Setting: In a formerly middleclass estate in Nairobi.
Mum: A lady in her thirties, who was in a hurry with a daughter in tow.
Daughter: A girl of 8 or 9 years old.
Mum: Nini? Harakisha…
Daughter: Mum, ushawahi kula pizza?
Mum: Hapana. (harshly) Kwa nini?
(The two then walked past my earshot.)
This exchange which happened awhile back got me thinking. On food, experiences and economics.
It has been cooking in my head ever since and the on-going Nairobi Restaurant Week has triggered this post.
For those clueless, #NRW2015 is an annual event where high-end restaurants reduce prices and enable more people enjoy fine-dining.
Our local cuisine as Kenyans is pretty basic and it is mostly dependent on where you come from. Rice – coast, Ugali fish – Nyanza, Githeri (mashakula) – Central. Food in Kenya is not cheap and thus folk mostly eat what they farm or readily access.
In the urban setting, food one consumes is dependent both on economic capability as well as exposure.
How old were you when you fast tasted pizza? If you are in your late twenties and above chances are that it has happened in the last decade and losing your pizza virginity was a big deal. Back in the day, kuku quarter and chips and soda was the epitome of cool. Pizza come with the South Africans outlets and it did not quite get traction.
However, in the past decade Nairobi’s middleclass has balloned and with it has lead to an avalanche of trendy food joints.
Through social media into the mix and being with it now involves KFC, Pizza Inn, Cold Stone and other foreign food joints that have opened up in Nairobi. For a few the cost is not prohibitive but for a majority a meal at these cool joints is a cause for major personal budget realignment.
So I feel for the daughter who wants to be cool but I also get that the mum has to think of the family budget and thus talk of pizza is unsettling.
To counter the #NRW2015, folk have tweeted and posted on Facebook in jest about Nairobi Kibanda Week.
Underneath the jesting is a bit of harsh reality. There is a Nairobi for Kibandas and one for Restaurants.
Many years ago, Kitu Sewer of Ukoo Fulani Mau Mau rapped, “nikitaka kujua story ya economy ninacheki price ya kaquarter kwa butchery.”
Clearly, food is a great indicator of national, local and personal economy.
Then there is exposure or readiness to embraces new experiences.
Many people who can afford it, have never eaten Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Thai, West African? Why? Comfort zone.
And on the flip side many people have never enjoyed the thrills of Mama Ntilie food in a kibanda. Why? Uptightness.
My people say he who has not travelled thinks only his mother cooks well.
Maybe as Kenyans we need to broaden our palate and maybe, just maybe, there is room for both Nairobi Resturant Week and Nairobi Kibanda Week.
GOD BLESS KENYA!
(PS: All images courtsey of Google.)