Morsels

I stared at it in disbelief. I looked at my husband, who stared back at me, and in unison and dumbfounded silence, we stared at it. It sat there, unabashedly mocking us, daring us to send it back, to denigrate its proportions. To tell it that it was not enough, that even though we had let it into our home, we would send it back into that cold, scary world. 

We speak 4.5 languages between us, but those languages, having assessed the situation, to borrow a Primary school favorite phrase, took off as fast as their thin legs could carry them. We were on our own. Even I was lost for words, and if you know me, you know that is nearly impossible. Yet, here I was, shaking my head in disbelief. It was what we call a mako dhoga situation. It had literally gripped my mouth in a vice of silence.

I am part Luhya. You know what that means. For the uninitiated, my Luhya handiz and hankoz (aunties and uncles) are known for their close affiliation with all things food. To be Luhya is to love to eat. Facts. Ask any Kenyan. They will confirm these facts.

And while this child of the Abandu definitely inherited that gastronome gene, albeit a slightly modified one, interested only in food that falls in the delicious and moderately sized category, nothing prepared me for the sight before me.

You see, a good friend presented me with a gift card to a fancy restaurant in town, and so, after perusing their online menu filled with exotic descriptions like Gruyere and Emmenthaler, we ordered what appeared to be a delicious array of food.

Mungu halali. The first sign should have been that the restaurant’s online menu did not contain photos of their food. Online reviews yielded fuzzy photos, which really should have been the second and final warning. But did we listen? No. Why? Because, free food from a fancy restaurant, also, when else will I get my smoked gouda via gift card?

I waited patiently while my husband went to collect the food, and since it had been a few hours and a workout since my last proper meal, my hungry brain conjured images of a chef in starched whites, hat delicately balanced atop her head, delicately preparing our feast, barking at the sous chef to make sure the ravioli was al dente and the pollo’s internal temperature was at a perfect 165F.  And then the maître di sala, who insisted that everyone refer to him as “Signor Francisco Jacobo-Giovanni”, dressed in funereal head-to-toe black, embracing a post COVID world and pivoting to ensure the food was perfectly packed for delivery, wishing us,’Buon Appetito’ in an nasal accent vague enough to sound Italian to the untrained ear, but equally baffling to those familiar with that country.

My dreams appeared to materialize when my husband walked in carrying the feast, the aroma of the garlic braised chicken and ravioli filling the kitchen, propelling me towards the source.

Mapipi na Mapwana, ladies and gentlemen, that is when the Luhya in me, let’s call her Nakhumicha, stopped in her tracks, and my dreams died before my eyes.

“Vane!” she exclaimed, before all language deserted her.

There, before me, were three tiny boxes of chicken. T-I-N-Y. This food had cost almost $50. $50! Fine, it wasn’t $50 of our money, but still. It was an atrocity.  It was literally the size of two handfuls of a class three child. And not one who will grow up to become a Kenyan policeman with hands the size of an industrial fan. No, these portions were equivalent to a tiny pair of eight year old handfuls. 

Some may say, “Awino yawa, you didn’t even pay for the food, what is?” please read that in a Luo accent.

It was the injustice of it all. Who, in their right mind, does this? And to Nakhumicha of all people? Serves a tiny handful of chicken, without rice, pasta or any other food that would “hold the stomach”? I was hungry. I had been saving my appetite, pardon me, appetito,  for this feast. I mean, I wasn’t hoping for ukari, I didn’t expect mrenda to accompany this atrocity. Nakhumicha, was outraged. Outraged enough to write this article, but not enough to forgo the handful of chicken. To add insult to injury, it was some of the most delicious chicken I have ever eaten. All three bites of it. Pinyni tek.

TMI

“But why does he have to call it The Gonorrhea?”

I was roaming the aisles of my local supermarket, grocery shopping, when I happened to overhear this obnoxiously loud and TMIous conversation that was unraveling over speaker phone.

