February 23, 2020

The Butcher's Impressions

Butcher's Store

Below is a conversation between a butcher and one of his customers.

Butcher: Hello Mr. Hamad

Mr. Hamad: Good afternoon IB. Please can I get four kilograms of organic chevon?

Butcher: "Organic chevon"? I sell zabiha meat here. In other words, my meat is halal.

Mr. Hamad: So, you think halal is only about the slaughter process (zabiha). I have explored the field and learnt that 100% halal should be organic, GMO free, quarantined when exposed to antibiotics, avoid exposing animals to stress and no growth hormones.

Butcher: Your description of halal will make meat expensive.

Mr. Hamad: The interesting thing about cheap is that it may become expensive in the long run.

Butcher: So, what are you suggesting?

Mr. Hamad: There is a nexus between organic and halal. Though scholars and food experts ignore it.

Butcher: You have changed since you visited ECVOntario at the University of Guelph!

Mr. Hamad: This is the beginning ... I have stopped using atrazine and glyphosate on my farm. 

Butcher: All the best with your new journey...


Bamidele Adekunle @badekunl
July 12, 2019

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February 22, 2020

Cultural Illusions

Dar es  Salaam, Tanzania

Below is a discussion between a professor and his student. The conversation ensued between the duo after the student spent a semester in the professor’s class on the definition and relativity of knowledge.

Keteh: Prof. I appreciate taking this course with you and I hope I will be able to take other courses with you. I started skipping classes, except your lectures, because I don’t get new or insightful information from the classroom. At times, I wonder whether it is worthwhile spending so much on education?

Prof. Agravante: Don’t quit! A degree certificate is a signaling device. You will undersell yourself if you don’t have one. And the connections you make on campus are invaluable. Furthermore, your culture respects people who are educated.

Keteh: What do you think about culture? I think my culture is stuck in the past.

Prof. Agravante: Don’t say that. Culture is dynamic, people just pretend as if it’s static. As far as I am concerned it’s an illusion. Do you think your people have the same values now as compared to pre-colonization?

Keteh: It is a struggle! Though material wealth and economic development are apparent.

Prof. Agravante: I advise you shouldn’t rely on Gross Domestic Products (GDP) because it may not capture household chores, reciprocity, and other activities that contribute to wellbeing and life expectancy.

Keteh: GDP for sure encourages environmental degradation and conspicuous consumption.

Prof. Agravante: The interesting thing is that some people think individualism is the cornerstone of economic development. Leading to a faulty perception that altruism is not efficient.

Keteh: It’s not a problem where I come from. My people are cultured and considerate.

Prof. Agravante: Ethnocentric assertion …

Keteh: How do you mean Prof?

Prof. Agravante: Your people are not special. It’s just your impression that you have superior values and norms.

Keteh: At least we still believe in cooperation.

Prof. Agravante: As if there are no selfish or individualistic people in your community. Furthermore, people are the same. For example, porters hawk fish on their heads at the Billingsgate market in London in the 1940’s. But today people will think its only people from certain developing countries who carry loads on their heads.

Keteh: Capitalism has strengthened growth and affected way of life.

Prof. Agravante: I hope you are not insinuating that capitalism is the best-case scenario? Do you think tertiary education should be a luxury? And I didn’t see the American dream in certain cities in the United States with food deserts. And in a city, restaurants and gas stations claim they don’t have washrooms and dilapidated buildings are ubiquitous in certain neighborhoods. So, what is it about capitalism that impresses you?

Keteh: Well I think a blend will be appropriate. People should be able to operate within a defined property right and there should be safety nets for people who are unable to compete due to no fault of theirs.

Prof. Agravante: I agree there should be social schemes in terms of education, employment, and health among others. But reforms are required because policies can easily become dated and people may exploit them.

Keteh: On the issue of food deserts, why is it easy to get liquor but not food (not junk) in certain neighborhoods? Are you damned if you belong to a race or live in a specific postal code?

Prof. Agravante: You better don’t become an activist. The world is a complex place, and nothing is linear.
Keteh: I would prefer to be a philosopher on my path in the pursuit of happiness.

Prof. Agravante: Happiness, success, and expectations are ascribed by a prevailing culture. Based on this premise, people look for a signaling device to assert they are doing well.

Keteh: Signaling device?

Prof. Agravante: Yes, because those concepts are vague, people develop tangible things to show they have arrived! Even though it is difficult to measure success and happiness.

Keteh: Based on my upbringing, success is a function of the expectations of the society. And if you are successful you are bound to be happy.

Prof. Agravante: Your explanation lacks logic. Society/culture has not been consistent in defining anything. The painful thing is that these concepts have been defined by misconceptions and biased constructions. They are mostly realities based on reinforced illusions.

