A Time to Eat

My parents never turned away a guest at the table, and it was poor manners indeed to eat in front of someone without offering them a bite.

Today, in the metropolis where I make my home, people snack solo: on the bus and light-rail, and even in class. When I was a kid you could smoke in the supermarket but couldn’t eat in the Library. Today our campus Library has an espresso bar and you can carry around your cup while your pick through the books. And today you can’t smoke in the market.

When we lived in Teheran and visited someone, you would remove your shoes at the door and get offered a cup of tea and a sweet. Our Iranian neighbors had a samovar in the living room where tea steeped throughout the day, and when I visited the girl next door, she would offer me tea. I refused politely and she would ask again. And again. And again.

I would finally agree and clutch a glass of hot tea while we chatted in pigeon English and Farsi. Many Iranians stick a sugar cube between their teeth and sip the tea through the sugar. I saw many Iranians with bad teeth.

Custom in Iran is to refuse an offer at first: it’s part of the culture and custom of barter. My Native American friends and relatives are not so demure. They line up eagerly for the Thanksgiving meal, served from the counter in the kitchen at the Longhouse. There’s salmon, turkey, deer, beans, potatoes, fry bread and pie.

Tonight, Second Daughter Wee-Hey and her pals will join us for a feast of Oregon foods: beets, yams, sweet potatoes, yellow potatoes, parsnips, carrots and Brussels sprouts. Someone will bring a homemade pie and salad, someone else will bring bread and drink, and I made a mold with local cranberries and bought Oregon cheeses and apples for hors d’oeuvres. Bob will roast two ducks and we will thank the ducks for giving up their lives for us.

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About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. She is enrolled with the Osage tribe.
This entry was posted in Indian, Osage. Bookmark the permalink.

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