Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lessons from travel and food

A child that has never been in a strange town thinks her mother cooks best. (Togo)

Dear Zayda,

Many of us travel to all kinds of strange towns and still think our mothers are the best cooks. However, travel will also help us to see that other people have a right to feel that their mother's cooking is also best.

Jamaican food is spicy, so Jamaicans have a hard time adjusting to bland British food. Jamaicans will wonder how the British can expect to eat meat seasoned with just a dash of salt and pepper. For Jamaicans, meat has no taste without a generous amount of onion, garlic, hot pepper, and thyme. Curried goat is a favorite Jamaican dish, but people in some cultures would as soon eat goat as horse.

To Jamaicans who love spicy foods, Ghanaian food can seem too hot, too heavy, too peppery, too great a mix of tastes. Where in Jamaica people will cook fish and meat in separate dishes, Ghanaians will have beef, pork, chicken, fresh fish, smoked fish, and snails in the same stew. So a host might honestly answer, “I don’t know” when a guest asks what is on a forkful of meat.

Some who travel want to continue eating the food they always have at home. So tourists from the USA may prefer eating pizza, burgers, and chips while they are in Jamaica. British tourists might want to see roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on the menu in Spain.

However, others use travel as the chance to try the unusual and experience what is unique in the culture of the country they are visiting. One of the best ways to get to know people is to try the foods that tell them their mothers are the best cooks.

The Chinese swear by bird’s nest soup. Cooks use nests that are made from bird saliva and harvested in caves. This soup is in high demand in China, despite the cost – up to US$100 for a bowl.

Some tourists will go to Cambodia especially to try the fried tarantulas. This dish costs just a few cents, and this delicacy tastes like crickets might taste. The spiders are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

People in Korea eat live octopus. The tentacles are still moving on the plate when the dish is served. The live octopus will stick to the chopsticks, so dining can literally be a fight.

When we travel, we learn there is not always one way that is best. We can learn to be open-minded about the ways of other people, even while holding to what is best for us.

We may also discover what it was that made our mother’s food the best. Mother’s soup might have been a little to watery, her porridge a bit lumpy, and her turkey dry at best. However, the difference between mother’s cooking and cooking in a gourmet restaurant is the ingredient that no one else can match.

Mother does her magic by ensuring that we taste the love that comes down to her from her grandmothers, and that she wants us to pass on to our grandchildren. Love is the ingredient that makes mother’s cooking always the best - for each of us.


Your shangazi Nothango (Yvonne)


Kristi Bernard said...

This is a really great post. Thanks so much for sharing. I am curious how the tarantulas taste. ;0)

Yvonne McCalla Sobers said...

Kristi, thanks so much for visiting my blog and commenting on this post.

When you find out how tarantulas taste, please let me know!

All the best,


Chaeles Bagli said...

mann i love bird's nest soup too even IF its made from spit!!! <333

i eat it like once every monthish and used to bought from website sometimes, my mom went back to hong kong and bought a full suitcase of it cause its cheaper there XD

Yvonne McCalla Sobers said...

Hi Chaeles,

Thanks for this endorsement of bird's nest soup. I also much appreciate the website as your comment makes me want to find out what I have been missing.




When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at