Keteh: Meaning?

Prof. Agravante: If people in your area drop out of school after primary school, your cousins got pregnant at 18 years, and your men are not around not necessarily based on their fault. Your worldview will be a function of these experiences.

Keteh: Some people grew up in those places and they did well eventually.

Prof. Agravante: Keteh, always remember there are exceptions.

Keteh: Yes professor, I have been thinking and I agree with you that a reinforced illusion becomes our reality.

Prof. Agravante: If not, why should Hermes Himalayan Birkin cost more than $500,000, why a coffee from a civet cat waste – kopi luwak – be the most expensive coffee, and Grasshopper (Nsenene) a delicacy among the Batooro people of Uganda.

Keteh: So, is culture meaningless?

Prof. Agravante: Not necessarily! People define and create meanings. And some custodians prefer to keep the status quo at the expense of progress.

Keteh: Why should a bag cost $500,000? Maybe it is expensive because of quality.

Prof. Agravante: Price signals quality? Not necessarily. Perception plays a significant role.

Keteh: True. Advances in technology and medicine have made diseases thought to be a death sentence now treatable. Perceptions have changed over time.

Prof. Agravante: Even money is perception based. If it’s not acceptable then it can’t serve as a legal tender. Many currencies are useless outside their domain.

Keteh: Perception translates to relevance. My parents told me that Christianity was defined in Iznik, Turkey. I also don’t understand the transformation of Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) from a church to a mosque and now a tourist center.

Prof. Agravante: Your parents are alluding to the Nicene Creed. It was approved at the first council of Nicaea (now Iznik) AD 325. Christological issue, Nicene creed (uniform Christian doctrine), and uniform observance of Easter were resolved at this meeting.

Decisions at the meeting shaped Christianity in later years.

The transformation of Ayasofya is the effect of time and change in perception.

Keteh: The issue of God is very important in my culture, but my spouse seems to be agnostic.

Prof. Agravante: If your spouse is agnostic, he is not the only one. A certain percentage of me is agnostic. And belief in God is of different variations (atheist, polytheist, monotheist) but they all have a commonality…

Keteh: And what’s that?

Prof. Agravante: They all provide an explanation to what we don’t understand.

Keteh: Explanation?

Prof. Agravante: Yes, Odu Ifa (16 * 16 = 256) of the Yoruba people explains based on probability. Hammurabi Yasasi (The code of Hammurabi) created a hierarchical standard for mode of behavior. For example, Law #265 "If a herdsman, to whose care cattle or sheep have been entrusted, be guilty of fraud and make false returns of the natural increase, or sell them for money, then shall he be convicted and pay the owner ten times the loss."

Keteh: Nagode Prof. What is your position on the relationship between culture and language?

Prof. Agravante: You speak English but culturally you are not English. Quick question – Can you speak your mother tongue? Many languages in West Africa have similarities – Ewe, Ga, Akan, Yoruba, Atakpame (Ife Togo), Krio all have common words. Swahili is related to Arabic and Bantu languages in East and Southern Africa.

And below are what Ibo and Yoruba people call certain parts of the body (similarities are glaring).

Keteh: What about food?

Prof. Agravante: It’s difficult to claim monopoly of food because travel, globalization, education among other factors affect cultural cuisines. Some of your cultural foods this year (2020) may be extinct in hundred years’ time (2120).

Keteh: Time changes everything. Oh, I just missed a call from my friend. We have been looking for a way to convince her husband to let her enroll for masters and delay childbearing.

Prof. Agravante: It is also part of your culture that women should bear the brunt of raising a family?

Keteh: Hmm … that’s deep.

Prof. Agravante: Surrogacy can be explored, and egg freezing is becoming popular. Scientists are also working on a drug that will pause production of eggs (during chemo treatment for cancer patients) which can also be applied to delay childbearing and extend menopause.

Keteh: A drug to reduce the depletion of the 300,000 – 400,000 eggs at puberty and freezing of fertile eggs are options available to the elites.

Prof. Agravante: I think you can get insurance and some futuristic companies already support their employees financially.

Keteh: I need to leave now. But Prof. where do you think I should spend my next vacation?

Prof. Agravante: The Msafiri. You can pick one of – Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain; Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru; Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania; Canadian Rockies (especially Jasper).

Keteh: Muchas gracias.

Prof. Agravante: De nada.


Bamidele Adekunle @badekunl
February 11, 2020

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Behind The Aroma - Episode 4 (Proteinous Gastronomy)


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Adekunle, B., (2019). The Butcher's Impressions

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Watanabe, F., (2007).  Vitamin B12 Sources and Bioavailability. Experimental Biology and Medicine

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