Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Betel Nut !

"Doma zhes  is one of the most heard and widespread phrases 
in Bhutan: " Please have betel leaf and areca nut" becomes a 
leitmotif each time two individuals meet, at the end of a meal, 
and in all the occasions of everyday life. It is impossible not to 
notice the importance that the betel leaf and nut holds in 
Bhutan. One can multiply the scenes and the examples: 
Customers buy the betel leaf at the weekly Sunday market, 
their dress's pocket bulging with  silver boxes, or just simply 
with plastic bags filled with betel leafs; petty sellers at bus 
terminals selling ready made quid, called  kamto, in coneshaped papers;
 monks returning to the monastery with their 
bags filled with quantity enough to last for a week’s 
consumption; betel leaf with a small piece of areca nut that 
the host offers with his two hands to the guests at the time of 
a ceremony; betel leafs and nuts put in a plate along with 
those filled with chocolates during archery games or official 
ceremonies ; betel leafs and nuts passed round after dinner ; 
red stains in the street; men and women with red stained 
teeth sweating profusely."-Francoise Pommaret  

As Francoise Pommaret states, the betel nut is part of the Bhutanese tradition, even if it was borrowed from its neighbors. For this reason, a real experience in Bhutan cannot discard the tasting of the betel nut!

Aaron and Billy buying some betel nut on our first day in Paro!

So what you do is you get a green leaf and apply a white substance (which looks like glue but apparently is lime) and you wrap the nut with it. Then you put it in your mouth, all at once! After you have chewed it for a while, you spit out a red juice which tastes very bitter. In theory you should keep chewing throughout the day, leaving the nut in the corner of your mouth while you speak. My roommate told me she was given betel nut since she was two years old! Since then she eats betel nut all the time. Our driver for the East named Tsering would eat some Betel nut everyday in the bus! He explained to me that the leaf symbolizes the human flesh, the lime is the brain and the nut is the bone. "You mix the three together and you get red blood! That is why we spit out the red juice" he told me.

Ludivine de Rancourt

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