Sunday, January 11, 2009

A word from Simon

I had dinner with Simon tonight at his house. It was an honor being invited; he calls me his American brother. We had all the Ethiopian delicacies, and of course some weren't exactly matched to my American tastes, but I ate. Later over a glass of wine the conversation took an odd turn. He said, "I like American food better than most of this really. But this food reminds me of home, so that's why I enjoy it."

He said, "You know, it's a funny thing? In Ethiopia lots of people are starving. It wouldn't be so bad if not for stupid rules and just, habits. Look at this bread here?
My people think they have to have it every meal, it's tradition. This bread costs maybe twenty times the price of the rice it takes to make it. So why don't we just eat the rice instead? Culture, tradition. And you know we take our dietary laws from the Bible, but we go too far. In things we won't eat, we've tried over centuries to improve on the laws of God. I don't understand why we do that, but there are hungry people in Ethiopia, obeying rules of men with their bellys empty."

I asked for an example, and he laughed. "I don't have to take you to Ethiopia for that my brother! Like, what is that eating place named after a fish?"

After some sorting, I realized he was talking about Red Lobster. "Yes, that is the place! I took some Ethiopian friends there, and they would only eat chicken. I told them try the lobster, but they insisted it was against the rules. I asked them where in the Bible the word lobster is mentioned? Circle talk is all I got, it is unclean because this or that verse kind of talks about something like lobsters. Silly, stubborn empty stomachs obeying rules of men. Funny in America, not funny in Ethiopia."

After a sip of wine he said, "Can I tell you what I think? There are many of us on this Earth, and many are hungry. God's holy laws about what we should eat are enough. People should eat the rice and forget about the bread. People should not try to improve on the laws of God in these matters. It's habit, culture, tradition. Funny in America, not funny in Ethiopia, India, or other places."

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