Reflections on the lost art of outside catering
- Once upon a time, when your mother was expecting a large group of visitors, she would round up all her friends in the village to help her with the cooking.
- Each woman, and they were many, almost as many as the awaited guests, would be assigned a task — one would prepare the mukimo, (where I come from, a party isn’t a party without this mashed-up dish) another chapatis and yet another one stew.
Sometimes I am amazed at how much our way of doing things has changed over the years. And I am not just referring to the breathtaking wave of change that has come with advanced technology.
I am also referring to the complete metamorphosis that has come over the social scene as we once knew it.
Once upon a time, when your mother was expecting a large group of visitors, she would round up all her friends in the village to help her with the cooking.
Each woman, and they were many, almost as many as the awaited guests, would be assigned a task — one would prepare the mukimo, (where I come from, a party isn’t a party without this mashed-up dish) another chapatis and yet another one stew.
There was also one assigned the rice, while the rest were KYMs, the ones that shelled the peas, peeled the potatoes, carrots and what-have-you and later washed the dishes when the guests left.
If you grew up in the village, then you know that such events were a big deal, mainly because village life is slow, so nothing much happens. On that day, the village women would get up at cockcrow, hastily make tea for their children and then leave for the host’s home, where they normally had their breakfast of tea and bread before getting down to business.
I was present in several of those events, so what I am about to write here is authoritative, and nothing can get more authoritative than an eye witness’s first-hand account.
LOTS AND LOTS OF TASTING
There was a lot of tasting of the food being prepared that went on here, and I am not talking about tasting the soup for salt, I am talking about major tasting, where the women would pass around heaped plates of the meat stew, several of the mukimo, as well as the first 10 or so chapatis.
By the time the women were done with the cooking, they were completely full, having “tasted” the choicest portions of the feast. Listening to them though, you would not know this.
When offered a plate of food later by the younger women who would usually be assigned the job of serving the guests, they would wave it away, a distressed look on their faces, and explain that they had inhaled too much aroma from the dishes they had slaved over, they could not stand to eat anything.
I forgot to add that before they served the visitors’ food, they would have put aside some of it to carry home — as a rule, there would be no cooking in their homes on that day.
That was then though, because the hired cook has since taken over this job, effectively bringing an end to a great socialising platform. Though convenient in these modern times where your friends seem too busy to lend you a hand whenever you have visitors, the caterer has killed what was once an enjoyable and fulfilling way to socialise.
True, the food might now look more inviting and taste better, but the natural camaraderie and good humour that once characterised our parties is gone.
Nowadays, all our friends and neighbours do is turn up to eat and drink, (later in the day if I might add) since the hired cook is paid to wash the dishes as well.
Modernity has done us lots of good, but it has also robbed us of important elements that once held our social fabric together.
The writer is Editor, My Network magazine, in the Daily Nation. [email protected] Twitter: @cnjerius.