Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dinner of Champions

After four days in Congo I am… HUNGRY!  I tend to be a pretty adventurous eater, but even I have my limits.  For the past several days my meals have consisted of “vegetables.”  Vegetables are boiled cassava leaves.  I’m not sure that we really use cassava much in the U.S., but it is a starchy vegetable, similar to a potato, sometimes called manioc or yucca.   Point being you normally eat the potato looking vegetable, but in really poor countries, like Congo, you have to take advantage of the whole plant.  So, every time I go to eat I am given boiled cassava leaves.  Guess what they taste like.  Yes! Leaves! Or grass!  I have been able to choke down some of it purely out of guilt, but it is disgusting. I can’t take it anymore.

The other thing I’ve been served AT EVERY MEAL is boiled bananas.  This I don’t understand.  Bananas are so good plain.  Why ruin them by boiling them?  In case you were wondering, I highly advise AGAINST boiling your bananas.  It makes them completely tasteless, so, like the cassava leaves, also not enjoyable.

To round out your meal you get a serving of goat meat.  Now, I’ve had goat meat prior to visiting Congo.  And I liked it prior to visiting Congo.  Now I hate it.  See, we don’t realize how spoiled we are in western countries.  We go to the grocery store and can get boneless chicken breasts.  If you are on a diet and only want white meat, you can get your poultry without dark meat.  Since all the meat is cleaned ahead of time and the various parts of the animal are separated according to what people like to purchase, you could go your entire life without ever eating, or seeing, the heart or what we consider to be the other “throw-away” parts.  Here nothing is thrown away.  And when you are being served they just give you whatever part of the goat rises to the top of the stew when they dip the ladle in.  Thus, the goat meat typically has fat, some, SOME, emphasis on SOME meat which we would consider edible, skin, and then connective tissue.  I am convinced I have been served arteries and part of a heart at least once.  Oh, and bones, lots of bones.

Thank goodness I didn’t do a year of Fulbright in Congo.  I would have struggled.  I’m already struggling after four days.  I told my tour guide I couldn’t take it anymore and I wasn’t interested in eating the rest of my trip.  I brought some snacks with me and insisted I would eat those for the remainder of my time in Congo.  Glad I did some pre-planning.  Tonight I will be dining on some banana chips, beef jerky and dried mango.  I can’t wait:

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