Yesterday I had lunch with an unexpected guest. Half an hour earlier I was slaving away for my boss as usual when I suddenly heard my stomach grumbling. I decided to call the office canteen on the internal phone line and place my order. I even insisted that the food should be warmed up and reserved for me. I was told that everything would be done as requested. Fifteen minutes later I went downstairs to the canteen to check if my food was ready. It was covered, warm and ready to be served so I went over to one of the vacant tables that wasn’t directly in front of the head-numbing air conditioner. I bumped into a junior colleague whom had just finished eating lunch and was on his way out. As he was still chewing what seemed to be a stubborn piece of goat meat, I asked him how his lunch was. He gave me a ‘thumbs up’, probably because he didn’t want to respond with his mouth full.
With that sign of approval I was really looking forward to my meal. Apparently he had the same thing I was about to have - Eba and Ewedu with stew (Pounded Cassava with a watery vegetable soup topped with a peppery tomato gravy). Most of my colleagues had already had their lunch earlier so I was sitting at a table all by myself…at first. I attacked the first wrap of Eba and had gulped down half of the Ewedu soup, which I must say was deeeeeeelicious. The best thing about Ewedu soup is that it is so plain and thin that you wouldn’t expect to see anything other than liquified green leaves with no extras. But as I poked my fork into the bowl of soup again I pulled out my guest whom I had been dining with all this while. It was a baby roach.
Well I say it was a ‘baby roach‘ but this 1-inch, 6 legged, lifeless insect was more like a teenager – any bigger and it would have been a ‘cockroach‘ complete with wings! I immediately lost my appetite. I dropped the roach and my side plate and called the canteen attendants. I would love to say that I took advantage of this classic ‘Waiter, Waiter, what is this roach doing in my soup?’ moment and then I got the response ‘Looks to me like the breaststroke, sir!’…but sadly, that wasn’t what happened. The canteen attendant was shocked. I left the food in disgust and went back upstairs to continue punching (rather aggressively) on my keyboard. Some minutes later the chief chef came up to me and the old lady began to beg for my forgiveness. If ‘forgiveness’ meant saying ‘apology accepted’ then that was alright. But if it meant that I was to continue patronizing her cuisine then she had another thing coming!If I wanted roach soup for lunch then I guess things would have worked out perfectly. She stood by my side for about 5 minutes begging but I just wanted to get on with my work without her encroaching my territory.
The fact that I have a phobia for cockroaches, also known as Katsaridaphobia (fearofstuff.com), doesn’t make matters any better. I can recall an article I wrote in 2009 on the same issue where I made this perfectly clear. In the end, the chef wanted to give me a free drink as some kind of peace offering. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a nice lady but I didn’t like her approach. Was a can of malt really going to make a difference? I think a bottle of Dettol would have been more appropriate, don’t you think?
Gone are the days when I used to enjoy the luxury of living only 15mins away from my office. I would wake up at 7.00am, take a shower before leaving my flat at 7.15, and then I’d be in my office by 7.30am (resumption time). With my new job I live about 1hr away…when there’s no traffic, but 3hrs when I’m on my way back home during rush hour. A couple of things have suffered with this recent change: My biceps and triceps got smaller; my alarm clock and I are no longer on speaking terms; my blog developed cobwebs; and more importantly, I have developed an eating disorder…well, let’s just say I don’t eat in any particular order anymore.
3-square meals are usually the norm when it comes to daily food consumption. However, the diet of the average banker in Lagos is rather different. Most bachelors eat at least twice a day – one outdoor meal from the local canteen and a home-cooked meal. Married men however may eat just one heavy meal at night since its in their best interest not to piss their wives off. The result? Pot belly. I currently fall into the bachelor category (phew!) but dare I say the content of my meals may raise a few eyebrows:
Morning – Rice, beans and plantain (as early as 8.30am!)
Afternoon – A sausage roll (The Superbite brand)
In between – Fried Yam with pepper sauce, plantain chips
Evening – Bowl of cereal and/or a packet of noodles (Indomie Chicken flavour, of course)
I am well aware of the fact that this diet (eaten 5days a week) is not a balanced diet. It is a banker’s diet. Once in a while I throw in the odd stewed vegetables and an apple with some almonds but generally there’s little time to eat. Eating outdoors all the time is very risky. Bankers in Lagos could probably tell you a few of their food-poisoning stories. There have been instances of stooling and even Typhoid inflicted on unsuspecting bankers who patronized canteens with suspicious water supplies. The cost of such food is part of the allure. At 100 Naira (less than 50 pence/75 cents) you could have a meal of rice or beans that could keep you going for the next 4hrs. And don’t get me started on the inevitable addiction to energy drinks loaded with abnormal amounts of caffeine. Coffee is so 80s now…
I’m trying to find the balance I once had so I’m faced with 3 choices – Get yet another job and location OR Get familiar with just one outdoor meal source and stick to it OR Get married! (at least the fear of getting a pot belly would probably encourage me to do more exercise, which would equally restore my biceps and triceps to their former glory :D)
I went to a wedding in another state in Nigeria – Oyo state. It was supposed to be a 3 hr drive from Lagos but ended up being 4hrs with all potholes we had to dodge. The wedding was quite grand and I was served the best dishes, wine and got exceptional service…or at least I thought so. I looked to the table beside me and they were getting everything I didnt – they got big succulent fish…I got small pieces of tough beef, they got alcohol wine from South Africa…I got grape juic in a wine bottle both made in Nigeria, they got chilled soft drinks, but though I was served mine first, they were warm - obviously their’s was stored close to ice.
I didn’t want this experience to spoil my road trip but I must admit it hurt a bit. As if to compensate me and those at my table, we all got gift items/souvenirs of the wedding to take home – a dish and a couple-name engraved tea mug all in a recyclable nylon bag(not bad eh?). On leaving the shindig, getting into my car, I noticed a gentleman no more well-dressed than myself but carrying a luxurious branded shopping bag of premium goodies. Life is not fair at all…
But on the upside, My blog will soon have more than 1000 views, yay!!!