Ever since moving to Haiti, we have noticed that our Haitian staff has been eating rice, beans, and a small chicken drumstick for lunch every day. Literally every day. They are very kind and offer to make extra for us whenever we want it. Sometimes we say yes, and it is actually pretty tasty. But not every day – that would be way too boring, and our American stomachs couldn’t take that much rice and beans every day.
Now when it comes time to eat lunch, I’m hungry, but not starving. That’s because I always have a big breakfast of fruit, toast, maybe scrambled eggs, maybe cereal. And maybe even a granola bar in between breakfast and lunch. So I’m not that hungry. And I know that I’ll be eating dinner at 6:00. Here’s where I feel like an idiot. Every time they give us this huge plate of rice and beans with a chicken drumstick on the side. And every time I’ve said to them, “How do you eat this much food? I could never finish this plate.” But they finish it.
That’s where the blinding flash of reality came in. Today I was hungrier than usual. I ate some rice and beans, all the meat off my chicken drumstick, and Heaven forbid, I was still hungry so I was forced to eat more rice. Almost all of it. That’s when I remembered what another missionary had told me. Most Haitians eat only one meal per day – probably lunch. And rice and beans are very inexpensive, so that’s the main course, and the chicken drumstick is more of a side dish, an added bonus that not all of them get. The meat isn’t their main food. The rice is.
So every time I’ve said – how do you eat this much food? – how stupid was I not to realize that this may be their only meal of the day. And every time I’ve said – I can’t eat rice and beans every day – I didn’t think about the fact that this is all they may be able to afford. And they probably aren’t craving rice and beans when they wake up in the morning, but they are craving food in their stomachs.
Now don’t get me wrong, we treat our staff well, and they could choose to have something else for lunch if they wanted. But I think it’s partially the Haitian culture as well, and the mentality of making what little money they have go as far as possible. I don’t pretend to understand Haiti at all, but this is just a small flash of reality that I saw today.