One of my co-workers is also an MK (Missionary Kid), though he grew up in South America. Even with our age gap and the difference in locations, we’ve had fun over the past months figuring out things we have in common. It’s pretty amazing, really, how much we understand about each other, even when I’ve never been to his other country and he’s never been to mine in the South Pacific (and neither of us has been back to our own for years…).
[Side note: I’m hoping to make a series of these Interesting Tidbits, but they are arbitrarily and randomly numbered, so no, you did not miss the first 78. :-)]
One of those shared experiences is having eaten (and often enjoyed) something for which you don’t know the English name. It puts a further wrinkle in sharing with peers in your passport country when you don’t know the words for something (if the name even exists outside of a Latin classification) and have to try to find a way to describe it that makes sense in relation to things they know. For him, it was something he calls ‘jungle ice cream’ – he explained it to me as a kind of long seed pod; they used to split the pod and suck the sticky, slightly sweet ‘juice’ off the seeds, but you didn’t eat the seeds. The liquid was creamy, hence the ‘ice cream’ name.
For me, the first one that comes to mind is a food I know as ‘pitpit’. I guess you could call it a vegetable, in the same sense that spinach is a vegetable. It has a couple of varieties, but the best way I can describe the most common one is as sort of a cross between an asparagus and an artichoke, with a bit of corn husk thrown in. It is tall and skinny and green like an asparagus, and you peel off the ‘leaves’ and eat mostly only the bottom parts once it’s cooked (like eating an artichoke), but they aren’t really ‘leaves’ like an artichoke, they are arranged in layers like a corn husk and are a somewhat similar texture. The taste is faintly artichoke-ish as well (the plant may even be related, for all I know), but it is mostly a flavor all its own. It is probably high fiber and low nutrition, but it tastes good, is fun to eat, and is one of the things I miss about where I grew up.
So there is your interesting MK tidbit for the week: it is possible to miss a food (or even an activity) that you don’t know the name for in your first language. It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain to people, but other MKs can understand right away, even if they don’t know the English for it either.