The Green Bean of Doom: Abandon all hope ye Westerners
That may seem strange to say, but that’s probably one of the biggest cultural lessons I’ve learned while traveling. Food, and sharing food, is one of the most central aspects of human society.
So when I’m offered food by my hosts, I always say yes. In Bangladesh, this meant trying a number of rather spicy items. I love spicy food, but after about a week of this, I was reaching my limit. My lips felt burned and my mouth was full of sores from the unfamiliar palate.
Which is why, when I saw a rice dish full of ordinary-looking “green beans”, I was elated.
I didn’t bother to ask why they were suddenly including green beans, or how these beans ended up in Southeastern Asia. I just thought, “I know what this is. I understand. I’ve got this.”
This should have been a red flag. As a general rule, whenever I think “I understand this,” disaster is soon to follow.
I took a bite.
It was strangely crunchy for a green bean. A little under-cooked perhaps. A much drier flavor.
My mouth started to feel a little odd. I took a sip of water.
It didn’t help.
Now my mouth was burning. It was on fire. I felt my color rising and my eyes started to water. I downed my glass of water and asked for another.
That’s when I realized it. My “green bean” was actually a hot chili.
An evil, spicy, abandon all hope ye Westerners sort of chili.
In the end I survived, but I learned two valuable lessons: first, never assume that you understand another culture. And second…
never trust a green bean.