If traveling to other countries holds any learning experience, it’s that I’m a FOOD SNOB. Sure I’ve learned deeper lessons than so but for some reason this was a BIG eye opener for me.
I’m friends with quite a few yoga teachers and something that seems very close to many yogi’s hearts is their diet. (I am no exception!) You want to respect your body by only fueling it with the best food possible. I get it, self respect is a HUGE value in the yoga practice. But when does this become rude or offensive to others? If you’re still not catching my drift, here’s an example…
Sally is ordering a sandwich at a deli and this is her conversation with the deli worker.
DW: Hi, can I take your order?
Sally: Yes, I’ll have a gluten-free, whole wheat veggie sub with no crust, honey mustard, light mayo and a side of pickles. Hold the onions and a fat free, low sugar, diet iced tea.
So I used a fictitious characters name for this scenario, but I’m actually just making fun of myself.
If you grew up in a Westernized country regardless if you are a yogi or not, you’re most likely a food snob too. Go to any store and you can buy whatever you want at anytime that you want it. In a city like Orlando, Florida where I live, there’s dozens of restaurant options and cultural tastes always available. I’ve become so spoiled, that I find myself getting bored or sick of certain foods!
But what exactly does this have to do with travel you might be asking?
EVERYTHING. When I was in Puerto Rico, it struck me how spoiled we are in the United States with ordering food exactly the way we want it. I was at a hole in the wall Puerto Rican bakery and cafe with my friend Alex and her boyfriend, Garrett. I ordered a cafe con leche and Alex did the same but…she asked for almond milk. For some reason, I felt so embarrassed but the waiter simply laughed and said that cafe con leche was made with milk and cream, not almond milk.
I still can’t fully explain why I was so embarrassed. If you get coffee any place at home, almond milk isn’t really a crazy request. I guess a disconnect exists between what’s available in some countries and whats not. I’m not saying that you can’t find almond milk in Puerto Rico, but it’s not a common request when ordering a cafe con leche. This is where the cultural food knowledge began to develop through traveling.
(Alex if you’re reading this, I didn’t write this to embarrass you, only to share how you helped open my eyes on cultural differences with food. I can’t wait to explore more places with you soul sister!)
Fast forward two months and I find myself sitting on a beach in Bali overwhelmed by how good my life is in the United States. I NEVER worry about going hungry or where my next meal is coming from. No, I live in a country that averages one and a half pounds of FOOD WASTE per person each day. I live in a country where I can order an extra large meal if I’m really hungry or go to the store and binge on my favorite junk foods.
However, as I sat here in Bali I was surrounded by people who were thin as paper and looked like they hadn’t eaten in ages. Unlike first world countries, there is no government food stamps or assistance if you’re hungry. A man named Maude brought this to my attention in Kuta, Bali. He worked for a resort passing out flyers to entice people to come back to their hotel to win a prize. My fiancé and I politely brushed this man off until he started to plead. He explained that he didn’t get paid for his job unless he could convince tourists to come back to the resort. It had been nearly a MONTH since he last brought someone back and he was hungry.
The issue is not that people are unwilling to work, but the unavailability of lucrative work a phenomena known as, underemployment. To be honest, if you don’t work, you starve or end up on the streets begging. I know this phenomena exists in other places including the United States, but there is no government backing or safety net if your life turns around.
Which brings me back to the way this moment on the beach changed the way I think about food. Grateful, I am for the food in front of me. Grateful, I am for being able to choose what foods I put in my mouth. Grateful, I am to have a variety of foods to choose from. But no longer will I give a waiter a hard time if they come out with a mistake on my order or if the almond milk is in fact cream. No longer will I be upset if this the third time in a week I’m having vegetable mush mash. No longer will I be such a FOOD SNOB.
Is this food for thought or what? (PUN FULLY INTENDED.)
Thanks for reading and look out for a yoga video coming soon to a computer screen near you! Namaste, Kay.