The Foreign Flavour on my Taste Buds: Reviewing and breaking off personal feeding jinxes.

There have been many times in my life I was a meal rookie. Not many foreign meals had crossed my path then. Besides the fact that some of the meals I have tasted have been controlled by elements of my culture and my family, I still feel I have some sort of relevant experience from having tasted an innumerable number of meals belonging to cultures other than mine after some years of travelling and adventure.

I remember fondly while I was growing up as a kid with my two elder sisters when we would always hate to eat beans and worse, vegetables in beans. Our Mum would have none of it whenever she prepared the meal and we started grumbling. She was this close to knocking sense back into our heads then. Even though the experience of trying hard to eat beans was not funny, I look back on it now and I laugh at some of the things we did.

Remember the Bible said Jesus came to redeem mankind, right? The same thing was applicable to our helpless situation until a male relative of ours (whom I will call B) came on board. Thankfully, he loved beans and we became friends with him in addition to being related. We would wait to eat at the same time he was eating. We knew our Mum would always lurk around, waiting to see whether we ate our beans or not and then force us to do so in front of her.

B would be eating his meals and we would all sit at the dinner table and press on him to eat our plates of beans one at a time. Some of the time, we would have to scoop some of our beans into his plate and then we would eat the small portion left and then go over to our Mum with some minutes in between each other’s plate presentation. She was always happy and didn’t know the trick we pulled off on her.

“You see? Eating beans is not a bad idea after all. You people will get used to it and it is by eating it more often that you will get better.”

We would smile and agree with her but behind her, we would laugh about our growing pattern of deception. Our “saviour” was producing magical moments and we were proud as well.

They say every dog has its own day and ours came in some way. B knew we were in desperate need of his beans-eating expertise to save us from forced consumption of beans by our Mum; he knew we didn’t like beans as a meal on its own and he took advantage of that. He would ask us to do things for him which we weren’t down with.

“In that case, make sure you all finish your beans at lunchtime by yourselves.” He would say, smiling.

He knew our hubris. He tugged at our Achilles heel each time we came up with some defiance to his commands and we succumbed. We would plead with him to keep helping us through the beans-eating phase and then go ahead to do the things he asked us to do. He was that good at both ends — beans-eating and blackmail!

My own issue with not wanting to eat beans was finally settled when I got into boarding school. The type of beans prepared was even worse than the one I ran away from at home. I had one option if I didn’t eat it as watery and bad-looking as it was — go hungry. I didn’t want to go hungry and then I had to start eating beans. I was reborn from there and when I got home for the holidays, I became the new B. It felt good and since then, I have enjoyed eating beans. As for my sisters, they got over the problem since they schooled around the house and spent their time with our Mum who must have known their tricks and helped them break the dislike for beans.

One thing with disliking certain meals for just the fact that they look gross or do not look edible is that we won’t know how they taste until we eat them. It is very unfair to judge a meal from afar without having an experience and a firsthand one at that to be able to say something about it — taste and all inclusive. Sometimes we are quick to say ‘No, I can’t eat that’ or ‘is that really edible?’

I know I have had rough debuts eating some meals in so many places but I have also had good eating stints in Southern Nigeria with Abacha; Masa and Tuwo shinkafa in Northern Nigeria and in some restaurants in Dubai I ate egg pizza and Emirati majboos etc. Those experiences have shaped my thoughts about some meals while for some other meals I have the feeling that giving them another go could be the key to accepting and eating them.

Photo by Rachel Park on Unsplash

The unbelievable thing which could cause some stir (depending on the side you take) is that for the first time in three decades, I finally tasted pork! Shocking to some and nothing new to some others; yeah, I know — opinions, right? By the way, 2020 has been the year of shocks and surprises and I guess I can include that on my own list now.

I will say the experience of eating pork finally wasn’t as I thought it would be. It was like eating meat from cow or something. It just felt normal in my mouth and the taste was something else — delicious to a fault! In the past, I was always suspicious of any kind of meat that I didn’t recognize being passed around or being served. Proper preparation of such meat was important though not to put anyone off when eating for the first time.

