I love food. Many people who hear this usually join the ever growing list of people who believe it. A few good ones take on a caretaker role, and indulge me in one of my few legal pleasures. One thing is certain though, all these people’s roles in life change once they start believing I love food. From questioning the validity of my statement, to trying to understand how I’m capable of certain gastric feats. It is in light of this that I’d like it to be known that I won the inaugural eating contest at my former workplace. I did it all for love.
As with all love however, prevailing conditions determine how much is present at a given moment. Key of these is the presence of an object of affection. Forget all that rubbish about loving yourself, that shit isn’t worth it, nor is it comparable to loving someone/something else. You may be a selfish bastard, but you don’t care that much about yourself. That’s why you empty your account to please a lady, or try new positions and can’t walk the next day, all for someone else. Jesus surely wouldn’t have died for himself. Even you wouldn’t die for you. I guess what I’m saying is, I love free food more. In fact, I believe a wise person once said free & food are the best words in the English language, and probably any other.
Where am I going with this?
In Uganda, food is cheap. I’ll pause as Ugandans mumble, argue and later agree with me. If you pull away the obsession with aesthetics, location and status, a good meal is accessible to many, at least one a day. Street food brings this cost even lower with the now famous Rolex, such a popular meal that almost everyone has a favourite Rolex joint. This is usually a vendor along your commute route (how do rhymes keep popping up) who knows how you like it done; fresh tomatoes, eggs well done with loads of veggies and wrapped up in two warm Chappattis. There are also many ladies who sell full meals served by the spoonful at the roadside. There you can take your pick of beef stew, some Mulokony (Cow hooves), offals (Mohudu in South Africa) rice or anything. This is beside the restaurants and multinationals also fighting for this same hungry market. Then there are those who go to the market, buy fresh produce and cook their own food. My full membership to that club is still pending.
Now transplant me from my Uganda to a place with more fast food places than bars (you have to visit Uganda to get that), and what you have is a moment of personal reflection.
You See, Reflection
So obviously I didn’t board the plane totally unaware of what to expect. I knew where I was headed wasn’t Uganda. That meant a lot, but as a food lover, it also offered an opportunity to sample some new foods. The sharp chap I am is however always aware that plans tend to be straight lines, a step by step guide on how to get from A to B. While life on the other hand is like a winding river, only occasionally crisscrossing the path of your plan. It’s only at those intersections that life goes according to plan, so I wasn’t overly optimistic. But that’s just me.
Anyway, my first plan was to indulge in junk food. We Ugandans are raised organic, stew at every meal and the occasional junk food to spoil yourself. I was going to shock my system as much as possible. For a fortnight, my body was going to be a temple of deep fried meaty food. And I wouldn’t feel guilty about it. After all, I don’t grow fat, I develop a sort of aura instead. I was also staying at a hotel so even the gods that be couldn’t judge me for ordering from the kitchen. This plan was surprisingly easy to achieve since fast food, is food here. Wraps, spicy wings, fish, and even fresh chips at 5 Rand (1300shs) in some places. And the best part, no little ketchup packets like back home. There’s a condiment table, with everything from barbecue sauce to something in a white bottle that I’ve never used. With these, you can drown your chips in ketchup and smear barbecue sauce all over your meat like Vaseline jelly on a 90s baby.
The universe however had other plans and as I moved out of the hotel, I realised I would probably have to leave my fast food behind. But for a while, all I had was a frying pan, so I just spiced up the junk food with visits to restaurants that served African food. I was finally eating some stew again, and animal parts that many back home would sneer at me for eating. From chicken feet to cow innards, a Goat’s head to pig legs, a meat lover would enjoy what’s on offer. I also learnt that Posho (Pap) here is enjoyed dry, like the Kenyans with their Ugali. This obsession with maize mill seemed Pan African, I realised early on. I thus couldn’t carry my Ugandan prejudice around with me. See, unlike many people who are never force fed Posho, Ugandans are. It’s one of the reasons I hated school. You can’t have Posho as your school staple, day in, day out, then occasionally find it at the home dinner table, and still love that meal. No way. It’s outlived its worth, the taste buds meant to enjoy it have retired, and I believe they’re no longer with many Ugandans.
But to have a pap meal, whether bought from KFC (yeah, Posho at KFC) or any other place, away from the connections to school and its memories, is different. It’s only then that I realised the white stuff is actually nice, and I no longer need a litre of sauce to wash it down, nor do I need a spoon or fork.
A frying pan can only do so much however, so I now have some pots and pans. After getting over the initial shock of seeing onions the size of mangoes, I am now capable of creating aromas that make my neighbours want to be my friends. It’s safe to say my love for meat has grown exponentially, considering I haven’t had pork in over 2 months, that’s saying something. But when I cook maize, it comes out as it went in. Perhaps I can’t fully digest it, or maybe it wasn’t fully ready that time.
Here it ends
By: Abong Brian
Picture source: wtop.com