Dusty Menus

I grew up eating food. I see your skeptical eyebrow raised, smirk on your face saying, no kidding, Einstein. What do you think the rest of us ate? Do you think our fathers brought home mirages? Do you think our mothers cooked those mirages and fed us vapors and promises? A precursor to NFT bread? Awino, usitupime akili, pris (say pris is a centrooo accent)

Your judgmental stance is warranted if, like me, you grew up in a place where everything that landed on your plate could be directly traced to a plant or animal that lived on God’s green earth. But, stay with me, come srowry, take a deep breath, get a cup of tea, or whisky, have a seat; you are not the one I speak of. Let me tell you of the suffering of some of our American and other brethren from developed countries and cities over the last few decades, maybe even centuries.

I am no fan of cheese. I don’t get its appeal. It tastes ok. It makes Pizza palatable. Beyond that, cheese is wasted on me. A quick search of the world’s top 10 most expensive cheeses yields names like: Lord of the Hundreds- not to be confused with Lord of the Rings, Rogue River Blue- even though no thievery was involved in the making of that cheese. My absolute favorite on that list is also the creme de la creme, Pule cheese. From a donkey. Yes, you read that right. People are out here forking out $600/pound to eat cheese made from a punda. A punda! My fellow Kenyans, we are literally burdening our fundas with hulking loads, when they could be making us loaded. Has any Kenyan, in the history of Kenyaning, ever thought to milk a donkey? Let alone make cheese from said milk? I will graciously receive royalties from whoever implements my idea.

You know who didn’t make the list though? Parmesan cheese. You know you have hit rock bottom when you are not deemed worthy to appear on the same list as the by-product of a donkey’s milk.

Why, you ask, with such a fine name, didn’t Parmesan make the list? Did it not wear the right bow tie and top hat to number 5-Old Ford’s father’s funeral? Did it, by chance, loudly yell that the obituary was incomplete, seeing as it didn’t mention the old goat’s second wife and six love children? Is Parmesan that guy who shows up to a wedding dressed in jean shorts and a t-shirt so shrunk and faded, whose original color is only decipherable after visiting a jajuok from Alego and offering a sacrifice of a white chicken? 

Did it have one too many drinks, snatch the microphone from the MC, stand on the table and start rattling off the names of all the bride’s and groom’s exes, some in attendance? Or did it, in a bid to gain some clout, run off with cheese number 10, Lord of The Hundreds’ wife, usurping him to become the new Lord? Or, maybe it loudly chewed with its mouth open and farted at the dinner table, scandalizing Mrs donkey-milk Pule, who being one who only farted rose scented perfume, was so scandalized she keeled over, prompting her loving husband to immediately strike Parmesan’s name off The List?

Unfortunately, the real reason is far more grating. You see, in the USA, there are three classifications of cheese. Bear with this brief dissertation as your body digests the Parmesan you ate ten years ago. 

Pasteurized process cheese = 100% Cheese

Pasteurized process cheese food = at least 51% Cheese

Pasteurized process cheese product = less than 51% Cheese

What is in the missing percentages? Usitake kujua.

This whole conversation started when my husband and I were discussing the recent discovery that a leading sandwich shop sells “food” consisting of, and this is true: ‘bread’ made of materials found in yoga mat foam, leading me to wonder if that explains my increased flexibility, since I partook of their cheap sandwiches quite frequently in my grad school days, being on a tight budget and all. The pièce de résistance on their menu however, was ‘tuna’ that turned out to be unusually fishy, and not of the pescaterian variety, but of the ‘this tuna has been all over these streets’ variety.  To use a word my fellow Kenyans are deeply fond of, this tuna had been gallivanting everywhere. The intrepid tuna looked around the ocean, sighed and decided it was so over the deep blue sea, packed its fins and found its way to Old McDonald’s farm, where it proceeded to slay with chicken, cows and even pigs. A.k.a the United Nations of sandwich meat. 

My husband then asked if I had ever heard of cheese food, a term I had never heard before. 

“Isn’t all cheese food? “I asked, baffled, at which point he looked at me as one does someone who has led a very sheltered life, and whose bubble is about to receive a tornado of grim reality. It sounded to me like saying, rice food. Well, what else would rice be?

