He subjected his money to the indignity of purchasing two plates of rice, each with different accompaniments. Mine was steak, and a soup served in a fancy cup that, I guess increased the price of the meal tenfold. We were in a fancy restaurant along Kimathi Street, and I couldn’t help but wonder how such a measly meal, a meal that did even involve ugali would cost an arm and a leg. The possible explanation would be that it had been severely inflated. The class is overrated.
Before we go any further, the bill did amount to somewhere above two thousand shillings. For two plates of rice. Without even ugali. I am not a miser though. I have spent almost twenty times more in my lifetime of important things such as gambling and alcohol. Perhaps even more. But this one, I found it particularly irksome.
First of all, we were handed menu that seemed to have been crafted from a rare piece of wood from the Congo forest. As if that is not enough, it was also laminated. As far as I am concerned, the menu alone will outlive everyone, although I am still debating whether it will survive a nuclear war partly because I haven’t experienced it. I went through the menu, and I couldn’t find a single thing that I would understand. All of a sudden, it dawned on me that my education was useless. Of course, there were things I would understand, but it was eroded by the fact that I couldn’t spot ugali, which is pretty much the same as not knowing anything.
I was in the company of a lady (not my girlfriend, and for security reasons I do not wish to divulge how we got there) and a man (the one who subjected his money to the mentioned indignity). She seemed to have sensed my agitation. She seemed to read my mind, which screamed like neon lights “I WANT TO GO WHERE I BELONG – KIBANDA- AND EAT UGALI ”
“What do you want? I can help you.” She volunteered. I could sense queer eyes trained on this village boy, clueless about middle class crass disguised as standards.
“Beef,” I said curtly.
The waiter points at a variety of beef products, which assumed different names based on how it was subjected to heat. I understood steak because I had read that morning about it on a book ‘Omnivores Dilemma’ by an author I do not care to remember his name. after all this not an exam, and if you really need to name the name of the author hail Mr. Know-It-All. So I chose steak. The, who by the way was not particularly beautiful, noted down and asked what juice I was gonna have. Because I was so disoriented and or embarrassed, large and small sounded so Greek. I told her to bring any, then she said she would bring largely, and that’s when it dawned on me that she had not been speaking Greek after all.
The juice came. The man and woman started taking selfies, of course, initiated by the woman. I was reduced to a fly on the wall, which was less embarrassing than not knowing what large and small were perfect English words that were opposite of each other. I sipped my juice as I surveyed the vista that middle-class people came to settle scores with their rumbling stomachs, or perhaps escape the tantrums of their horrible bosses for at least an hour every day of the week. There were leather chairs with sockets fixed in between. I could see that the management perfectly understood the need to charge their American associated mobile devices, which were manufactured in China, and by men and women who lived in dorms within the precincts of the factories. Or the fact that children in conflict-ridden DR Congo were being exploited in the mining of a precious mineral used in making of their smartphones.
Judging from the long wait the food took to arrive, I guessed that you make your order first, then they go and source for ingredients somewhere out of town, before they finally subject the ingredients to heat accordingly. I am not a chef, I would gladly explain the procedure. Even then my culinary skills are way too exceptionally whacky. My plate of steak arrived without any pomp. One particularly striking thing was a large green leaf than sat beside something that resembled kachumbari. I suppose middle-class people call it something else. I did try to use the fork and knife. I do not wish to embarrass myself any further with explanations of how I handled the two familiar yet functionally unfamiliar when used together concurrently. I did not touch the leaf. A cow in my village wouldn’t either.
An experience like this makes one resolve never to set foot in a fancy restaurant. I am going to stick to my lane. A meal of rice and beans will cost considerably less, by a far much wider margin. A meal in that fancy restaurant which does not even consist of ugali (very important), will last you a whole month in the Kibandaski. And they don’t even have to fetch ingredients far away before your order is availed. Mathe will just shout ‘WALI MADONDO APO’ and bingo you have your meal as her words are magical incantations.