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The Empty Dish

The first time our neighbor Roberto brought over some food, I looked into the pan and thought I was going to vomit.  It was a cow's hoof.  All I could think of was the amount of manure that was under that toenail and after saying a prayer to God for strength, I just barely get it down.

That was nine years ago and he still continues to bring us over food about once a month and while I still don't like cow's hoof, the level of Paraguayan hospitality is the best we've ever encountered.  This family doesn't even have electricity, (no fridge or stove) yet they want to share with us what they have.

This past week, when Roberto handed over some warm tortillas (like a salty pancake) to Norberto he whispered....don't return the dish empty.  A little confused, Norberto asked for clarification.

Roberto chuckled and said that true Paraguayan culture requires that when a neighbor brings you food, you, in turn, should fill it with something you've made to share as well.

Norberto said, "You mean for NINE years you accepted the dish back empty from us and you never said anything!!"
 We were so embarrassed and apologetic.  We immediately filled it with what we were cooking for lunch.  We're STILL learning Paraguayan customs and habits and we are grateful for patient and forgiving friends.


  1. That's hilarious! But how wonderful that his family persisted in sharing with you, regardless of your cultural ignorance. What a lesson ... makes me think about all of the meals people shared with us when the kids were babies, and how I asked them to use disposable containers so that I wouldn't have to remember who to return what to. I imagine that this request would have been frowned upon in Paraguay!!! :)

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