It’s cruel, unfair and sheer torture. What is? The calling, texting, tweeting, Facebook-ing and instant messaging that many of us are involved in as we tease and taunt our family and friends living overseas with the food of home. We are constantly showing off what we are cooking, making and eating.
Don’t think for one moment that it is only the people living very far away that suffer the most, those of us living right here in the region are subjected to the same degree of teasing. What makes it even worse for many of us in the region is that we are so close and yet so far. Sure it is only a 1 or 2-hour plane ride away but due to the high cost of intra-regional travel, jumping on a plane for a weekend to get a home-food-fix is often out of the question.
The food teasing and taunts come in waves and different dimensions. Weekends, holidays and festivals are the worst. During the week we are so busy with work and school that we don’t stop long enough to miss certain things but on the weekends, like when Friday afternoon hits, the yearning begins.
The tormenting starts most innocently in the midst of enquiring of one’s welfare. “So what are you cooking today?” We respond and then the person at the other end of the conversation moves in for the kill, swift and decisive “…well I am making…” (Fill in the blank). Often it is something we cannot or easily access in our current location. We groan and the conversation gets shifted to memories – recalling how long it has been since you have eaten X, Y or Z, who cooks it best, preference for preparation and the nostalgia associated with that food or drink. It is one of the many ways we stay connected to home through food.
A recently befriended Guyanese woman relayed the following to me last week. Let’s call her Eileen.
Phone rings. It is her daughter-in-law in Berbice on the line.
Daughter-in-law: Ma, today ah cooking yuh favourite – hassar curry with coconut milk and saijan.
Eileen: “Carry your (bleep!)” And puts down the phone in her daughter-n-law’s ear. The phone rings a couple of minutes later and they launch into a conversation about food.
My sister Patricia does that sort of thing to me often. Always instant messaging about what she got fresh at the market and going home to cook. She will message be on the way home about the goodies she bought, again when the pot(s) are actually on the stove. Not satisfied, she will let me know when she is about to sit down to eat and to complete the reporting, she will tell me when she is finished how well the food went down. How could you love someone and be that cruel? It is not right I tell you! Sometimes I just ignore her messages or send an emoticon that indicates me crying, being sad or a terse “Whatever!”
Let me not pretend to be innocent in this whole food-teasing phenomenon. I too have been known to text, call, tweet, Facebook and instant message not only with text and words but with photographs too! I generally target people outside of the region. Roast breadfruit and pigtails anyone? How about some Smoked Herring Choka or some Fried Salt Fish? Want a ham cutter and a bottle of ice-cold Red Ju-C or Icee Red? Feeling up to some lemongrass tea? Black Pudding with Sour? Souse or Cornmeal Cou-cou? What? I said I was not innocent.
With the prevalence of markets, grocers and other places to get certain “home” ingredients, it is not the same but it does fill the void until we can get home to eat. It is often a case of frozen versus fresh and weekly versus daily availability. Added to that, there are certain things that only make sense to be made in large quantities; 1 or 2 is not feasible or even possible. Bakes, roti(s), Cook-up Rice and Macaroni Pie are among the foods that only make sense if you are cooking for at least 4 people.
Thanks to the Internet and the prolific use of social media, the teasing, taunting and torturing with food is widespread and we ravenously absorb it all. Like I said before, it is one of the many ways in which we stay connected to home. Through this type of sharing we tag friends and families, swap recipes, share memories, and become inspired to cook. We also choose favourites.
While torture in the true sense of the word is frowned upon; even though we may curse you, tell you how much we hate you, call you names or put down the phone on you or ignore your taunts and tweets (all done with love of course), don’t stop. It is the kind of pain we enjoy. Bring it on!