…because some thoughts are worth remembering
Once in awhile when we were growing up, my brother would mindlessly ask for some salt at the dinner table. If my father was feeling instructive, he would warn my brother that if our mother, as the chef who prepared our food thoughtfully, wanted us to use salt on the food, she would have place the salt shaker on the table. Not seeing any, you shouldn’t need any. If even a kernel of rice was left in our rice bowls, we would be reprimanded that we ate sloppily. Indeed, it required a focused effort to have a clean bowl with Japanese rice being quite sticky, but clean the bowl we did, picking at the surface of the bowl one kernel at a time, to avoid that one word, だらしないdarashinai (loosely translated as slovenly).
Although I’ve heard it eating with other families in Japan, we didn’t hear the guilt trip associated with other countries’ kids not having enough to eat. In Japan, Africa was often named to fill in that blank (and apparently also in Denmark). When I went to Canada and then to the US, the popular destination where the kids did not have enough to eat was more specific, Ethiopia. An American friend was told it was Europe when she was young, then Africa during her teenage years. Both the mothers of my British friend and my Australian friend chose China. My Persian friend should not have been the only one who was told that there were hungry children “in our own country” because there are many children in the U.S. who go hungry every day.
My friend from Lithuania recalls her grandmother mentioning “during World War II…” comparing our affluence to a different time rather than a place. The Great Depression was another era mentioned. This one takes top prize with religious guilt: my Catholic friend whose family came from the Philippines was told by his parents that “The devil eats food thrown away. Please don’t make the devil stronger.”
Countries nor past hard times were mentioned by my parents because I was told that our mother had to spend time preparing the food for us, which she purchased from the grocery market. A truck delivered the produce to the market from the farms, and the farmers worked hard to harvest the vegetables. The weather had to be just right for their seeds to yield fruit: the right amount of sun and rain at just the right times. What are the chances of all these conditions aligning and what of the efforts of people contributing to us being able to have the food on our table? In my own household, there is no clean plate club, as it isn’t so much about finishing everything or wasting food, but rather being respectful of all the care and mindful of all the events that aligned, so that we can be appreciative of the opportunity we have to share the food together.
(My thanks to all my Facebook friends who participated in my quick survey of what they got told at the dinner table.)
Photo: Tapas Plate at Soul de Cuba Cafe, Honolulu, Hawaii where no crispy chick pea or morsel of dip will stay on the plate too long because they are too delicious.