As a foodie, I had to write a post that revolves around food! As a professional nomad, well, it goes without thinking that I will take you on a trip around the world!
Eating is part of life, literally and figuratively.
In this first part of the Food Around the World series, I take you to West Africa: a region where one cannot eat without sharing his food with the neighbor, and one cannot have a celebration without food. Offering someone is an act of welcoming, so as you can imagine, refusing food is a rather offensive act. With that same mindset, while visiting relatives, the best meals would be set on the table, in abundance.
Eat dear child, for the love of… food!
During one of my visits, on one hot summer (rainy season) day, I recall visiting my aunt back home – in West Africa. I had gone with my siblings, but my parents had remained in South Africa. There was a large selection of food on the table, so much so that I didn’t even know where to begin! I snack a lot but I have a rather small appetite. In order to avoid wasting food, I helped myself to a decent portion of food, enough for me to indulge, but still finish my plate – at least I thought so. As I got ready to start eating, my aunt yelled “Are you on a diet? Is this all you are going to eat? You can’t go back to your parents looking skinnier than when you got here!” and before I could put in a word, she had already grabbed a serving spoon and tripled the portion of food on my plate!
Now here I was, staring at my plate, wondering how long I would have to sit there in order to finish it…
Attieke from Ivory Coast | source: socialcookboxx.com
Grilled chicken and meat skewers | source: tyitelle.wordpress.com
“Poor you, you thin girl!”
This is a small episode showcasing the presence of food in the African culture: abundant, tasty and very present in society. It’s also a very communal activity: traditionally, in a lot of African villages, there would be one large plate in which everyone would eat. It was usually a plate for kids, a plate for women and another for men.
Ethiopian meal to be shared | Source: St Yared Ethiopian Restaurant, IN
Given the great importance of food in the African culture, it is often perceived that people with larger body sizes have a better lifestyle. Why is that? Given that food is not readily and abundantly available to everyone, the ability of gaining weight is attributed to having the financial means to indulge.
Furthermore, most people are usually very active physically, in the fields or other activities, and don’t have a car to get around; on the other hand, people with more financial means can usually afford a car or another means of transportation, ultimately reducing their physical activity and consequently – down the lane – lead to weight gain.
Sharing is caring, let’s all eat together
The food culture in Africa is thus essentially centered on sharing meals, eating a lot, and encouraging people to eat a lot.
Family sharing a meal | source: flickr.com
Check out the next article in this series as we move on to the Europe, to explore the similarities and differences of gastronomy as part of the culture.
What are your thoughts on the place of food in your part of the world?
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