I heard that phrase a lot as a child, mostly from older siblings. As I grew up, I learned to like more foods, as most children do. But living here in North Africa, I have come to a deeper understanding of “picky eater.” North Africans are the pickiest eaters I have encountered in my limited international experience.
Why? Well, that’s the question I have been asking myself since I arrived.
In my opinion, most of the answer can be found in the pride the people have for their own cuisine. On my last trip home from Spain, I sat beside two men on the plane–one from North Africa and another from South America. This was the conversation:
South American: Is the food here good?
North African: It is the best in the world!
They hadn’t asked my opinion, so I sat, pondering the unmasked pride of the North African. Granted, the food here is good; I love it. But I also know that there are other flavors out there besides cumin, olive, dried fruit, lemon, and garlic. And how many other cuisines had this particular North African tasted?
In fact, how many ethnic restaurants does my city have? The few scattered here and there have to be sniffed out by a detective. Unless the three fast food restaurants count as American. There is also a pasta place in the mall. Italian, I suppose?
But the other restaurants seem to have exactly the same menu. It’s like the few things they do, they do well…but they remain few. And that’s all the people have ever known. So anything foreign is unwelcome because, of course, it could never measure up anyway!
When I make food for local friends, I select recipes with care. Something North African would not suit because as a foreigner, I wouldn’t prepare it correctly. Therefore, I must try something American but with the prominent North African flavors.
But once, a friend came to visit me unexpectedly. Although hesitant, I offered her some of the stir-fry I had just made. She tasted it and has been talking about that “salad” ever since, hoping to replicate it in her own kitchen.
That gives me hope that with more globalization will come more exposure to various cuisines and hence fewer picky eaters in North Africa!
A few weeks ago, a friend read us the story of the woman and the copper coins (Mark. 12:41-44). As we sat around the room listening to the story, we saw the Teacher and His disciples watching the procession of people drop their dutiful percentages into the offering box.
And in the middle of the clanking coins of the proud and wealthy, we saw a poor widow approach the box and drop in her two small copper coins.
I had always pictured the widow creeping up and hiding her flushed face as she dropped in her offering. But if she was trying to hide, she would have done a better job than to let the disciples see the value and count the number of coins that had dropped in.
Maybe she wasn’t embarrassed at all. Despite the wealth and the substantial giving of the others, she was unashamed to bring her offering to God. And why should she be ashamed? She gave God 100%; she gave “all that she had to live on” (Mark 12:44).
I want to offer my life like she offered her two copper coins.
The scent of grilled sheep wafts through the open windows. Someone is still eating on their Eid sheep. The chunks of meat that were sent home with me went straight to the freezer so I won’t have to look at them for at least another week. I suppose I’m not a very good Eider.
And I’ve had too much coffee. My heart is doing funny little flutters to remind me that if I drink double the usual amount of coffee, I will get double the usual amount of jitters.
It’s one of those strange days when my afternoon plans disappear and I can read a book and take a nap if I want to. Instead, I’m reformatting language study documents to print.
I used to dream of being good at Arabic. Now I’m just hoping to survive language study. There is something about reality that chases away fantasy. I suppose that’s good. But sometimes I wish reality were closer to fantasy. Wouldn’t life be better if we all could be the people of our dreams?
I know God loves to use us as we are. Right now. Even as we are changing to become more like Him. But sometimes I still wonder how much more I would have to offer society if I were the person I would like to be:
I would have a meek and quiet demeanor, be constantly joyful, treat everyone with equal respect, speak at least six languages, be slender and graceful forever, etc.
Maybe I should take a nap… If only the apartment didn’t smell like sheep.
I could write a lot of things about this important holiday, but this post isn’t meant to be informational or theological. It’s is simply a snapshot of what my last couple of days have looked like. Granted, I decided not to display gruesome images of animal slaughter (thus limiting my photo options).
The first couple of pictures are from the days before l-Eid. The city began to fill with the bleating of sheep and shops sold the necessities for the special day. Some shops even closed as their owners traveled. This is the country’s biggest holiday of the year.
Then, I had the chance to experience the celebration firsthand. I guess the first sign that l-Eid was upon us was when the neighbors moved a cow and then a sheep into their courtyard below my window. Soon the sheep’s bleating was only one of many others ricocheting off the concrete walls.
On Sunday evening, I joined my friend and her family for the Monday celebration. My head is spinning with the lifetime I feel like I lived in those two days. To my credit, I tasted a bit of everything that was served. The first meal of liver and heart kebabs with a side of spleen wasn’t too bad. But by evening, I admit that my mind refused to go over matter with the stomach and lungs dish. And what was worse was getting up in the morning to a breakfast of the head and feet. At least, now that I’m on the other side of it, I can look back and smile. I think my sampling of meat dishes until this point has been too tame!
Not long ago, someone told me, “Every story is beautiful.” “Of course!” I probably responded. All stories were beautiful, but some stories were fascinating: dreams and visions, persecution, bold statements of faith, etc. Those were the stories that captivated me. They still do.
But that someone was right by putting all stories on the same level. Because, as he went on to say, “God loves you just as much as He loves anyone else.” Right. Of course, but–
But it’s true. My redemption story is just as miraculous and beautiful even though I haven’t “stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword” (Heb. 11:33-34). In fact, many of the people who are in the Hebrews “Hall of Faith” lived lives of simple obedience rather than lives of excitement.
Those exciting stories are still fascinating. However, my challenge this week is to thank God for the redemption stories of the “normal” people around me.
Whether exciting or not, our stories are miraculous.
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.