Alright, I’m going to continue this food theme a little bit longer. Though can it be considered a theme if I had only written about it once before? That doesn’t matter. I had offered to cook dinner for a couple of friends from work after my one friend, Maureen, told me about how she will be moving to American early next year to be with her brother who is living in Wisconsin. Maureen has a three year old daughter named Euphresia, who we will be talking about soon. It is not as though Maureen doesn’t know about American food, but rather we just thought that it would be fun if I were to make for them my own attempt at good ol North American cooking. Tonight’s menu would consist of spaghetti and home made pasta sauce
You would never have found the house even if you tried. Tucked way back in an alley way off of Lurambi Junction and between two long rows of towering foliage is an indiscernible wooden gate. You wouldn’t notice any kind of door if it had not been for its crookedness against its home made frame. Entering through the door, I entered into an oasis of serenity the middle of the city’s craziness. A small sukuma wiki garden greeted me to my left, no doubt used by all of the tenants. To my right I was greeted with a warm “Habari!” by two residents, one vigorously plating the hair o the other. All in all there must have been something like 15 people living in the five housing units which make up the two long one story residential buildings. My friend guided me to her comfy home, the last one in the compound.
Passing through the bed sheet that was acting as a mid-day door, I walked into a very comfortable house for this family of three (her friend, Julie, also lives there). The main room felt very spacious, thanks to both the exposed triangular corrugated iron ceiling and the minimalistic interior decorating, consisting of jut enough chairs surrounding a main table in the middle o the room. Beside the dining table was a moderately sized TB, blasting the all rhumba music video station. They explained to me that the TB has only two volumes – whisper and deafening. I was taken on a a brief tour, showing me the shared bedroom and kitchen, finally flopping down in the living room chairs and spending the next hours just talking and joking.
And not I must jump ahead in the story to the inspiration for this writing. Let me just start by noting that Euphrasia is one of the most adorable 3 year old girls I have ever met. While we had a bit of a rough start, with me striking fear into her unaccustomed self (which is the typical response when I greet a Kenyan kinderfarten aged child), in no time we were best friends. Of course she insisted on pulling out every one of her million plus toys so that I may bask in their glory, as well as to pull out all of her school books so that she may demonstrate her vocabulary prowess by naming vegetables and numbers. Love it, love it, love it.
And then after the impatience was about to boil over in the child, dinner was served. Remember, this wasn’t this child’s first experience with the noddly excitemeny of spaghetti, but this also doesn’t mean that Thursday nights are pasta night in this this household, or in Kenya for that matter. Needless tosay ,the excitement in this young girl was palpable.
Now, take a second to imagine yourself tacking a plate of spaghetti. Have you mastered the art of the twirl? Able to stop the splatter? Can you handle the slurp of the dangling noodle with class? Neither can I, and I’m a relative veteran. So, what do you get when you place a bowl infront of a three year old Kenyan rookie?
Initially, Euphrasia seemed to just stare at the mountain of pasta, possibly in confusion, possibly in excitement overload. Definitely the former, as she then lept into the bowl like an Olympic diver. However, after plunging her fork into the noodles she had a problem. Holding the fork at forehead height infront of her, she had what seemed like a foot of difficulty dangling down infrongt of her. I can hear her thoughts, namely “How the hell do I eat this?” Diving into the deep end, she bit the noodles at mid length and proceeded to use both hands to push what remained into her mouth.
I’ll give Maureen credit, she tried her best to help Euphrasia, but this little pasta eater could never quite get the hang of the twirl. Her first attempt sent the noodles flying, with one landing on her chest and would remain there for some time. Giving up on this technique, she went back to her wrangling ways, usually having more noodles wrapped around her fingers than around the tongs of her fork. At one point she cried out in joy as we watched her lift up her first every successful twirl. Unfortunately for her, she had managed to twirl ALL of the noodles and had a four inch sphere of pasta on the end of her fork.
What looked like failures to us adults were undoubtedly euphoric attempts to her and she cleaned her plate with gusto. It was only now that she could breath and survey her scene. She finally noticed the noodle on her chest and ate it in one gulp. She found the stray piece that had somehow landed on her head and brushed it aside. It was at this point, when she got up to put her plate in the kitchen, that we noticed the heaping pile of lost noodles that had missed her mouth and landed all around her on the floor, like the remains after a good haircut. Should I ever decide to become a professional chef and wanted to ensure 100% satisfaction in my clients, I will be sure to open a 5 yrs and younger restaurant.
By this point it was late and the sun was long gone. We cleaned up all devestation that we had all left on the table and I had to take my leave. I was escorted by flashlight back through the alleyway by Maureen and Euphrasia, who took I upon herself to take lead. Hugs were shared all around and I promised my new best customer that I would return the following week with a new grocery bag of happiness. That should give her enough time to clean herself up from tonight’s awesomeness.