Reading the comments on the blogs, one of my dear and direct friends referred to my eating habits as picky. One thing about Pakistan, food is the spice of life since spice is an integral part of the entire flavor of food in Pakistan. The question is, does food define us or do we define food? The role food plays in life has many facets. It has been said over and over “the way to a man’s heart is though his stomach.” People love to eat for a variety of reasons. Today eating and food has many variables in our discussions regarding how we view eating, eating disorders, healthy eating, eating habits, nutritious, organic food and medical related eating problems. The negative effects are seen in the health effects to over eating. In fact when you mention eating, talk about eating, many people begin to salivate and hear their stomach start to talk to their subconscious until it is consciously tempting you with what you really want to eat. By now some of you might actually be headed to the refrigerator.
Prior to my arrival to Pakistan Mujtaba Khan had told me that people in Pakistan love to eat. I listened to what he had to say and remarked Ok. He then reemphasized, no I mean Pakistani’s love to eat, Ok. After arriving in Pakistan I now really understand what he was trying to instill in me prior to my arrival, that people in Pakistan live to eat. Eating is a communal activity of sharing with each other what they can as a gesture of sincere welcome and friendship. Breaking bread is about fellowshipping and letting others know how special it is to have you visit them in their home. No matter what the income level is of the people that you are visiting it is important for them to ensure that the best of the food that they can provide is provided to you as a manner of respect and gratitude that you are there with them in their house.
When you arrive to a location it is the role of the invitee or the matriarch’s role to ensure that there is a constant supply of food on your plate. The statement of eat, eat is said over and over and when you immediately resist and say no thank has the traditional meaning of a polite response of yes go ahead and put more on my plate. So the host begins to place more food on your plate. In any gathering of people in Pakistan whether for a simple outing like flying model airplanes, having a business meeting, or getting together, you can count on where two or more are gathered there will be food. The communion of eating together and the intimacy of breaking bread together have the effect of eliminating the air of superiority, power, and importance. Each person is a person that has purpose and dignity. The host values your presence and desire that in all manners you are comfortable and well taken care of while you are visiting. On days that I would go from one meeting to another It was hard since I had just been filled by my previous host only to start over at my new host location.
As a concern for the picky westerner visiting in Lahore Pakistan various family members and friends were assigned at lunch time almost each day to taking me to typical western types of eateries. We visited Subway, Carl’s Jr (Hardies), Mac Donald’s, and other restaurants that served more western types of food. Asim was often the person or one of the people that accompanied me to lunch on most days as he had flexibility in the afternoon to take me out to provide me a more traditional U.S. type of meal. Asim is dynamic, an eclectic thinker, passionate about life, and the joys of being young. Asim is balanced with a strong faith, and great work ethic yet he understands how to have fun. Asim has a deep rooted interest in music and is a talented guitarist. During our time together Asim would share with me his passion for food. “I live to eat” he said with such deep conviction, passion and sincerity. “I love Pakistani food soooo much, especially home cooked Pakistani food. I just cannot have enough”. In one conversation he shared that he and his cousin debated if food ranked higher than any other pleasure that would most be on the minds of young men. They had settled on the two most important and believed that food actually had greater the greater value.
Obesity is a problem in the United States due to the quality and types of food that we consume in our lives. Pakistani food is primarily wholesome and healthy in the manner that they cook and serve meals. The meals of Pakistanis are a balanced meal of meats, vegetables, fruits, rice, and breads. Besides the volume of food, and tea with sugar, there is little that is bad for you in the diets of Pakistani’s. For the volume of food the traditional dress has expandable waist bands either with elastic or cord tied.
Happiness can be found in the fellowship of food and there is a value to balanced eating that can help create bonds and opportunities for connecting with one another instead of rushed meetings or electronic relationships. Eat, Eat will be something I will really miss participating in Pakistan, a culture where being together is really valued and appreciated.