You have to understand, this is a normal supermarket. The kind that sells things like milk, bread, fruit, kombucha and kids clothes. More specifically, I was in the hair products aisle, because, team natural.

When I walked in that afternoon, I thought the most exciting thing that would happen was that I would find my favorite products on sale. I was bummed that I had forgotten my earpods at home, and would have to shop to the generic music the store played, which is definitely not Afrobeats.  Little did I know that the universe saw my frowny face and decided to turn that frown upside down, courtesy of she who shall not be named. Scratch that, she who I named The Voice.

As I was holding two competing deep conditioner brands in hand, contemplating the virtues of Jojoba and vanilla, The Voice returned.

“I mean, why not call it Gonorrhea like a normal person?”

Eyebrows raised, I turned my head, scanning the area around me, eager to locate the source of this voice that roamed free, unencumbered by the societal straitjackets of propriety and inside voices. The deep conditioners, which until that moment had commanded my undivided attention, were urgently returned to their shelves, moisturized hair falling far below this new development on the totem pole. You see, when you live in a suburb as quiet as the one I live in, where the most exciting thing that happens is NIMBY protests, this conversation was the UFO of occurrences.

At this point, The Voice had moved closer to my aisle, I imagine, at the urging of the universe.

“Go there,” The Universe whispered

“Where?” The Voice bellowed

“Closer to the hair products aisle, your roots could use a touch-up or two.”

“You’re right! Thank you Universe!”

And so, I heard The Voice drawing closer.

“I mean,” I noticed she said ‘I mean’ a lot.

“I mean, remember when he had Syphilis? Which he also insisted on calling The Syphilis??? As if he had the grand finale of the disease? Like dude, how many lives do you have?”

At this point, I also wondered how many lives Dude had, and how many more he had left in the bag. It sounded like having discovered that no one leaves this world alive, he was living his best life in these streets, painting each corner every color known and unknown to womankind, and would take zero regrets to his grave. Diseases, many, but regrets? Zilch.

Since The Voice was practically on the next aisle, I could hear her companion’s voice over speaker phone, saying something about amends.

“He is making amends? So now we all have to hear about all the diseases he has? Do you know how many countries he has been to? Is he gonna make amends around the world???” The Voice asked incredulously, releasing the long-suffering sigh of one who has seen and heard it all.

At this point, I was dying of curiosity, I wanted to see this woman who felt the need to have such a deeply private conversation in such a public space, and sure enough, the universe delivered. She rounded the corner, talking about how Dude got so many women because he also spoke French and Spanish. A real man of the world, this Dude. She popped up on my aisle, where I was rooted to the spot, having been so engrossed in eavesdropping that I did not even bother to conceal my nosiness. Now, standing face to face with her, I immediately switched back to apparent shopping mode, staring at the array of conditioners and masks, wondering how anyone was supposed to choose any one of them when they all promised luscious, bouncy hair. I maintained this pose, the labels before me a blur, as The Voice moved closer to me, examining the array of products, and finding the selection of over 200 options wanting.

“Why don’t they carry black hair dye, I’m blonde but blondes like to dye their hair other colors too!” she exclaimed, looking at me for commiseration, in a ‘ do you feel my pain’ vibe, even though I am neither blonde, nor do I dye my hair. I nodded noncommittally, gave her the standard 1 second American smile, and continued to appear to examine the products ahead of me, afraid that if I responded, I would be voluntold into being an active participant of the Dude Commission of Inquiry. Disappointed by my lack of empathy, she moved on to the next aisle, telling the person she was speaking to that she would have to call them back, and went in search of an acceptable hair dye, or perhaps someone who was a bit more simpatico.

At this point, a victim of analysis paralysis courtesy of the rows and rows of choices before me, and having experienced quite the exciting shopping trip, I gave up on selecting a deep conditioner, loaded up on my probiotic drink, and headed home, where there was peace, quiet and no Voices.