#169 Food Issues
Edited from a submission from Greg Vaughan who also blogs at Agrarian Ideas
One of the most important things to understand about Expat Aid Workers is just how special they are.
EAWs are deep, empathetic people whose entire purpose and identity comes from their extreme capacity for comprehending the interconnectedness of all things on this small planet. And in few areas of EAW existence is their boundless sensitivity manifest as clearly as in their relationships with their food. Some make great shows of being one with the people via their food – they eat anything and everything. But more and more, the mark of a truly sensitive, well-bred, citizen of Planet Earth EAW is their conspicuous food issues.
Now, of course, not all food issues are created equal. Out of bare cultural sensitivity, any EAW worthy of the designation would never dream of simply “not liking”, say, fried snake skin or curdled cow’s blood (mixed with urine as a natural preservative). Far better to be allergic. “I’m just allergic to all kinds of urine…” is certain to get the EAW off the hook from having to drink something she/he almost vomits at the thought of, but in a manner which does not dent relationships with the local counterparts/staff/hosts with whom she/he is so very close.
It is important to understand that no matter the context, EAW food issues are of no importance whatsoever, while simultaneously trumping all. Being deathly allergic to the only vegetable consistently available in the program area should never cross the EAW’s mind as a reason to consider, maybe, not taking the 3-month long trip during which she/he will be hosted almost exclusively by local families. The importance of being out in the field, being one with the people obviously trumps any other consideration. Of course local people will be happy to accommodate such a trivial inconvenience.
By the same token, the burden placed on the team house cook by the one EAW who is ‘intolerant’ of the primary and overwhelmingly prevalent staple in-country is clearly inconsequential in the broader context of the inestimable programmatic value added by that particular EAW’s presence.
It doesn’t matter so much that the immoral, industrial farming practices the EAW became a vegan to avoid don’t at all apply to the free range sacred cows which supply project beneficiaries’ daily dab of ghee. What does matter is that the EAW remain true to principles that matter, no matter where she or he might be.
EAWs need to stand out. And sometimes being the only foreign face for three hundred miles just ain’t enough.