Dinner on the Trail

Pemba, Big Dawa, and Pemba’s younger brother Dawa raising their tea mugs at me and mum

This was supposed to be a super short post, no more than a link really, about this awesome photographer I came across, but I am, apparently, not capable of brevity.  I would use his photographs to illustrate this post, but his site has the most hilariously frightening warnings about using his pictures without permission and I’m scared to.  Seriously, you should check out his warnings, I’m very curious about his Saturn/Mars combo now, because it’s hard to scare people and make them laugh at the same time.

So I’m using my OWN photographs, as per usual, and that, of course prompted the usual inner monologue.  But it all started with Peter Menzel’s pictures, which are AMAZING.  He made a book called Hungry Planet; What the World Eats, which features photographs he took of families around the globe in their homes with a weeks worth of groceries.  So you get pictures of entire families gathered in their dining rooms, their kitchens, their living rooms, their front doors, with food to last a week spilling out around them.

The families always look relaxed and often (depending on the culture) amused and even laughing.  Further proof that Menzel’s got a great sense of humor, these people look like they’re at home and you are right there with them.

This is what mum and I ordered at the tea house. We should have ordered what Pemba, Dawa and Dawa ordered, which was the most awesome chow mien I think I’ve ever had, but we didn’t know that and Nepali people never tell you what to do. They only “suggest things,” which doesn’t always make it past the thick brutish opinions of me and my mum. Sigh. Guess I’ll just have to go back.

And I’m sure you could use this book as a very good barometer of economic status, and the differences between us and blah blah blah, but that’s not what it makes me think of.  What it made me think of was that horrible night three years ago when my mum fell trekking in Nepal.  We got her down the hill and settled her in and Brian looked at her and then Pemba insisted I eat something.  He shepherded me into someone’s kitchen and she fed me.  And I’m sitting there in a candle lit kitchen, the beams darkened by years of woodfire smoke, with corn hanging everywhere and I’m eating Dal Bhat cooked on an open flame fireplace.  l’m shuddering and shaking and I can’t finish the meal, but I’m inside someone’s home and everyone is being very kind and they want to give me something.  They want to give me food.

Menzel’s pictures make me think of another awful moment in my life.  They make me think of the day I got the call that my Aunt Hilary had cancer and it was serious.  I was in England, perched on my roommate’s bed and I just started crying.  Marcus noticed and he kneeled down beside me and looked up, mouthing the words, “do you want a cup of tea?”  Oh my God, did I ever.  And he made me one, and let me finish my phone call in peace, but oh wow! That cup of tea.  That cup of tea was the best cup of tea I ever had.

Thanksgiving.  These pictures make me think of Thanksgiving, and the amazing meals my Aunt June used to make, spending hours in the kitchen all so a bunch of loud-mouthed, argumentative, opinionated American Finns could sit down and finally be quieted by all that gorgeous carby bounty.  I told June how much that meant to me once. I told her it made me feel loved.  You know what she said to me?  She said, “Honey, you are loved.”

Milk tea at sunrise in Dhulikhel. The milk was from a local cow.

Maybe it’s my Libra Moon in the 9th getting transited by the Sun this weekend that’s making me wax nostalgic for shared meals around the world (TEA IS TOTALLY A MEAL, YOU GUYS!) but, yeah, I love these pictures, they’re something special.  You should check them out over at realitypod, and you should buy his book on Amazon.

And you definitely should and probably HAVE TO share a meal with someone today.  If and when you do, be grateful for the fact that we all have to eat and it holds us together.  Forced intimacy is totally underrated, in my opinion.