The food less traveled

by Frank Bures
The Rotarian — November 2011 

Illustration by Dave Cutler

The best meal I ever ate was at a roadside restaurant in the middle of Nigeria. . . . the waiter brought our food: a ball of pounded yam and a bowl of egusi soup, made with crushed melon seeds and containing a hunk of beef. The waiter asked if I wanted utensils. I looked around. No one else had them.

The old man leaned over. “You know,” he remarked, “they say your food tastes better when you eat it with your hands.”

So I waved the waiter off, broke off a piece of yam, dipped it in the soup, and scooped up a piece of the meat. It all melted together in my mouth, sweet, savory, and delicious. The meat was tender and rich from stewing in a sauce.

Sometimes I still wonder why that meal was so transcendent. I was very hungry, but that can’t have been the whole reason. It must have had something to do with the experience – with the people, the place, the journey itself. Of the 5,000 or so meals I’ve eaten in my life so far, only a few stand out in my mind. Most of those I’ve eaten while traveling.

[Read the rest of this charming essay here:]