During my life in college I belonged and still do belong to a squad by the name Cattle Dip. In fact our Whatsapp group has been in existence since this social media platform taxied safely in our lives and became part of us. The close to 10 of us were using all manner of tricks to survive in Nairobi mostly living with relatives then, who too had their fair share of survival struggles. Basically, the resources weren’t enough. Naturally, we devised ways and mechanisms to survive in this city. From having the sh.50/- lunch at Ngara Market to walking from Vision – Paramount at the Globe roundabout to Uhuru highway – Haile Selassie intersection or at times paddling further to Nyayo Stadium to catch a sh.20/- mat to Mombasa road. For most of us our daily budgets revolved around sh.100.
This type of life slowly sinked in us to an extent of nurturing a belief that no man should spend as much for lunch. Four years down the line, I have had issues with hotels that overprice meals they offer. But whom I am to protest, its either you take it or leave it. Not that I still frequent makeshift places for lunch nowadays, however, the nostalgic feeling hasn’t hanged it boots in my life just yet. With tight competition and thanks to offering the same type of menu which is rather visualised than placed somewhere, these vibandas battleground is left in the service delivery zone. How they serve the food and approach would-be-customers breaks or makes their jinx in surviving in this quite profitable market. Of late, we’ve seen the likes of Deputy President William Ruto, Hon.John Sakaja and many other bigwigs make much publicity capital out of visiting these places mostly associated with low class citizens.
Enough of that;
I’m sitting in this favourite lunch joint waiting patiently for my order. Normally, if you are a familiar patron the waiters or are they referred as waitresses will welcome you with a high five or those affectionate handshakes that are always followed with a thunder. It’s the unwritten rule in this joint. Call it a ritual if you may or a marketing gimmick that has worked for many walk-in customers. Imagine a place where waitresses ask how your day is fairing on? You know, in Marketing they teach us about customer satisfaction and valuing. This is the magic that leaves us badly loyal to this small hotel that has one fan, 18 seats, two waitresses and buzzing noise from busy humans and their cutlery . It’s the same magic that makes many of us find our way to this hotel even when we find ourselves in the other side of town.
The two, slender ladies from head to toe but big hearted and with even ‘bigger ‘ smiles serve with sheer passion. You can always tell they love what they do and they love their boss too, and the customers as well. They refer us by our names and gladly find us a place to sit even when it is tough to find one or when those short-fat-daddies that Biko writes about occupy two seats. These ladies always depict genuine smiles to customers with their familiar phrases, “Umeagiza?” Now to you who attended Kiandutu Primary and later proceeded to Komothai Girls Umeagiza is a Swahili sanifu term meaning; Have you ordered?
These waitresses never have those times-of-the-month mood swings. Never. I envy how they enjoy what they do not like some of us who sit behind a computer doing accounting stuff dealing with mean-looking emails from auditors or stubborn clients who will not pick your calls or respond to emails. You will work under tight deadlines from the seniors and also put up with long impromptu meetings all in a day’s work. But what of serving food to hungry humans who will only be there for a maximum of 40 minutes. Here patrons don’t stay for long since they have to excuse the rest that are trooping in carrying their weathered bodies along, having been bashed by the humongous sun that has seemingly outmaneuvered the rains or were they floods! The only time I came close to eavesdropping a deal, was when I sat next to souls negotiating for a car from car brokers and in a record, 40 minutes, the deal had been struck with me as the unintended witness who couldn’t help but listen.
Moreover this is not a place for rendezvous, where you catch up with your girls for coffee or for prolonged lazy lunch breaks with your-significant-other with nothing to show but a toothpick on your hands, you will politely be chased by anxious eyes from patrons next on line struggling to hold their ever bulging tummies. Here, you don’t make long phone calls or wait for someone while keeping yourself busy with the newspaper, where do you even place the paper when fixed in a stuffy hotel clutched by six people in one table with all manner of confusing meals from Matoke beef to Kienyeji special. How do you even order for Kienyeji(Mukimo) for lunch while in a tie. How do you even make it to the office thereafter still in a tie, bracing the scorching sun and having taken Kienyeji special!
By now you could guess my favourite order, well; I can do Matumbo-Chapati any day of the week. Yes Matumbo which I learnt lately it’s also called offal. This joint understands the art of cooking Matush. As many would fear, my stomach has been safe and happy for the six months i have frequented this place. By the way, the order is accompanied by Matumbo soup, to soften the chapoo for ease of pricking with a fork. Now, who on earth orders for Matumbo soup? Haha. Is it thick? Does it have crawling earthlings or floating stuff? How’s the taste? Kageshi couldn’t believe I take those things as she referred them until she gave in to my convictions lately. She took a friend to the same place recently and she called me immediately marveling how delicious the food was. On that juncture I’d recommend Dr. Stacey whom I wrote about, sometimes back Dr.Stacey And My Limping Leg to try my favourite meal in this hotel behind Kenol – Nanyuki. Doc, I dare you.