He went on to explain, in great detail, and to my horror, that it was something that can be spread on sandwiches from a tube. A tube? Like toothpaste? I asked, another culture-shock moment loading, long after I thought I was done with culture-shock. Apparently, some Parmesan and the rest of the ‘cheese food’ family contain everything from sawdust to other ‘coagulants’. Basically, Parmesan is the sausage of the cheese family. You really do not want to know what’s in it. Eat it if you must, I know I have, and maybe, and that’s a big maybe, by the time your newborn infant is joining high school, your body will be done digesting it, if your metabolism is a furnace.

And apparently it doesn’t end there. Everything from tomato sauce to your veggie burger probably contain sawdust too (silver lining, at least sawdust is vegan). Even the tongue-twisting Worcestershire sauce contains it. Why the British chose not to spell it like it is pronounced, ‘Woostashar’, or even name it after India, the country that brought us its flavor, is beyond me. 

I will chew on my sawdust while I digest that, if we are what we eat, then we are all sawdust.


“Bro!” Nadab called.

“Dude, what?” an irritated Amasa responded.

“Come check this guy out, I heard he has like, 5000 followers, and he just showed up!”

“Bro, 5000 followers? Really? I’ve been hustling for years and I have like 200! Plus, I have the most followers in this town, so, nice try ha ha ha”

“Ok, get this, this guy is morbid. I mean mooorbiiid.” Nadab whispered dramatically, drawing out the word morbid for so long, Amasa wondered if he would pass out for lack of air.

Amasa sighed, shaking his head, and continued to vigorously brush his ass. The kind that has four legs and brays. Get your mind out of the gutter.

You see, Nadab was the king of drama. He could make the simple act of drinking water sound like a near death choking experience. Nadab was so dramatic, even his own mother did not believe him anymore, and you know mothers and their sons. It is harder for a mother to disbelieve her son than it is for a camel to enter the eye of a needle. But Nadab’s mom had heard such tall tales, she no longer had it in her to absorb any more. 

“Dude! This guy is basically putting up an ad for cannibals!” Nadab exclaimed.

That got Amasa’s attention. You see, there were rumors of cannibalistic tribes many many seas away, but how far away does a cannibal have to be for one to comfortably sleep at night, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be nibbled on while they sleep?

“Cannibals?” Amasa repeated.

“Dude!” that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! This dude is inviting cannibals to town!”

“Ok…” Amasa replied slowly, not wanting to attract attention in case said cannibals were in town. They were rumored to have exceptional smelling abilities, fear being their preferred scent.

“What exactly did he say? Direct quote please Nadab, this is not the time to insert one of your ‘scintillating’ details”

Nadab responded dramatically, “He said, and I quote, ‘My flesh is real food, and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him.’”

Amasa dropped the brush, startling his ass, which made a very loud noise. Not a fart, people, a braying noise. 

“What? He said what???” A stunned Amasa asked. Even his ass gave Nadab the side-eye.

“Bro, I’m telling you, there was pandemonium. People ran away, some started screaming, others looked around to see who the cannibals among us were. I definitely caught Absalom, the butcher, looking at this guy a little more closely than I was comfortable with, dude, I’m never buying meat from Absalom. Who knows what he’s been feeding us.”

“Nadab! Focus!” Amasa shouted, a cold sweat trickling down his back. He was a rather large man, and by his estimation, if there were cannibals in town, and it very much sounded like there might be, then he would be next, after this 5000 follower guy was eaten.

“Who is this guy? And I need you to answer this very carefully. When did you last see him alive?”

But Nadab seemed transfixed to the spot, staring at something just behind Amasa. Slowly, dreading what he would find behind him, Amasa turned to see The Man. He had brown skin, rather tall, with long hair parted in the middle. He looked familiar, but in that moment, all Amasa could hear was Nadab’s eerie whisper.

“That’s him, thaaa thaaaa that’s the ggggguy…” Nadab never stammered. He was terrified. The trickle that traveled down his leg onto his dusty sandals pretty much guaranteed no cannibal would want to eat him, leaving Amasa and The Man on the menu.

The Man approached the two men and the donkey. One of them, who seemed to have a liquid of unknown origin trickling down his leg, keeled over, out cold. The other one, with dexterity belying his rotund frame, jumped on the donkey and took off at a speed that would put Lewis Hamilton to shame.

Meanwhile, Jesus, who was just chilling in Capernaum, shooting the breeze with his followers, figured he’d get to the runaway guy eventually.