How do I put this gently?

Mermoz, Dakar, Senegal | Dimanche 15 Septembre 2013

You tell an American you don’t like burgers, no one gives a shit. You tell a Senegalese you don’t like fish, people lose their minds.

Você fala para um Americano que você não gosta de hamburger, e ninguem ta nem ai. Você fala pra um Senegales que você não gosta de peixe, e a platéia vai a loucura.

Before I left Brazil for the first time, in 2009, I had a very strict diet, I didn’t like anything. But throughout the years, as I got older, I started eating different things, liking different things. However, one thing remained, and that is my distaste for fish. I don’t care for the way it smells, I don’t care for the way it tastes. Unfortunately, I decided to come to a country where they eat that every day, yet I never thought that would be a problem. Now, do me a favor, do not tell me that because I don’t like fish I shouldn’t have come to Senegal, a dish does not define a nation. And that is the most narrow minded thing I have heard thus far. Be more understanding.

Antes de sair do Brasil pela primeira vez, em 2009, eu tinha um regime alimentar bem restrito, eu não gostava de nada. Mas com o passar dos anos, quando fui ficando mais velho, eu comecei a comer coisas diferentes, gostar de comidas diferentes. No entanto, uma coisa continua a mesma: eu não gosto de peixe. Eu não gosto do cheiro do peixe, eu não gosto do gosto. Infelizmente, eu decidi vir para um pais onde eles comem pescado todos os dias, e mesmo assim eu nunca pensei que teria um problema com isso. Agora, me faça um favor, não venha me dizer que porque eu não como peixe eu não deveria ter vindo para o Senegal, um prato não define um pais. E isso foi a coisa mais cabeça fechada que eu escutei desde que cheguei. Tente me entender.

I’ve been in Senegal for two weeks now, and I simply gave up lunch and dinner on most days because it’s always fish. That was my choice. I tried explaining to my host family that I don’t like fish, that I am NOT trying to complain, but I will not eat fish. I asked for them to let me know when they are going to eat fish, so that I could go out before and buy something else, find an alternative meal. They were not happy about it. They told me multiple times that meat and chicken are very expensive here, and that fish is the typical plate of the Senegalese.

Eu estou no Senegal ja fazem duas semanas, e eu simplesmente desisti de almoçar e jantar com a familia, porque na maioria dos dias é peixe. Essa foi minha decisão. Eu tentei explicar para eles que eu não gosto de peixe, e que eu NÃO estou tentando reclamar, mas que eu tambem não vou comer peixe. Eu pedi para eles me avisarem quando teremos peixe no jantar, para que eu pudesse sair e comprar outra coisa para comer, achar uma alternativa. Eles não ficaram felizes com isso. E repetiram varias vezes que carne e frango são muito caros aqui, e que o peixe é o prato tipico do Senegales.

Mama Ndiaye, I get it! You don’t have to tell me your family will not change their diet because I’m here. Host brother, you don’t have to tell me every day I should eat fish and start liking it. I like everything else you cook, it is just hard to tell you that I don’t care for fish. And please, don’t try to make me feel even worse about it. I’m sorry I wrote a whole post on fish. I’ve just always done things independently, and it’s hard to do so when you don’t have a stove or an oven.

Mama Ndiaye, eu entendo. Acredite. Você não precisa me dizer que a sua familia não vai mudar a dieta simplesmente porque eu estou aqui. Irmão anfitrião, você não precisa me dizer todo dia que eu deveria comer o peixe, e começar a gostar. Eu gosto de todas as outras coisas que vocês ja cozinharam, so é dificil explicar que eu não quero peixe. E por favor, não me faça sentir ainda pior sobre isso. Desculpa por ter escrito um post inteiro sobre peixe. Mas é que eu sempre fiz as minhas coisas de maneira independente, e isso fica dificil quando você não tem um fogão ou um forno.

Quero churrasco.

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34 thoughts on “How do I put this gently?

  1. Al says:

    Something fishy going on there. I don’t like fish – force fed sprats for many years. It’s difficult trying to get through to some people, and trying to make them understand that you can’t just suddenly like fish. That’s like saying “Oh I think I will start liking Marmite tomorrow” lol

  2. Brittney C. says:

    Sorry you are having food troubles Marcos (I understand them!). Just have hope for the village homestay🙂

    • Marcos C. says:

      Thank you, Brittney. At one point we are all going to have some problem with the food.
      I like it here, but I’m excited for the village part of our program. It’s weird to think that we won’t have classes then.

