This weekend, I tagged along with my roommate to Boston’s annual Vegetarian Food Festival. She’s a vegetarian and I am not. But I was lured in by the promise of hundreds of free samples of exotic health-foods: granola bars cut up into little squares, crumbs of 85% dark chocolate, sprouts, quinoa, some magical ‘unsaturated’ tree oil from Venezuela, hummus samplers, and some not-potable chocolate protein shakes. All these delicacies (and more!) were displayed upon tables in their healthy glory, curated by very healthy-looking individuals. Among the attendees of the Veggie Fest, I encountered the usual surplus of beards, suspenders and shoes made of natural fibers, as well as a surprising hat made of tree-bark, and some buttons that said “Give Peas a Chance.” Because I was dressed in really pedestrian attire, I bought this sweet T-shirt:
I felt okay buying this shirt, because whether I wear it ironically or in earnest, it’s sending pretty much the same message out on da streets.
At one point during the Fest, I noticed some chapatis at a faraway food stand. Chapatis are flat, greasy discs of bread that resemble tortillas, except they come from East Africa. I’m always craving some greasy Tanzanian carbohydrates, so I made a bee-line for the table. As I got closer, the banner behind the stall came into view: Taste of Kilimanjaro. I couldn’t believe it – Tanzanian cuisine for sale at a Boston veggie fair! Any true array of Tanzanian fare would include a large component of kuku choma (scrawny pieces of charcoal-grilled chicken, cut into vaguely identifiable pieces and dipped in thick salt). But since it was a Veggie Festival, I loaded up on beans and chapatis, and enjoyed a true Tanzanian lunch. I even got to chat with the chefs in Kiswahili. Since they’d been living in Boston for fifteen years, their pure, grammatical Kiswahili was inflected with American sound and cadence.
Later that day, I Skyped with my parents, who live in Kenya. They informed me that the city of Nairobi was hosting its annual Barbecue Fest that very same day. Apparently, all the city’s leading meat companies and “grilling houses” were showcasing their best meats downtown, offering taste-samples for a price. That’s the kind of irony I love — the polarized food-fairs of my two distant homes, vending totally distinct flavors (both cultural and gustatory).
On Saturday, we had a mini snowstorm, and I was worried that winter had arrived prematurely, but it looks like autumn will be here for a few more weeks. The trees around campus are all quickly losing leaves, and I like how they revolve slowly and come to rest on the ground like a warmer and more colorful strain of snow — my kind of snow.
Tags: Africa, Boston, clothes, cooking, food, Kenya, snow, Tanzania, vegetarian