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Culture —– Dinner in Latin America Part II

by Brandi

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January 21st, 2011

After last week, you should have a fairly good idea about the importance of food in Latin America. With that in mind, I would like to share an experience that happened to me. I was living in a city called Vista Alegre and almost every evening I would eat with the Silva family. I became good friends with the Silvas and Mrs. Silva became something like a second mother to me.

One night Mrs. Silva made us pig’s feet for dinner. As always, she beamed a smile from ear to ear as she presented the food to us. This time, she left our food and went into a separate room while we ate with her children. This was the first time I had ever in my life eaten pig’s feet and they looked a little bit like mushy gelatin. I put a fork full in my mouth and tried to swallow but could not. The texture was a little bit too slimy and I gagged as I tried to swallow it down. I felt horrible because I had been able to eat all of the different foods up to that point. I then took a bite of bread, took another bite of the pigs feet and tried to chase it down with a ton of water. Again I just gagged. I tried a couple of different techniques to swallow the pig’s feet but without much success; I then began to worry. I physically could not eat the pig’s feet, but at the same time, I could not offend dear Mrs. Silva.

I sat in this dilemma for quite some time until I devised what seemed to be an perfectly ingenious plan. I put the pigs feet inside of my rolls, rolled them up in a napkin and then planned to take them back to my apartment to secretly dispose of them for good. I made the children think I was going to take them back to my apartment to eat later as a midnight snack. Everything seemed to be going well and I had the packages securely tucked away into a bag. Then Mrs. Silva returned and one of the children instantly, and in a tattle-tale sort of voice said, “Mom, he put the pigs feet in a napkin and is going to throw them away outside!”

I was truly devastated. Mrs. Silva was instantly hurt and offended that I was going to do this with her food. I tried to explain that I was going to take them back to my apartment, but the more I explained, the worse I made it. Finally, I left after saying “sorry” (“lo siento”) about twenty times and Mrs. Silva looking like she may burst into tears at any moment.

The worst part was that I had to go to her home every morning and evening for the next two months to have breakfast and dinner there. It took me about two months of apologizing to finally get on her good side once again.

As you can see, food and mealtime in Latin America is a very important part of life. If someone invites you to dinner at their home in Latin America, here is what I might suggest; if you have a strong stomach, go for it, you will enjoy the experience and be culturally enriched. If you do not have a strong stomach, tell them that you would love to but won’t be able to make it.

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