The first time I read the word gourmet I thought to myself. Well, here’s a word that’s instructing me to engage in copious amounts of coitus and fill the world. Much like the big guy up there in the clouds wanted. Speaking of which, the last few people you sent my way… funny man. Real funny. Like what the hell? I say what the hell? Sound familiar? Give a hug to Robin.
Pronunciation is not an African strong suit. Or sisal wrapper. Or cow hide. We do not respect the silent letters. We are loud. So why would a letter be silent? Why include it? A silent letter in a word is like a mpango wa kando only there to be seen. My physics teacher. Burly guy with bulging blood shot eyes. Constant stench of day old booze hanging on his breath. Taught me how to calculate the height of an oil molecule. Not really a useful skill but a skill all the same. But my English teacher never could explain why we had a P in pneumonia. Or a K in knee. Like the letters; the rest of the class, her and I were to stay silent. Don’t ask. Don’t tell.
You’re on a date. She’s on her phone. Probably instagram. When you got in she called the waitress whispered something into her ear. It looked conspiratory. She whispered back. You have a clueless look on your face. You’re thinking the worst. She’s ordered off the secret VIP menu. Mental calculations have you at hot water and lemon. Diet. Sounds right. You look at the bone to meat ratio. Diet doesn’t sound right. Sensitive stomach. Yes. That will work. They exchange pleasantries and the waitress leaves. Oh, by the way, the Wi-Fi password is blah blah blah. She says. Makes sense. No secret menu. Just the Wi-Fi. Hours of: babe look at this, aki si she looks good in that dress, yaani they went for the road trip without me?
You’re thinking sandwich and juice. She’s thinking something camera friendly. Probably grilled chicken. Lemon grilled chicken. Side of starch. The golden brown chips. The kind that look like they’ve been cooked in olive oil. You know? The ones that are perfectly brown. Like they’ve sun tanned in Diani after deep sea diving. Not the transformer oils one. The kind with uneven skin tone. The kind Nivea adverts were made for. Plus a salad. With yellow bell peppers. Sun-dried tomatoes. Baby powder. Okay I’m joking. No baby powder. Finally mushroom sauce. That white creamy sauce. A white dinner plate for the aesthetics and cutlery. So she makes the order. Takes a quick picture. Tags it with the necessary manenos and uploads it. The rest of the date the both of you are silent like the P in pneumonia. Or the K in knee.
But sometimes you’re not on a date. Like I wasn’t. It was the last day of the Nairobi Restaurant Week. A week for people like me that indulge in uneven skin toned chips to indulge in baby powdered, deep sea diving vegetables. My first (and only) pick is my colleague. Because while showing up to a bar alone is kind of okay. Showing up to a restaurant alone screams lonely. There was no much debate as to what restaurant we’d go to and why. The plan was simple. Go to the restaurant that offers more value for money. Which for us meant more food less cash. Say it with me; more food less cash. So after hours of drooling over a magazine. Which was just me reading all the literary articles and admiring the shiny whisky bottles in glossy ads. We settle on Urban Gourmet Burgers. See where I was going with the intro?
We meet in town. I’m there in less than twenty minutes. It’s a Sunday so there’s no traffic. But, the streets are swelling with people. The ladies in dresses that end in a bow at the back. The men with shiny trousers so carefully ironed you can see the air split as they walk. The kids with purple shirts, bow tie, black trousers, Bata school shoes and a leather bound bible in one hand. The smell of chicken from greasy outlets with rude attendants assaulting your nasal ways. The hawkers on the side of the road with their goods sprawled out on the ground calling. That annoying guy that thinks he is everybody’s friend. That fist bumps and shamelessly asks for ten shillings. Always roaming the streets and sidewalks. The way he wears his desolation with pride. Holding his nose up high like you owe him. Like he is entitled to that loose coin in your pocket. That he is doing you a favor by taking it. Lightening your load. Making the world a better place for you. See this guy is special. Not in the ‘you’d buy him lunch and give him fare’ special but the ‘you’d check him into a mental institution’ kind. Once, he insulted me. My crime? Having my earphones plugged in and not giving him the pleasure of reliving me of my ten shillings. But that’s a story for another day.
I digress. I get to town and I’m waiting for my colleague. Fashionably late. But she gets there. We get into a mat. I’m stuck with a woman that can’t seem to fit in between the slender rows. Plus she’s loud. Has kids. And has an air about her that can only be from a woman that has just planted a seed and is waiting for things to turn around. Sunday. We finally get to Westgate. I have mixed feelings. I’m not sure I really want to go in. I’m scared. Of a building. The memory of what happened there haunts me. Some wounds, even though not ours, take time to heal. However, cars are streaming in. People are walking around. Happy. So we go in. Have the usual pat down. Walk to the information desk and ask for Urban Gourmet. Nice lady she is by the way. Didn’t get her name. Red lipstick though. Then we take the stairs because someone is afraid of escalators.
Have you ever walked into a restaurant and gotten a feeling that your girlfriend would hate it? If you had one? First. The hostess, at the door, is gorgeous. Wearing a black polo t-shirt. The ambiance is sporty. And warm. Even the waitresses have jersey numbers printed on their Polo t-shirts. The hostess smiles says something that had a welcome and a seat for two. She takes two menus and walks us to our seats. Instinctively I go straight to the drinks menu. Beers. They have draft beers. Thank the heavens. So I know I’m getting one. My colleague makes the orders. For everything she’s having the waitress looks at me. I look at my colleague and nod. She says “same”. It later hits me that maybe the waitress thought I’m one of those guys that lets the lady make all the decisions. Those guys you’ll meet in town in a pink floral shirt tucked into blue denims and brown oxford shoes. Smelling of Tommy Hilfiger with a slight hint of shaving cream. Hand in hand with the missus. Who, keeps ‘straightening’ his collar and palm ironing his chest. She’s admiring her handiwork. Making sure it’s flawless.
