amply decorated with dentils)   is suspended reminds its patrons (of all ages) that they are walking into an intellectual hallowed ground where learning trumps ignorance, a world where books are a woman’s, man’s and child’s best friend, and a world in which Sweetness and Light are served in abundance for those who seek it..

The father of three children, 35 year old Sam Afolabi shared the following confidential information: “When I first came to the United States three-and-a-half months ago, I weighed 98 pounds. Today I weigh 125 pounds,” Sam stated, in a very matter of fact fashion.

The proud father of three talked about his family, especially the wife and children he’d left behind to pursue a college education, about his village, about Nigerian customs and traditions, and explained to the-by-now-all-ears gathering that the markings on his face professed his tribal affiliation, a custom that was still in vogue when he was still a child.

And, when one of the attendees inquired about traditional Nigerian cuisine, Sam delivered a brief yet sumptuous oration on boiled, fried, and baked yams, rice and bread dishes, cassava, grain and vegetable stews and soups, plantain porridge, and a miscellany of dishes, most of which did not include animal proteins. And then the powerful statement was delivered, not in an accusatory sorry-me manner, but in a rather nonchalant and collected demeanor:  “In your country you eat want what you like. In my country we like what we eat.”

The entire November 20, 2016 CBS Sunday Morning Show was devoted to a smorgasbord of video reports including segments on  wild turkeys at the Allegheny National Forest; Mother Noella, the “Cheese Nun” who’s used her microbiology Ph.D. scientific-enzymes-knowledge to blend spirituality with cheese making at the Bethlehem, Connecticut  Benedictine convent of Regina Laudis; segments on rethinking and redeeming the nutritional value of butter, eggs, and potatoes/spuds (”potatopia”) – thus absolving the fatty delectable rations of the sin of artery disease; turmeric’s value in fighting disease; New York’s Delmonico’s and the 10 restaurants “that changed America;”  Nashville, Tennessee’s Hot Chicken restaurant where fried chicken is doused with cayenne so hot it makes the customers gasp, tear up and choke; San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art’s “Bite at the Museum” restaurant; Chesapeake Bay’s multi-layered cakes, a “Maryland traditional dessert;” Houston’s Lucille’s, the Southern Chef’s Legacy restaurant; a Copenhagen restaurant whose chef, Rene Redzepi, has made Danish wild herbs, moss, and other esoteric vegetative plucking from the hinterland a world class restaurant for gourmet aficionados with deep pockets (the average meal is served at a measly $400 per plate); a report on “The Jemima Code,” drawing on commercial stereotypes and recipes of African-American contributions to American cuisine.  And finally, a report on “The Giving Kitchen: Nourishing the soul, feeding the body,” at Atlanta’s Staplehouse Restaurant.

And for a whole hour the program’s coast-to-coast anecdotal narratives absolved the viewers of the deadly sin of gluttony, sin #2 in the hierarchy of those nasty sins that have plagued humanity since Adam and Eve succumbed to biting into the forbidden fruit thus damning humanity into perpetual turmoil.

And like a resounding leitmotif, “In your country you eat what you like. In my country we like what we eat” played itself repeatedly during and after each culinary segment.

While the world was watching from the sidelines, in November of 1965 The United States, under the pretense of keeping the Vietnam domino from falling to Communism, was reigning terror on millions of helpless Vietnamese. Napalm and cluster bombs rained on innocent civilians, and the defoliant Agent Orange laid waste to and rendered millions of acres into inhabitable terrains.

Having emerged from the clutches of colonialism, in 1965 Nigeria’s new found freedom floundered as regional, tribal, religious, and ethnic strife and political corruption plagued the country. And in Palestine the Israelis were surreptitiously building nuclear weapons and planning their next expansionist step; from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, a vision the Zionists connived in the late 19th century was on the drawing board.

Fast forward to November 2016: Never mind that 4.5 million Vietnamese and Cambodians were massacred and millions of others are living with debilitating birth defects, today the United States is mending its frayed Vietnam relations by coaxing its former arch enemy into lining up with its Pacific Tilt (economic/military) policy. On his recent visit to Vietnam, Merchant of Death Barak Obama has bribed Vietnam with arms purchases. Instead of Vietnam and Cambodia, the United States’ hegemonic charade, now shifting to the oil-rich Near East, and with the help of petty regional thuggish bullies such as Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar, has laid waste to Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Mali, Eretria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Somalia, Lebanon, Syria and Ethiopia, to name but a few. And instead of Napalm and cluster bombs, today’s equally destructive weapons of choice are the pernicious drones, guided missiles, and uranium-laced weaponry.

In 2016 oil-rich Nigeria is run by corrupt politicians paid off by oil interests laying waste to the environment, and religious fanaticism and tribal conflicts are the stake being driven into the heart of a country whose only value to the West are its rich mineral resources.

And in 2016 a compliant Congress and successive U.S. Administrations  have delivered Palestine and her people (much like John the Baptist’s sacrificial beheading)  to a group of racist, xenophobic, Fascist, religious fanatics bent on purging Palestine of her indigenous population. Begun by Britain and France after WWI, the hegemonic destruction of the Near East is now carried out by the United States, leading its European allies into the abyss of apocalyptic chaos and destruction.

While Americans celebrate Thanksgiving this November 2016, eating what they like, in Gaza/Nablus/Jerusalem/Palestine, Aleppo/Raqqa/Syria, Aden/Yemen, Mosul/Iraq, Libya, and all the European holding camps (dubbed “The Jungle” by France) into which refugees have been penned, this 2016 Thanksgiving Day is a day on which they have no choice but to like what they eat. That is, if they are even lucky to have anything to eat.

And for the hundreds of thousands in the bombed out hamlets of the Near East the looming hunger and starvation are morphing into an Albrecht Durer Horseman of the Apocalypse woodcut.

Ace Collins, a dear friend, recently observed the following: “At Thanksgiving we do a pretty good job of remembering the thanks part, but not the giving part.”

And today Americans will eat what they like. What America can do for the strife-stricken regions of the world is to stop exploiting and abusing them, to stop arming them, and to give them peace and harmony. Only then will they be able to like what they eat – just as we do.

More articles by:

Raouf J. Halaby is a Professor Emeritus of English and Art. He is a writer, photographer, sculptor, an avid gardener, and a peace activist. halabys7181@outlook.com

January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
Paul Cochrane
Europe’s Strategic Humanitarian Aid: Yemen vs. Syria
Tom Clifford
China: An Ancient Country, Getting Older
Greg Grandin
How Not to Build a “Great, Great Wall”
Ted Rall
Our Pointless, Very American Culture of Shame
John G. Russell
Just Another Brick in the Wall of Lies
Patrick Walker
Referendum 2020: A Green New Deal vs. Racist, Classist Climate Genocide
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Uniting for a Green New Deal
Matt Johnson
The Wall Already Exists — In Our Hearts and Minds
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Flailing will get More Desperate and More Dangerous
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Three
January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail