I watch movies and I laugh at the formalities accompanied with meal time, which are burdensome. The rules that accompany meals can easily make one give up on eating. There are manners to observe, the cutlery to use, the number of times to chew before swallowing, what to eat before what, how to stand, to breath while eating…the list is endless. You see people using forks and knives, napkins and wonder, why all that torture in your own house?
Come to Kenya. It is meal time. People are glued to the television, watching the 8pm soap, after the women in the house fought the battle of words and won. The males are actually watching secretly, pretending to brood. They know the characters by name, but they deny vehemently about this fact. One woman is in the kitchen knocking against so many things since she is in great hurry and she needs to watch the soap too. The smell of ugali is distracting the viewers.
In a nick of time, she beautifies the table with the steaming ugali. The water for washing hands is brought fourth alongside with the drinking water. People start washing their hands and picking their plates of vegetables. It is kales and if lucky, there will be beef. Then, each member of the house either cuts the ugali with a knife or simply attacks it with their hands and menya. This depends with set-up. Let me be simple. In the village, slicing the ugali is unheard of. The ugali won’t be delicious if it is sliced.
In the next minutes, people are eating and talking excitedly about nothing of importance. Talking with some food in their mouth is a non-issue. One person takes the tumbler and pours the water from the jugs and drinks. He then continues eating. A phone rings and the owner goes to pick the phone amid complaints and talks for about a minute and resumes eating. Then for some reason, the youngest kid in the house accidentally drops his plate and he is reprimanded. When the meal is over, people are sweating and excited. Praises are dropped here and there. They say that ugali was like cake, that the beef was extremely delicious. One member belches loudly and nobody is surprised. Another one is busy fishing the beef remnants stuck between his teeth. Nobody seems disgusted.
This is Kenya…