If ever you are presented with a dish by your host – whether that be a private person or a commercial restauranteur – and they use this phrase, remember one thing: the natives referred to are old and worn-out at 40. This may be due to the fact that they live in one of the most unhealthy parts of a disease-infested swamp…or it may be due to what they eat on festive occasions. You might be looking at Nature’s Little Population Control on a plate.
Don’t panic. If it smells yummy and you just have this craving for centipede eyeballs in white sauce…well dig in. Your slurps and smacks of delight will make you an honoured guest. Your hosts will think you the epitome of good manners and will search their cookbooks…and under their huts…for more recipes and ingredients to delight you. Bon appetit.
If, on the other hand, you are seized with the overpowering desire to run – and don’t wish to be doing it from both ends in the morning – you must be prepared with a plausible excuse to avoid the dish. Native societies do not respond to the idea of gluten or lactose intolerance. Your protest that it may contain traces of tree nuts will fall on deaf ears – 100% of their foods contain tree nuts, including the animal they cooked to present to you.
Allergies are unknown in the third world. They exist, of course, and sweep away the natives as readily as they might the visitors, but no-one knows why. Often the swelling, choking, and collapse are put down to evil spirits or malnutrition and they shovel more tree nuts in to counteract this.
But there is one thing that they all know – tabu. Whether things have been forbidden them by a prophet or a shaman – or just by long superstition – every population has some form of food law that prohibits something. They might be allowed to roast caterpillars but not hot dogs. They might be quite fond of hot dogs but have been banned from shellfish. The point is someone has said ” No ” from a pulpit or sacred rock and No it is. They understand this.
You must pull a ceremonial scarf, hat, or other non-controversial symbol from your coat pocket, put it on, and tell the host with great seriousness that it is tenet of your faith that the food may not be eaten. Be regretful but firm. They will understand completely, and it will vanish.
Be aware, however, that they may wish to placate your sensibilities by bringing out something worse. You can only trot out a tabu so many times before they begin to suspect.