A confession October 14, 2006Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Uncategorized.
We spent out last night the Nakambale Cultural Museum, which is set up like a traditional wooden homestead, where we camped in tents and traditional huts and ate a traditional meal. I should first mention my first experience of a traditional meal was at the HIV and AIDS centre earlier in the week, where everything from the mealie pap (porridge-like goo) to the spinach was packed with sand. I also sampled fried mopane worms, a local delicacy, which is a small thorned caterpillar resembling something early-evolution and tasted a bit like mackerel; and before you start, I know I’m veggie, but I did think it through, and after eating cockroaches and other weirdness in Thailand, I thought ‘why not!?’. But sadly the fermented maize meal drink lead me to upend the entire meal (and all the sand) about an hour later. I should also mention that Namibians really struggle with the concept of vegetarianism, as chicken and fish are commonly understood to be vegetables. Conversations about such matters go as follows: Me: I’m vegetarian, I don’t eat meat. Namibians: No meat!?! Only vegetables? Me: Yes, no meat, only vegetables. Nams: What about chicken? Me: er,…no. Nams: So no meat and no chicken. What about fish? Me: (I do actually eat fish, but it’s easier to explain that I don’t). No, fish is a meat, nothing that has blood. Nams: OK. No meat, chicken or fish. Beef? It does get a bit tiresome and confusing having to list off all animals that I won’t eat, and understanding that certain animals are not included in meat. Oh my. But back to Nakambale….so we sat along long benches in front of various pots, which were unveiled to show mealie pap, spinach, beans and a few whole chickens, with far less sand in than my previous experience. And here I should announce my confession: after 11 years of vegetarianism, I was brought down to tearing chunks of freshly slaughtered and roasted chicken off its bones and stuffing it with pap and spinach into my anxious mouth. Yes, I denounced my vegetarianism for one evening, and I must admit, I quite enjoyed it (the fact that I said the chicken was rather good prompted other volunteers to comment that it clearly was my first chicken in a while as apparently it was a bit on the tough side). Anneke, a Dutch veggie, also shared this experience with me. And before I get the I-told-you-sos, about-bloody-times and my mother rejoicing that Christmas will be Christmas again without my ‘eating disorder’ (a phrase coined by my brothers), I should emphasise that this is not a permanent change. For starters, it was a one-off. I became vegetarian on a pre-teenage whim, and have since forgotten why I am. I’m still not a fan of eating the flesh and blood of another creature and certainly don’t like the idea of where packaged meat comes from (read Fast Food Nation, and it will likely turn you off it as well). But it’s not so much on a health or moral reason now and is veering towards just not liking it. And from becoming veggie at such a young age, I never learnt how to cook meat, and have gotten so used to ignoring the meat isle in the supermarket or dishes on a menu, that I haven’t ever missed it. But on this occasion, I just thought ‘When in Rome…’, and thought it’d be nice to enrich my culture experience. But I’m a long long way off from sampling the kudu, giraffe, croc, ostrich or beef steaks that everyone keeps telling me is just so good here. But I’ll keep you posted.