“Kindness is in our power when fondness is not.” Henry James
Yes, this is a story about tripe but not a tripe story. As you follow you’ll understand the play on words. So this is where it starts…
A stranger can get into all sorts of difficulties when dropped into another country and a strange language with little knowledge of either. One of those many situations popped into my mind as I was recalling how we landed in Brazil. This is a story about Murdo who we did not know when he first visited Brazil–later on he and his family became friends.
He had only been in Brazil a few weeks when he dropped into a restaurant for a meal. Most likely Campinas was the city for a language school there taught Portuguese to missionaries. The waiter came to his table with a cardápio–a menu and he pored over it trying to find something he might recognize as edible. What I really mean is “edible for him” because he had a sensitive stomach to anything a bit different than the usual Canadian fare. But he understood little of what was written.
So, when the waiter came by to take his order, Murdo in desperation pointed out an entry not knowing what it was but assuming it would make a tasty meal. The waiter picking up on the nervousness of the customer and did something that was common to the culture of that day. With one arm he reached behind his head to pinch the lobe of his ear on the opposite side. However Murdo was not able to interpret the action. Actually, the waiter was signing that the food pointed out on the menu was excellent. If he had only reached up to pinch the lobe of the ear on the same side as his arm, he would be saying that the food was good. The only message this customer received was the smile of the waiter—and that indicated the choice was a good one.
It was a different story when the Canadian found out the Special for the Day so generously filling his plate was actually tripe. Of course the word tripa—tripe would not be used in the menu but another flowery description. When his plate arrived he was not sure exactly what it was but he tried to cut a piece and chew it. But the tripe was too rubbery to swallow.
As for me, I never have tried a meal of tripe either in Canada or Brazil but from all that I have heard it can be tough to cut and tougher to chew. Tripe is part of the lining of the stomach of cattle—cows, oxen, sheep and goats. Just the thought of that whitish stuff on my plate and I assume I would not touch it.
From my reading I’ve discovered that tripe is supposed to be a delicious alternative—alternative to what I am not sure. One person writes that it is “…awesome as a Chinese stir fry” and delicious when prepared in certain ways in other countries. All I can say is, “More power to them.”
Here in Canada we have a colloquial usage for the word tripe. When someone gives us a story or an excuse that does not ring true, we might say, “That is nothing but tripe” that is if we do not value the friendship. Having recently gone through an election campaign we might say we’ve heard a lot of tripe.
But back to Murdo and his reason for being in Brazil. You see, he in a way paved the way for the ten years we lived there. Our family’s time in Brazil began before we even knew of his meal of tripe for that happened during the few months he spent in Brazil checking out the possibility of mission work there under the leadership of our church group. And when he gave the go-ahead to the appointing board we exchanged a few fleeting letters and headed to Brazil. Within months Doris and I with our baby daughter landed at Congonhas, the São Paulo airport. Murdo was not there for he had returned to Canada to gather up his family to come to Brazil.
You may smile as you read about tripe being on the menu though I can never recall finding it on any cardápio. No doubt my lack of any memory of tripe is that I never ate any of it. Actually the food was always delicious in Brazil, whether we were eating in the best restaurant in São Paulo or in the poorest of homes. But there is something that makes good food even better—that is friendship for then fellowship develops. Perhaps even sharing a meal of tripe with a friend could make that food palatable.
Eating with a friend brings to mind the promise Jesus offers to his followers—that is the fellowship with Him when some day we shall eat together in his Eternal Kingdom. And it won’t be tripe.