filling the empty nest with food

Beans, Rice, Chicken. Repeat Every Day

Food and eating take on a whole new meaning once you spend time in a poor country, particularly in a country like Haiti which is one of the poorest in the world.  I’ve just returned from a visit there for work.

A daily lunch of rice, beans, and a chicken leg in Haiti tastes delicious when you’re grateful you have food.  What difference can it possibly make that it’s the same meal every day?

The challenge is to keep the gratitude alive after return to the US amid more food choices than a person can count.

Now back home, I feel out of sorts and troubled in my own skin.  It’s not an uncommon reaction.  As a well-off white person, I’ve had poverty and want personalized.  It’s individual people–women, men, mothers, babies, husbands, sisters, aunts and grandmothers–who live and love and die and don’t have enough to eat. For me, the discomfort I now feel comes from the quick transition between the hard, hard life in Haiti and the wealth of the US.  Inexplicable extremes.

I know many people have experienced such troubling thoughts before me, so I’m not writing to impart something new or teach a lesson. I’m wanting to keep the experience and lessons alive in my life.  The realities of hunger, deprivation, and malnutrition are so stark and so unmistakably clear when you’re in their midst and fade quickly in our abundantly overfed first world.

I imagine some of you have traveled to or lived in developing countries. Do you have wisdom to share on this front?


6 comments on “Beans, Rice, Chicken. Repeat Every Day

  1. John kremer
    January 13, 2013

    Wisdom, I don’t know about that, but you are sensitive to stay with the discomfort. Most folks need to brush it off, intellectualize, blame. Be comfortable with the discomfort. Meditate. Fast. Gratitude. “Spring is much harder than Winter on the Rose’s roots.”

    • Catherine
      January 15, 2013

      Thanks, John. We’ll have to talk more.

  2. Mary
    January 16, 2013

    Great comments, Catherine. It reflects my feelings as well. I still have visual flashes of our experience. As you, I hope they do not fully fade but continue to inform how I live my life and use resources responsible – and with gratitude.

    • Catherine
      January 18, 2013

      Well put! It’s ironic that gratitude can be so challenging to hold on to when we in the US have so much.

  3. Caroline
    January 18, 2013

    If you look at the food of a poor country, you can see the creativity that comes out of having only a few ingredients to work with. Take Mexican food, for example. Lots of different dishes, but few main ingredients: beans, cheese, tortillas. Add spices, a little meat, chiles, and you have lots of options! The challenge is coming up with a tasty variety.

    Another thought: In the Native American cosmology of what the Earth gave the Native people for food, it was the “three sisters” of beans, squash and corn. Nutrition-wise, it’s probably all you need. Add in a little culinary creativity (and some spices and the odd item from a garden), and it’s amazing what you can put together.

    • Catherine
      January 18, 2013

      Interesting. So, maybe abundance dulls our culinary creativity? Big Macs might be a case in point. Or did the higher powers give US Americans our own “three sisters”: salt, sugar, frying grease?

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