Diet Kumasi The USA

Squid Twinkies

20130416SquidTwinkyNews of the Boston Marathon blasts reached me after dinner Ghana time and the story hit me in the gut, making me queasy and unsettled. The bombs were placed at the finish line and timed to detonate as a majority of televised runners celebrated the finish of the race. It was hard to digest, making as much sense as someone walking into an elementary school with an automatic weapon.

Up until then, it had been a good day all the way around. Amy and I hired our neighbor Owusu to take us shopping for food and drinking water, getting a good start to the week. We triumphed in our hunt for the bakery my friend Lena told me about, carrying our prized package of freshly baked flat bread reverently back to the cab. We scored a dozen pieces of tofu at the Chinese grocery, fueling promises of KFT (Kentucky friend tofu) and scrambled ‘eggs’. We found perfect avocados, beautiful green peppers and coconut milk for under 3 cedis a can ($1.50.)

At the Chinese store, Amy and I happily greeted our friends with hearty “Ni hao’s!” The older lady’s sister had just arrived from China and effusively pressed a piece of candy into each of our hands and then a bright red package with some kind of confection in it. Swept up in the moment and wanting to show my appreciation, I ate my treat with a big smile while our Ghanaian friends filled our plastic container with tofu.

It was a slightly sweet and fluffy cake the consistency of a Twinkie filled with some kind of stringy/chewy stuff. I suspected I might be eating dried squid but I was a good sport and ate it anyhow. Bob and I ate a lot of dried squid during our time in China fifteen years ago. I remember taking a big package of the white, twisted strands, essentially squid jerky on our long train ride to Mount Tiashan and it proved to be a satisfying salty and chewy protein snack.

Several hours after we returned home, my stomach started hurting. I was embarrassingly gassy and had to go to the pot before dinner. I thought it was the mouthful of week-old black beans I ate for breakfast but then I got to thinking about that Chinese snack. “I wonder what was in that thing I ate?” I mused as I dried dishes. Amy, stirring a pot of lentils asked what did it taste like and I said it tasted like a Squid Twinkie.

At dinner, which we ate by torch light after a big rain storm blew in and the power went out, Amy passed her unopened treat to Justin and asked him if he could read the package. “Definitely meat” he said, pointing to the first character. He opened it and pulled off a small piece, putting it in his mouth. Yup, it was stringy alright. After some more inspection and chewing, he pronounced it to be pork. Now the pain in my stomach made more sense. “It’s all those enzymes waking up,” Amy observed, familiar with the feeling as she suffers from an inability to digest beans.

I didn’t feel like I would throw up and my discomfort did not stop me from dishing up a healthy portion of bulgur and lentils. My intestines seemed to have the situation in order and with another trip to the bathroom, I was able to sleep through the night. My stomach is pretty hardy and I’m nearly back to normal this morning, wishing I’d taken a picture of Justin pulling this thing apart in the light of our flashlights. This is the first time meat has passed my lips since that time Tami brought pea soup to potluck a few years ago. I recognized the chewy texture, followed by the realization that I was eating pork and I remember having a pain in my stomach after dinner that night, too.

The horror of yesterday’s violence lingers as well. After the brutal Newtown school shootings, I asked my cousin Frank in an email if he remembered these kinds of things happening when he was growing up. He answered:

Cookie, no I don’t remember mass killings when we were kids, not exactly sure when it all started. It is a result, I think of who we are and what we have become, too many people on the planet. It appears to be some form of cannibalism I suspect. As a species I know we can be brilliant and civilized but, after all we’re just a bunch of fucking animals. I was told that the same day of the Sandy Hook killings that there was a similar killing in China only there it was done with a knife. I can’t remember a more tragic and sad day.

One minute there is joy and triumph and the next, you are wondering what hit you. Sending my thoughts reeling. Were humans always this way or is this a new thing brought on by over population? Are we inherently violent as a species and if so, why isn’t the massive presence of organized religion having a positive impact? Is this a cultural thing, given the American appetite for war and torture, a terrorist act, or just some whacked-out mental patient seeking their moment of glory? Do the kind of people who hatch these plots even realize the difference between media violence and real blood, real severed limbs, real death? Is it a form of cannibalism?

One minute you think you are eating a sweet treat and the next you realize you’ve just eaten a dead pig. Such is the indigestible nature of life’s ponderables.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.