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Twitter Teaches American Reporter How to Eat Somali Food

A traditional Somali meal of rice, lamb and banana (photo taken in Minneapolis, MN, by Matt Pearce)
A traditional Somali meal of rice, lamb and banana (photo taken in Minneapolis, MN, by Matt Pearce)

This is What’s Trending Today…

Matt Pearce works as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. The newspaper sent him to Minneapolis, Minnesota, earlier this month to cover an event. One night, he had dinner at one of the city’s Somali restaurants. Minneapolis has a large population of Somali refugees.

Matt Pearce ordered a lamb and rice dish at the eatery. The server brought the food to him. He also brought a banana, something Pearce had not ordered.

The reporter did not know what to do with the banana. He tweeted a photograph of his first-ever Somali meal. He wrote on Twitter that the banana was “brought as an appetizer.”

An appetizer is a small dish served before the main meal.

As Pearce learned, the banana was not, in fact, an appetizer. Somali Twitter users on social media quickly corrected him. In fact, bananas are an important part of any Somali meal. Somalis cut up the fruit and eat it over the rice.

Twitter user Abdirahman Ali lives in Kenya. He explained that “a rice without banana is not complete. [I] am Somali and I eat [it] daily. Banana is life.”

Thousands of people mocked Pearce on social media for not knowing what to do with the banana. Somali Twitter user Hiba wrote, “man said the banana was brought in as an appetizer ... like it’s not the meal.”

​Another Twitter user joked that anyone who goes to a Somali restaurant should know what to do with the banana.

​On Wednesday, Pearce wrote a story about his mistake for the Los Angeles Times. He admitted that, although he likes to try new foods, he does not know very much about the food of different cultures. He added that the many comments he received showed the importance of the Internet and social media for Somalis around the world.

“Somali millennials around the world,” he wrote, “were laughing at me (definitely not with me) for failing Somali Cuisine 101 ... it taught me about how food -- and the internet -- bring people in the Somali diaspora together.”

One Somali Twitter user wrote that “this article is evident to why Somali Twitter is the best …”

By Wednesday night in the U.S., “Somali Cuisine” was the No. 1 trending topic on Facebook.

That same day, Pearce joked on Twitter about all the attention he has received from his banana mistake.

He wrote, “Today I covered a Trump rally and was a trending banana idiot.”

And that’s What’s Trending Today.

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Words in This Story

dish - n. food that is prepared in a particular way​

appetizer - n. a small dish of food served before the main part of a meal​

mock - v. to laugh at or make fun of (someone or something) ​

diaspora - n. a group of people who live outside the area in which they had lived for a long time or in which their ancestors lived

rally - n. a public meeting to support or oppose someone or something​