Back to my favorite kitchen. The room was shrouded in darkness, dimly lit by the few candles placed in the middle of each table. The dusty floor and hand-woven walls made this small feel feel very organic, basic and pure. With the doors closed to the outside world we were insulated from any other responsibility other than to have a wonderful dinner with fantastic people.
Almost everything had been cleared out of the room except for two medium sized tables in anticipation of the 13+ dinner guests on their way. Colorful plastic cups and small aluminum bowls were laid out, as well as a massive plate of Chipatis, looking impossibly delicious.
We felt bad that we had had to delay the dinner by almost two hours, but it wasn’t our fault. Limited kitchen facilities and a busy work schedule forced us to start making the food at home and much too late. I knew that our friends would have preferred to have helped us make the food, to see the process of its creation, but that will have to wait for the next event. For now, it was all about quantity in the shortest amount of time possible.
We worked fast to get the food ready for the approaching wave of hungry friends. We ladled the touriere meat into the bread bowls, acting in place of the traditional pie crust, and served out a generous helping of the ‘White Family Stew’. The dim environment made it difficult to see how much food we were putting onto the plates. Fortunately we had made quite a bit of food, so we just had to give each person a bit more than less to ensure satisfaction
Our friends trickled in and immediately got to work consuming the food. Exclamations of “Sweet” (which is a way of saying delicious), “Tasty”, and even “Scrumptious”, could be heard as people ate in relative quiet. In the beginning an attempt was made to maintain small conversation, but the excitement of this new taste combined with the ravenous hunger had people more concentratedon getting the food to their mouth than for words to come out of it.
I can imagine that I looked the same way when I had Kenyan food for the first time. There was distinct look of curiosity in their eyes, a kind of playfulness with the food in front of them. Questions are asked and comments are made that only a person experiencing this for the first time could think up. You can literally hear their culinary borders expanding.
And then The Comedian entered the room. While his real name escapes me as I have only every referred to him by his nickname, it is well deserved. He is the kind of energetic spark that any group of friends must have; that source of endless energy and humour that prevents a scowl from every appearing on our face
He is my greatest teacher on that which is Kenyan comedy. Forget the pun, forget the humorous self deprecation; here it is all about being seemingly unnecessarily dramatic about the mundane.
“There’s two types of soda here”, he might say. “The one type over there is fanta. Over here is Coke. Why can’t we exchange?” While this might not have a Canadian audience rolling on the ground in a fit of laughter, I tell you that the Kenya audience was howling. Then there are some of his other stories, like how he would empty his wallet except for a 5Ksh coin and act like a fool in order to avoid paying a bribe to the police officers. The way that he acted this out would have anyone laughing.
These are my friends. I discovered Mr. David’s tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant during the first few weeks of my previous stint in Kenya. We spent countless hours discussing religion over some githeri, describing Canada to him as we sipped a soda, or having David teach me rudimentary Swahili phrases as we watched the world go by from the vantage point of the bench in front of his shop. Despite my agnostic position they accepted me into their brood and provided me a family to be a part of when I was so far away from my own.
Now I get to share this with Jeff and Abby, to introduce them to this amazing group of people, and for them to experience it for themselves. I suppose that didn’t quite appreciate the life that I had forged for myself here in Kakamega, but now that I am attempting to integrate Abby and Jeff into it I can see it for what it is. My home away from home.