Bread of Life

by Bemgba Nyakuma

The best advice a newly married woman in my clan will probably get from her mother is “the path to a man’s heart is his stomach” As a consequence she must place precedence on her husband’s culinary demands. It would therefore not be misplaced to aver that food is a central activity of mankind, marriage and culture. As a norm, before a young man like me embarks on a far away trip, our parents usually call us to give us what the world regards as the worst vice, ADVICE. Enough said about philosophy, on the night before I departed for the Netherlands to begin my MSc, my mother made sure to give an hour long talk about food, cooking and some healthy living do’s and don’ts’. In a subtle manner, I guess she was saying “My son you are now married to TU Delft and the path to your success in the buitenland is to eet smakelijk en goed” I couldn’t agree more. Interestingly, food and what to eat has been the only disheartening experience I have had so far. Truth is, it’s been my only problem since I got here. Don’t get me wrong, there is a whole lot of variety here but in the midst of this cornucopia I still cry ik ben honger. Waarom? One might ask. When in Rome, goes the maxim, behave like the Romans, yet I cannot seem to fit brood (as the Dutch call bread) and eating it into every meal almost all the time I am hungry. Point is, there too much emphasis on this “baker’s delight”. Everything the mouth nibbles here turns to bread, every meal, snack, or bite has an element of bread. My sad verdict is that man should not live by bread alone even though when I see so many students carrying around sandwiches I ask myself, why I can’t join in. But then I rebuke myself once more, common. The good news to a hungry man, Desmond Tutu writes, is bread. My sadness (added to fear) however is that this dietary malady might cause many a student like me some problems. Some say music is the food of life; I dare say food is the music of life. Without it, man cannot exist let alone dance to the vagaries that make him a social being even in the light that his very existence is a tale of brevity. Lumbered with this behind my mind, I can only hope against the tide of the impending reality that I must adapt to my new environment as I see it or face the next two years (or possibly more if decide to stay on after my studies) of my marriage to TU Delft a sorry, hungry and angry man. I take heed and solace in the wisdom of Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman Emperor, “Nothing happens to any man that he is not formed by nature to bear. Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast”

I am told also that time is a great healer, so I can only hope that with time I will grow to love bread as the Dutch unrepentantly do. After all bread to the famished, as a Talmud saying goes, is like a quotation at the right time. Going back in time, we would comprehend why bread brea (Frisian) brot (German) bröd (Swedish) buredi (Hausa) borodi (Tiv) lekhem (Hebrew) is one of the oldest foods dating back even to the Neolithic era attaining the historical, political and contemporary importance now commonplace. The Lord’s Prayer for instance, contains the line, “Give us this day our daily bread” here bread signifies the necessities of life. In Israel the commonest workplace phrase during demonstrations is lekhem avoda (No bread, no work). Bread has managed the role of figure and part of speech; a euphemism for source of income, a metaphor for basic necessities and living conditions and a synonym for money. We (particularly me) can agree that the importance of bread cannot be overemphasized. I am prompted therefore to accept the teachings of “the good book” and accept with all my heart the things to which fate has bonded me to (the Dutch food and people) by eeten mijn brood with joy and merry heart and stop complaining like I am told the Dutch do about the weather.

Compromise, the Dutch say is a good thing, so I guess I have to trade in all the pounded yam I love and cherish and eet het lekker brood so as to have a gezellig stay in peaceful Oude Delft with its subtle charm and innocence akin to a new wife. -Life is what our thoughts make it.

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1 comment

Ade September 29, 2008 - 4:45 pm

Nice article Bemba…dont worry, you will get used to “brood”…lol


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