A pig’s meat is called pork. Pigs are usually considered quick-footed, intelligent animals and are also seen as omnivorous scavengers of a wide range of foods. Their meat consists of skeletal muscle, with varying amounts of fat and connective tissues. Their skin (pigskin) is usually used to make leather for luggage and gloves while the bristles are used to produce brushes.

Photo by Daan Stevens on Unsplash

Pork is considered a source of protein, vitamins, minerals, zinc and it has been said to improve muscle function but on the other hand, some sources have said it contains a high level of cholesterol and trichinosis caused by infection with the larvae of a parasitic nematode worm called “the trichina worm,” Trichinella spiralis which could be contracted from eating raw or undercooked pork. Some other sources also mention that eating contaminated pork could cause fever, vomiting, diarrhea etc.

The mention of pork — the meat from pig, hog or swine as it could be known — produces mixed reactions from people. Although it is considered one of (if not) the most-consumed meats worldwide, some persons have reservations about the animal and its meat.

The Muslims and the Jews have various reasons why they do not partake in the eating of pork which follows the tenets of both religions respectively embedded in the Qur’an and the Torah. The Muslims consider such meat “Haram,” which means it is forbidden and so, having anything to do with the animal makes them unclean. The Jews on the other hand practice dietary laws called “Kashrut” based on the instructions passed down to them in Deuteronomy 14:3–21 and Genesis 7:2–3 about the consumption of certain animals like pigs, donkeys, camels and fish without fins or scales or even the consumption of meat that still contains blood or that is mixed with milk. To satisfy the requirements of the Jewish law is to satisfy what is referred to as “Kosher,” “Kashér” or “Kāshēr.”

Photo by Ali Inay on Unsplash

Although our interests in eating flesh differ based on culture, religion, geographical location and personal choices, it is important to make the best decision either to eat or abstain from certain meats or meals and not be coerced into eating by others.

If you need to try eating some meals for the first time, I suggest you do the following:

§ Do some check on the meal so that you know whether it is actually healthy for you to eat it and if it isn’t, you know what to do which is not farfetched — leave it alone.

§ Do you need to eat out? Well, get to the best restaurant with a friend or a group of friends whose experience eating in such a place is way better than yours. It’s best if you are assured of the hygiene and safety of the place and their food in advance.

§ Make sure the decision to eat the meal for the first time is yours so you take responsibility when the experience goes bad. If the decision is down to some pressure from those around you, follow the next step on this list.

§ Ease yourself into the eating of a new meal. There is no need to rush — you could throw up.

§ Mind the liquid you consume along with the meal as you try to use it to ease your digestion. Go with either water or some kinds of wines, not something strong except if the kind of meal works best with such.

§ Find another day and time to go out and eat the meal over and over again till you feel comfortable.

§ Repeat the above many more times and you’re good.

My focus has not been to coerce or even diplomatically pressure you into choosing to eat meals you wouldn’t want to eat because of some cultural or religious laws but I have used my own experience of eating some meals I hadn’t eaten for some personal reasons to show you that if the reasons behind your non-consumption of certain meals is personal, you can still change them. If the issue is that of anxiety, that can still be overcome the same way I did but you have to ease yourself into it or you won’t enjoy it at all. It could take some time too but there is no reason why you cannot succeed in getting yourself to eat new or foreign meals.

Photo by K8 on Unsplash

There is no better way to experience newer delicacies than making your way out of your comfort zone; break off the jinx of not attempting foreign cuisines. You have to travel far and wide to learn about the amazing cuisines that are on offer around the world and then be ready to grow better as you learn about those cuisines. Your body may not accept the meals at the first time of asking but in subsequent times, you are assured of a better taste and experience.

All the best on your future eating adventures!

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Freelance Content Writer. Poet. Story Writer. Teacher. Book Enthusiast. @Ojohnattah on Twitter. John Attah on LinkedIn

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ojonugwa john attah

ojonugwa john attah

Freelance Content Writer. Poet. Story Writer. Teacher. Book Enthusiast. @Ojohnattah on Twitter. John Attah on LinkedIn

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