Knowing the Whereabouts of your dinner

I don’t remember going to restaurants when I was younger because there were none.  I grew up in a village on the Essequibo Coast of Guyana.  We weren’t a dining out culture but we were a cooking culture.  Cooking was something like a ceremony; it was a day long preparation of breakfast, lunch and dinner.  As a child I had to accept the fact that dinner would always be a familiar bird or animal that I was playing with only a few hours before.

If it was a special occasion, a birthday, a visitor arriving, or just because it was a Saturday, my grandfather would decide on which fat goose he’d like to kill.  I remember following him around the fenced yard on days like those.  I’d stand behind him and wait for him to scavenge the yard with his eyes; my heart always racing at the anticipation of his decision.

“No, no not that one,” I’d say in my mind.

I never cried about it.  I accepted it and would choose which kill to watch.  My grandfather would catch and kill and leave the rest to my aunt.  She was good at plucking the feathers and roasting the bird.  Sometimes I sat with her and watched her shred the remaining feathers; how naked it was in her hands.  When that was all over, I was easily distracted and would forget about the haunting process that I had just witnessed.  By the time dinner was ready, I’d accept it without remorse.

Sometimes I forget how far I’ve come.  I don’t think about those memories when I’m eating out in a restaurant.  The memories just pop up when I’m staring at the blank screen.  I do enjoy the dining out experience.  New York is my new home and I’ve adapted to this new culture.  My childhood experience of food and cooking is wildly different from my present life and where I am now.  Even though I’ve gotten used to not being familiar with my dinner’s recent whereabouts, I still appreciate the contrast of the two experiences.

Rona, Columbia University, School of General Studies

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