Where Hunger is a Way of Life

What's it like as an expat in Kenya to shop for and cook food? That was the simple question I put to Pascale Brevet, a particularly talented former student in the master's program of Slow Food's University of Gastronomic Sciences. I knew that after the course she would be spending time in Kenya working for a nonprofit on sustainable agriculture and food-security issues--and that between her Lyonnaise and Provencale grandmothers she had intimate knowledge of wonderful food.

Brevet gave me much more than I asked for, as students often happily do: a piece that shows what it's like on the dusty ground every day in Molo, the small city where she works, mostly with people with HIV, and what foods she can find. I'm particularly interested in the idea of boiling whole arrowroot, something I know only as processed white powder to make a thickening slurry useful to add at the last minute to a woefully thin sauce.

The real story of food where she is, though, is that there's almost none of it, and what there is is simply a utilitarian dose, "necessary fuel for a life of toil."

After a particularly interesting account, she reminds us: "To understand that is one thing; to live it even for a few months is entirely another." That's a particularly apt reminder on a day of reflection, when many of us are in Yom Kippur services and, for one day, reminded what life is like across too much of the globe.