Some Eat To Live & Some Live To Eat

31 Oct

I took this photo in Granada, Spain and it reminded me of a topic close to my heart that I’d like to share with you.

I’ve always been moved by seeing people sleeping and begging in the streets and wondered what their story was. How did they get to this place? Do they have a family? What do they dream about? Do their minds wander back to lost loves, missed opportunities and regrets or are their concerns primarily basic human survival; where and when will I get my next meal? There’s a storm approaching, where can I find shelter?

I’ve never had the guts to walk up and ask someone these questions because I thought what makes me think that they want to share their story with me? Just because they’re on the street, does this mean they have nothing better to do than indulge my curiosity?

My family was raised to share and treat all people as equal so it always broke my heart to walk by someone on the street who looked hungry, needed a shower or even a hug and some encouragement. We’ve all had dark times in our lives and it’s our loved ones support amongst other things that helps us get through and eventually feel stronger than before.

On a Saturday morning about 2 years ago, I was walking down deserted George St lined with buildings like a fortress. I was heading towards Pitt St Mall to shop for a dress to wear to a wedding and I saw some homeless men sitting on the sidewalk. This time I felt the urge to do something about my sadness and diverted into the first convenience store I could see. I bought a sandwich, an apple and a bottle of water and walked up to the man outside the door.

The man said “I can’t eat apples” and proceeded to lift his top lip to show me that his mouth was completely toothless! He told me that he also has food allergies so he needs to buy groceries himself so he can read the ingredients on the labels. At first I was taken aback by this mans reaction and then I offered to give him the food anyway so he can share it with a friend.

This was a real eye-opener for me. I hadn’t thought about the fact that just because this man was asking for help doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have specific needs just like you and me. He wasn’t acting desperate, he was simply asking for financial assistance from anyone who was willing to help. I am in no position to pass judgement. I left the food with the man and he said “it’s not that I don’t appreciate it” and I walked away with more questions than before and tears streaming down my face.

I felt like I wanted to do more but then I started to ask myself why I was so affected. Was this my ego wanting to show off to the pedestrians passing by that I was such a ‘good samaritan’? Was it because I couldn’t stand the thought of a person not enjoying one of life’s greatest pleasures, food? Or was it because my dad and his family left behind poverty in India to make a better life in Australia and the thought of this cuts me deep inside? Whatever the reason was I felt grateful that I trusted my intuition and offered this man a small gesture of kindness.

I had lunch with my dad yesterday for his birthday and we chatted about the dishes his dad would cook for the family. My grandfather, Kingsley Fernandez, passed away on 25th Jan 1981 just before my parents met and I found a photo of my dad next to his headstone while I was going through some old photo albums at his home yesterday. My dad told me that meat was very expensive so they would make dishes using offal (animal organs) and turn it into some of the tastiest meals he ever had.

Dad recalled a dish using goat head. He said the meat would be minced up and combined with typical Indian spices resulting in an amazing flavour. They also ate duck, rabbit, liver, kidney, lambs brains, cows tongue and hearts.

Theses types of peasant or working class dishes from around the world have made a comeback and are now commonly featured on fine dining menus. Being exposed to these foods as a child has definitely influenced my willingness to try new flavours. I tried sweet breads a few months ago for the first time at the hatted French restaurant in Haberfield, Bistro Ortolan. If you can get past thinking about what organ you are eating you can really enjoy offal if it is cooked well. After all it’s just another form of protein.

I am grateful for the strong influence my dad had and still has on my food habits. Dad hates waste. His father worked hard on the railways to provide food for my dad and his 8 siblings so nothing was taken for granted. If my sisters and I didn’t like eating something or didn’t finish our meal, dad would tell us stories of how children in India starve and cry for food. Sometimes to get the message across in a different way, dad would tell us the story of how the peas were separated from their families so we could eat them and that’s why we shouldn’t waste anything on our plates.

We’re truly blessed with abundance and variety of food in Australia and when I watched Slum Dog Millionaire I cried for the entire 120 minutes.


I’m planning to visit India next year with my dad and sisters to celebrate dad’s 60th birthday. Amid the celebration, feasting and site seeing I’m sure the blatant poverty will be a sobering and confronting experience.


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One Response to “Some Eat To Live & Some Live To Eat”

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  1. One Million Dollars = One Million Meals For OzHarvest « gourmetician - December 23, 2010

    […] month I posted a story called ‘Some Eat To Live & Some Live To Eat‘ and since then, I’ve been searching for a local charity that helps feed the needy. I […]

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