The Food Less Traveled

The best meal I ever ate was at a roadside restaurant in the middle of Nigeria. I was in a microbus heading north through an otherworldly landscape strewn with giant boulders. It was mid-morning when we pulled over at an open-air restaurant. The counter where people were ordering was jammed. An old man, seeing my confusion, explained the menu and ordered for me.

We sat down, and the waiter brought our food: a ball of pounded yam and a bowl of egusi soup, made with crushed melon seeds and containing a hunk of beef. The waiter asked if I wanted utensils. I looked around. No one else had them.

The old man leaned over. “You know,” he remarked, “they say your food tastes better when you eat it with your hands.” Sometimes I still wonder why that meal was so transcendent.

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