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.