Sometimes you can’t win. My American friend Jim is an example. Jim loves Indonesia; his late wife was from Manado. They lived together here happily for many years.
But Jim had one rather serious problem: he could not tolerate spicy food. Let’s call it ‘hot food’ in this article, even though English is crazy and ‘hot’ can mean either panas or pedas.
Jim’s stomach simply could not take hot food. Now Indonesians who travel will recognize that ‘hot’ in North America does not mean the same thing as ‘HOT’ here. Off-the-shelf ‘hot sauce’ from an American supermarket is a big disappointment: sweet and flavorful but not pedas.
Jim goes into a restaurant anywhere in Indonesia and his wife or friends lecture the waiter: ‘Our American friend loves Indonesian food but he can’t take anything with chili peppers. You be sure and tell the kitchen that!!’
The waiter nods and smiles and off he goes. The food comes and Jim takes on bite. OUCH! ‘I can’t eat this. It’s got chili in it.’
‘Waiter! Waiter!’ The waiter rushes over and points out that there is not one bit of cabe in the food. Not a bit. No sambal, no saus.
Then why is Jim complaining? It’s the residue from years and years of preparing spicy foods, and it’s soaked into the cutting boards and the kitchen table and the cutlery. No matter how careful the cooks are they’ll still get a bit of ancient hot stuff into the food.
And this, dear readers, is why the Jews have kosher and the Muslims have halal. They realize that they have to bring their own pots and pans and clean up the place thoroughly before preparing food, so there is absolutely no piggy or other forbidden substances.
Then why is Jim complaining? It’s the residue from years and years of preparing spicy foods, and it’s soaked into the cutting boards and the kitchen table and the cutlery.
The same thing happens when I ask for black coffee, unsweetened. Many times it comes out of the kitchen sweet. Somebody is thinking ‘It’s coffee, it’s BITTER. He couldn’t be serious.’
It used to happen when kids would be diagnosed with a peanut allergy. ‘He’s just imagining it! What a spoiled brat’ the teacher would laugh. Then a couple of kids had seizures and died. So did the disbelief. Some people have to be really careful about this.
It’s sometimes on a conceptual, or microscopic level. But it counts. Poor Jim.