Sometimes it's the little things that shock me. I like street food, and since it's a commonality from Venezuela to Turkey, India to Germany, I didn't understand my husband's deep culture shock at the concept of coming out of a concert and buying loaded hot dogs from a cart on the corner.
I figured it must be related to his civil war, but put off asking until I served him fish tacos. It's rather time-consuming to make good fish tacos, because I have to dice and chop the everything. Cabbage, red onions, green onions, tomatoes, cilantro, slices of limes, chunks of avocado... and have to make the lime-juice-mayo before I start any of this, so it has time to meld.
He explained gently that there was one street food in the townships, a bowl of corn porridge and if you were very lucky, some meat. But never in any of the white areas. It wasn't the paranoia of civil war that denuded his earlier life of fried pastries, things on sticks, things wrapped in foil or in paper... it was apartheid. Because the sheer utter evil that strangled his country would have found it unthinkable to let food vendors of any other race into white-only areas.
The man eats all his food with a knife and fork not because Britishness, but because the scars of evil prevented him from ever learning the careful dance you do to avoid getting the grease on you while enjoying the night. There were no ice cream trucks in his youth, no fried chapatis stuffed with more spice than meat, no fish and chips at the wharf cooked fresh from the catch coming in, no tacos or burritos out of the food truck, no hot dogs loaded with sautéed onions and peppers, no polish sausages oozing sauerkraut juice and mustard out of the lining, no cornish pasties, no pirogies, no blini rolled up and dripping powdered sugar and lemon juice, no corner coffee stands with paninis, no tapas, no currywurst, no fritters or kebabs, falafel or rice balls, mochi, or steamed pork buns...
I understood apartheid resulted in the shootings, the disappearances, the training the police dogs to eat the faces off of victims, and all the horrors we associate with great evils.
But I still find it small and sad to watch a man eye a fish taco with trepidation, and take the first bite due to love and faith, because he's never known the wide an wonderful variety of the food world on the streets.