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Monday, July 12, 2010

Toothpicks: Rwanda's national post-meal passtime

Rwandans love toothpicks, or kirida. It may sound mundane, but never have I encountered a group of people who so universally love to use a toothpick after a meal. Be it in a restaurant or a middle class home, you will always be offered a toothpick following your meal, usually one of dubious Chinese origins that may or may not break off between your teeth, joining the goat meat or pineapple already stuck there. The simplest box of toothpicks costs only 100 francs, or less than 20 cents. Boxes typically have little holes in the top (the black area, right) so that toothpicks can be shaken out individually in a hygienic manner.

As usual, I get a kick out of some of the imports from China, particularly the "Delightfully fresh and each Vogue" toothpicks and the "Toothy-Fruity" variety with "fruits flowers" flavor tips on one end (click to enlarge):







Even babies love kirida! This is my adopted host sister in Nyanza.


The toothpick craze helps to explain why middle class Rwandans have such great teeth. For poorer Rwandans, toothpicks and other means of dental hygiene are unaffordable. Compounding the problem, raw sugar cane is widely consumed by the poor, meaning that among the other class divides here there is a clear gap in dental health.

1 comment:

  1. Usually, I use dental floss after eating. I tried using toothpick in removing debris within my teeth when I and my friends ate at one of the Chinese restaurants near our town. Thankfully I was able to remove debris within my teeth using toothpicks.

    ReplyDelete

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