  3. bizzmia says:

    Funny, my family laughed at me when I told them I chose fish over chicken for our free meal at Île Gorée. They were like, why would you choose that? haha oh just one little hill to climb

  4. chefmargot says:

    Aww. I follow your blog and I also have very strong food preferences. No matter how polite, no matter how gracious, no matter how diplomatic you are, somehow this isn’t enough for some people. Your post was very touching since I have been in your shoes many times. It never really gets easier, you just get tougher skin and assert boundaries more readily. I was raised in a meat free home so I am not very adventurous in this department. The fact that I eat meat at all is an adventure in itself! LOL. Some of my closest friends are frequent goat eaters, it’s always the celebratory go-to meat. I have tried and tried and can’t find any enjoyment in it. They are very sweet in accepting me and my choices, but part of me always feels a bit guilty. However, my logical brain tells me that I need not be guilty.

    You are entitled to your preferences. I observe ,via your blog, your strong desire to learn about other cultures and geographies. I see the love and respect you have for things that are different and new and foreign. You embrace and seek out those opportunities to be exposed to how others live, it is fair that you can expect the same embrace in return.

    Keep being you!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Marcos C. says:

      Thank you so much, your comment just made me so happy. It is very difficult sometimes to explain yourself in a foreign language, specially to a person of a foreign culture.
      I have some vegetarian friends here, and their host families, seriously hide meat in their food. Some of them have been vegetarians their whole lives, you simply don’t do that. Eating a dish doesn’t necessarily mean understanding a culture. I ate it once, and didn’t care for it. I do feel guilty too though.
      Thank you once again, you made my day.
      Cheers!

  5. Michelle says:

    Estou ate achando que vc voltar gostando de almocar aqui em casa….. Haha…

  6. shelley says:

    Oh for the days of frozen pizza in the frozen north.🙂

  7. Khai says:

    Wow. Indeed it is hard to make them understand about your preferences when fish is like the staple food there. It is okay, I think over time they will understand that you just don’t like fish and don’t like eating them.🙂

    I am glad that I can eat almost everything, except for the exotics ones like the insects etc.

    Just hang on there!😉

    • Marcos C. says:

      Haha exactly, I think it just takes time. It’s honestly not a big deal, I was just astonished by my host brothers reaction that I had to write about it right away.

      I don’t think I could do the really exotic ones either. haha
      Thank you for coming by again🙂

  8. Monick says:

    Tbm não gosto muito de peixe! haha

  9. Gabi says:

    Brazilians spoiled you all “winter” long. “Quero churrasco” também, Reizinho. I hope you find a nice alternative🙂

    Beijos,
    Gabi

    • Marcos C. says:

      Haha I love it that you called me Reizinho, makes me feel like I’m home.
      Quero churrasco e caipirinhas. Even with the cachaça i brought, it DOES NOT taste the same.

      Miss you,
      Beijos

  10. I completely understand your dislike for fish. I don’t care for it either. The texture freaks me out. I’m planning on staying in a homestay next semester and this exact situation (just with different foods) scares me. I hope they start understanding and accepting that you won’t eat fish!

    • Marcos C. says:

      Now that Ive talked with them over and over about it, we are starting to find alternatives. But at first it is hard, just because so much is lost in translation.
      So now, my host mom is making me pasta instead, or a sandwich for example.
      my situation has definitely gotten better.
      Where are you going next semester?

      • Good! I’m glad it’s better now.
        If everything goes right *fingers crossed* I will be studying in Costa Rica in the spring. I’m still trying to get all the paper work done because my school is in no rush so it takes awhile for them to do their part so I can move on with the process.

      • Marcos C. says:

        That is so exciting, so are you going to be there for the whole school semester?
        Getting ready to go is so much fun, I love packing.
        Don’t do like I did, read the informational packet. It has a lot of valuable information.
        Good luck😀

  11. Anonymous says:

    Te levarei um churrasco haha

  12. Capt Jill says:

    Hi Marcos,
    I liked your post. I don’t like fish either. Maybe something to do with growing up with a father who was a fisherman for a while. Everything he didn’t sell, we had to eat. EVERY day for weeks on end, fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. UGH!!
    I still love to catch fish, I still work as a fisherman myself sometimes. But I won’t eat fish unless there’s NOTHING else.
    People think I’m nuts. Oh well,
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Glad you liked my ‘health tip’.😉

    • Marcos C. says:

      I totally understand that, I grew up in a fisherman town, our main export was fish, so the last thing I wanna eat while in Senegal, is fish. And to be honest, the fish here is not the best, and the way they prepare it isn”t either.
      Thank you too for stopping by🙂

  13. Art Nibbler says:

    I’m not a selective eater — I mostly love to eat everything (except I draw the line at organ meat — liver, kidney, gizzard, etc.) and fish is one of my favorite proteins — your blog helped me understand your perspective. I respect you and your choices.

  14. Nativegrl77 says:

    thanks for the visit .. i come from a fishing background and love it ..slightly influenced by heritage …Caribbean ..I was thinking if you could, offer up a replacement

  15. Riedstra says:

    Hi, thanks for your appreciation on my drawing!

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