“Guess what we’ll be having for dinner the day you come home?!” my dad wrote to me in an email. “Mom’s special chicken and rice!”
He has got to be kidding, I thought to myself. There’s no way he can expect me to eat MORE chicken and MORE rice when I get back to the United States…
You see, the majority of meals (aside from breakfast) boast three main portions: chicken, potatoes and rice. When I return to my homestay after class each day to eat, I can always expect that half of my plate will be filled with white rice and the other a mixture of potatoes and chicken.
At first, I was absolutely in love with the food. Everything is so fresh and healthy compared to what I typically consume in the U.S. Salads are prepared without fatty dressings, fruit is offered at every meal and the meat is cooked to perfection. But after eating essentially the same meal day in and day out, I can’t help but be ridiculously excited when my host mom announces we’ll be ordering a pizza or heading out for Chifa (the Peruvian version of Chinese food). I still enjoy every taste that makes its way into my mouth, but I can’t say I’m as enthralled as I had originally been.
Of course, there are variations to each meal. The chicken may be cooked in different sauces or prepared in a different manner. The rice may be presented in a different style, and the potatoes aren’t simply potatoes thrown onto a plate. And of course, my dietary restrictions only allow me to eat a small assortment of foods, mostly because I’m quite the picky eater. I avoid seafood and red meat whenever possible, and I am wary of trying new vegetable and sauces.
Despite my pickiness and fear of new foods, however, I’ve opened my taste buds to new foods as well, surprising even myself. I had never tried quinoa until my host mom prepared it for me one day, and now I anxiously await the days that she might serve it to me again. A Chinese rice dish had been my dinner one evening, and I enjoyed it more than I expected.
Luckily, I determined that my dad had been joking about the chicken and rice, after a conversation we’d had about my diet here. Still, I will be relieved to have a break from the consumption of the same items when I return, though I know it will only be a matter of time before I desperately miss the regularity of home-cooked, healthy meals when I return to Ramen and macaroni in Bloomington. Best to make the most of it now, while I can.