Our baby girl is now eating solids and one of her favourites is sweet potato. We roast it up, peel it and mash it with a fork before serving it to her. It’s hard not to resist snacking on some of it ourselves while we feed her, especially when she smears it all over the place. The only real way to prevent this is to mix in breast milk with the sweet potato – then we end up running into the kitchen in the middle of feeding her to find something to wash the taste of breast milk out of our mouths!
So rather than steal sweet potato (almost as sweet as candy) from a baby’s mouth, and since we are too lazy to cook more sweet potato for ourselves, we decided to try eating sweet potato peels – or rather Mike decided to eat sweet potato peels and I decided to join in. When I prepared our dinner and pulled the sweet potato peels out of the fridge, they looked really unappetizing and I almost changed my mind. I thought, I know its a waste to throw out sweet potato peel but really, this is rabbit food. We can afford to eat good food, and there is plenty of food, why are we eating peels?? But I decided, I should give it a go at least once before decided that I was done.
I warmed up our dinner and when we set down to eat. I was disappointed that dinner wasn’t as yummy and that we were eating sweet potato peels instead of sweet potatoes. But when I looked down on my plate, I was filled with excitement! It wasn’t so bad! The peel on my plate had a big chunk of sweet potato left on it. Yes!! Yummy food after all! And just then suddenly it hit me! This intense punch in the gut first and then the memory that created this feeling.
It was a few years ago, while I was off on my ‘I want to save the world’ phase and I had volunteered in an exotic country that fit the criteria of needing saving and yet still being adventurous. The power had gone out in the evening so my roommate and I had decided that screw it! We weren’t cooking even though we had a gas stove, we’d go out to eat. We went to a roadside restaurant that had come highly recommended. I don’t even remember what it was that I ate, but it was some yummy chicken. My roommate, being the Caucasian Canadian that he was didn’t really know how to eat all the meat on his drumstick. Me, being on the other hand, I’ll eat the cartilage thanks to my Bangladeshi heritage. Anyway, halfway through the meal, these little kids come up to us and politely ask for my roommate’s chicken bone. And my roommate, being done with the chicken bone, happily gave it away. The kids were so excited! Jumping with glee at the amount of meat remaining on the bone. They were either dishwashers or kids of the kitchen cooks who it seemed would scavenge whatever they could eat from the scraps that other restaurant goers left behind. It was heartbreaking to see their excitement, to see how lucky they felt to be able to eat more than just bone. And here I was pigging out on a full meal, while these kids were starving. And I think I still ate the cartilage on my chicken bone…somehow living there you were sufficiently desensitized to the poverty until the glee of a child at slivers of meat on a chicken bone would slap you into consciousness.
Or your own glee at a lump of sweet potato in your potato skin dinner while you have a fridge and pantry chockfull of food. I felt utter gratitude and utter despair at the same time. I realized that while eating the peels, I experienced a smidgeon of empathy of the restaurant children, but it was an empathy so far removed from the intensity of emotions the children face on a daily basis.