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11:06 p.m. 2010-03-16

Food comes from scarier places than factory farms

So I hosted a taco night! Somebody else usually hosts taco night, but they weren’t able to get it together this week so they handed off their imported taco shells and threw in a movie. Of course, I needed to make some of my famous guac, grate some cheese, find some sour cream, cut up tomatoes and onions for fixings, you know the drill.

But the drill was off. When I first got here, the avocados were amazing, tomatoes and onions and other veggies were super cheap and generally really good. Especially the red onions. A friend of mine had shown me a secret food stand where they took good care of me, making sure that the produce I got was going to ripen when I asked for it (today, tomorrow or tomorrow tomorrow). Ice cream was crazy expensive, but the produce was cheap to balance it out. I’ve eaten more eggplant since I got here than I have in my entire life leading up to now.

But the food stand a few weeks ago was out of tomatoes. And then the tomatoes that they had weren’t as good. And last week they gave me a bunch of crap tomatoes for like 4 times the price. The red onions went from softball to racketball size. Lemons were a dollar a lemon. I didn’t get any lemons. Was I getting taken advantage of?

As it turns out, no. I went to other veggie stands around and they had the same problems. Shopping around, I eventually found what I needed for taco night (other than sour cream) and I got an explanation.

It turns out the reason my tomato and onion quality has gone down the drain is because people are slaughtering themselves in Jos. Midnight raids to kill women and children, roving bands of marauders, and tribal tension in the food belt of the country means that my famous mango guacamole has to suffer.

This is not to say that the killing has to stop for the sake of my dinner plate. This is to say that I let the truth of whyever the bell tolls, it tolls for me slip farther back in my mind. I don’t want to say “why can’t we all just get along” because that sounds trite. Perhaps it is even more trite to say “why can’t we live in a world with better quality tomatoes” but it is what I mean to say. Because in that world the midnight raids weren’t happening, the guac was amazing, and tears brought by delicious onions are the easiest to bare.

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