So anyway. The food comes. We start with the chicken wings. Made in some honey sauce and ketchup. Delectable. That’s the word. We dig in. They are soft and melt in your mouth. The flavor is well distributed. You’d be forgiven for licking your fingers because they are that good. I don’t know how I can put it into words. You know, bring out their flavor so as you read this it feels like you too are taking the culinary journey as well? But I’ll put it this way. I forgot about my cold beer. They are that good. Few minutes into them and we’re done. It’s like they literally flew off the plate. Chuckles to self. Waitress comes over and clears the table. Doesn’t waste time and brings the next meal. The burger.
This isn’t the kawaida burger you buy at your kawaida joint. This is a burger that has instructions to go engage in copious amounts of coitus and fill the world. It’s gourmet. It’s a socialite burger. It’s the crème de la crème – minus the sex tape. It has groupies or an entourage. So the waitress brings the burger and it comes with its entourage. Some sides of coleslaw. There’s has a twist to it. I think black pepper. Fresh veggies. And fries. I wanted to call it chips but it feels like it has such a negative connotation. Like owning a BMW. You don’t say my car. You have to say my BMW. Because it is just not another car. It’s a BMW. My colleague asked for the patty to be medium done. So it has this pinkness to it. Like when you pinch a yellow-yellow baby. Maybe because subconsciously pink is her favorite color. It has eggs and bacon for toppings. Some fancy sauce I don’t know the name to. Like a socialite it’s intimidating. You want to stare at it. Proclaim your love. Take it out for shopping. Introduce it to your mum. And finally, honeymoon in the Bahamas.
For the next half hour nothing else exists. Not the huge screen showing re-runs of Leicester city versus Manchester city. Not the shift manager with brown skin and long hair. Not my beer. Not my colleague. Not the lady sitting adjacent to me complaining how the salad was too good. I don’t get how that’s a complaint. But she complained. Said something like “This salad you served me is too good! I couldn’t eat the coleslaw.” So not her. It was me and the burger. I even ignored the fries. The delicately golden brown, crispy pampered potatoes. I think like a socialite we believe in the hype too much. The bacon and eggs added a nice touch. The sauce was heavenly. But the patty was a bit burnt. I didn’t really like it. But so many things were working in its favor that I ignored it. Enjoyed the meal. Felt fat. Lazy. And sipped on my now jealous beer. It must have had the time of its life. Being the one to wipe out the taste of sin from my mouth.
You’d think we were done. Pay bills and leave. But no. There was dessert. Apple pie. Thanks to my colleague. Perfect restaurant mate. Perfect wife too if you are looking. The pie came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I’ve always heard about apple pies. In the movies. In the workplace. But this was my first time eating one. So I really can’t say if it was good or not. But I did enjoy it. It was not too sweet. The ice cream however took care of that. Something about the ice cream. It was fresh. I don’t really know how I know. But I could tell. It didn’t have that artificial taste of ice cream processed with a lot of refined sugars and additives. Maybe next time I will ask where they get it from. Buy my own stash and serve it for lady guests. Maybe on. But let’s stick with for now.
Quick one. My first weekend at the office. When they casually robbed me of my social life. I find my colleagues. A whole bunch of them eating some kind of pie. It didn’t look like your normal pie. Miserable. Dry. Like it hates the oven it came from. These were good pies. Smelt good too. On an interns allowance I couldn’t afford such pie. But then my colleague, Angela, got me one. Actually she shared hers. Not such a big deal. But she did anyway. They say pies are edible smiles. Who you ask? Me. I say pies are edible smiles. And so from that day I make her smile anytime I can. Until I can buy her pie then we are even.
So we’re about to leave. But she has someone at home. We don’t get them left overs. Or go someplace cheaper. She gets them a burger too. Which comes in a fancy bag. Guess fancy burger. Fancy packaging. If I had someone at home I would take to them fresh stories on just how good the burgers were. So you see right? Perfect wife. Anyway we have to leave. She asks for the bill. Makes sense too. She has been ordering. Lady brings the bill and we decide since hers is larger she will pay via card. And I would slip my share under the table. Covert shit. The lady prances off and brings the card machine. My colleague gets her card out. The lady swipes it and then she scowls. Nods her head and announces the card has been declined. Says something about expiry. Look on my colleagues face is priceless. Not that if it had a price she could pay for it anyway. The kind lady. Trying to be understanding offers to bring a second machine. I know she knows it won’t work. She knows I know she knows it won’t work. My colleague knows it will work. It has to. Otherwise. Embarrassment. Machine comes. She swipes. I swear she gives me a look. And. Declined.
I’m amused. Almost laughing. I know the waitress doesn’t think it’s funny. She’s probably figuring how much of the bill management will make her pay. After all it’s her fault serving us. She should’ve known. But hey it’s my colleague. Not some random person I met off the street. I’ve shared her pie. Written about her on her birthday. You can read that here. So I take out mine. Pay. It works. But the waitress gives me a subtle look. A look that says why I had to let the lady pay. But she doesn’t linger on about it. She smiles and says thank you. I think she forgets to add ‘for actually having money to pay and not having management deduct it from my salary’. But she walks away. Probably to tell her colleagues about the guy that wanted to let the lady pay. And the smart lady who used a faulty card to force me to pay. But she was nice about it so she can talk behind my back. Needless to say it was a fun experience. With fun people. Oh. I can comfortably write this because I got paid back. See people! What I’m telling you. Perfect.
P.S: I’m still trying to convince her to write a story for my blog. But as it turns out. It’s not as easy as pie. Chuckles to self.