Sometime back I happened, within the space of a few days from each other, to eat at a “kafunda” and then at a classy restaurant. It’s not like I’d never been to any of those two kinds of places, but for the first time I noticed the stark contrast between them. It’s amazing the things we don’t notice, or that we notice everyday but gradually close our eyes, ears and hearts to. I was left confused anew by how different life is for people on different sides of this Kampala city of ours.
We went to the kafunda as a large group and there was barely anywhere to sit. We ended up having to pile up on two benches so tiny and shaky I was afraid they’d fall apart before we got a chance to get something into our stomachs. The carpenter who’d made the table we were to eat at must have had zero training; the thing looked resigned. And the food…..oh the food! It was dug out of grimy saucepans right in front of our eyes with hands that kept touching everything from stained kitenge wrappers to sweaty foreheads and leaky noses. I don’t even want to start on the cutlery. You should be able to picture its state from what you’ve read so far. And yet I’ve never enjoyed a meal so much in my life. One of these days I’m going to start believing that filthy conditions are a necessary ingredient for delicious food. Never mind how ridiculously cheap it all was.
Now on the EXTREME other hand, the classy restaurant. Dear Lord. The waiters warmly greeted us (only two this time; you don’t really go to cool restaurants in large numbers) with the warmest words and smiles, and a bow. Yes. They did a little curtsy for us! The person I was with had a big laptop and was checking emails, so the waiters felt the need to carry another table over to us so that we’d dine together and I’d still have enough space to eat comfortably without the laptop all up in my face. Before that I’d been amused by the sheer excess of serviettes they gave us, plus pretty little bottles of salad oils that looked like bottles of expensive perfume. But an extra table? Just for me? That left me nodding in amused approval! I asked for a sandwich and guess what; sandwiches come with an entire (huge!) plate of free fries (if they’re really free at all, considering the price of the meal). The sandwich was large, too. And superb! Not to mention the cinnamon flavored tea that I guzzled down with no mercy. Everything was on point.
Be not fooled though, people, we paid for all this luxury. A small fortune. And an arm and a leg. As we left I was almost saddened by how much we’d had to spend on a meal we could have gotten for a quarter of the price. Almost saddened. Because you can’t really be sad when a hot waiter in a hot outfit is smiling at you as he escorts you out of the restaurant, heartily thanking you and sweetly talking you into coming back again. Well, I guess we paid for that too. Such a charming side-smile can’t just be handed for free…… Oh, plus those luxurious serviettes. And the salad dressing that we didn’t even use.