Tuesday, February 13, 2007

American Food Day

Back when I was studying Fon I kept learning a bunch of words that all began with yovo: yovozen (orange), yovokoklo (european breed of chicken), yovotome (land where white people come from). So I asked the kid who was tutoring me if there were any other words that began with yovo.

“Well, there’s yovodudu. It means white people food.”
“What’s white people food?”
“You know, the food that white people eat, that Africans don’t eat. I’ve never had it.”

I reasoned that it couldn’t hurt to spread the glories of yovodudu around the world, so we created American Food Day after having that conversation. Supposedly, it’s part of my job description to share American culture with Beninese nationals, so I figured it was worth the expense (it actually was pretty expensive relative to my living allowance).

The day of, the kids came over, but before things could get started they told me I had a bush rat living in my yard, and they wanted to kill it. “Forget it,” I said, but they insisted. They found it and hit it with a shovel, then discovered that it had some babies in its hole. One student suggested they bury them, another objected, but the argument was put forth that they would starve no matter what action was taken, so they might as well go back in the ground, which is what ultimately happened.

The hamburgers were surprisingly good. I taught one kid to make them, mostly since I didn’t want to cook anymore, but he did a great job. At first all of the students took apart their hamburgers and ate each ingredient one-by-one, but I half-jokingly told them they were required to eat it the American way, which they ultimately did, much to their satisfaction. If it wasn’t the best meal they’d had in several years, they concealed it well.


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