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GIRL ABOUT TOWN: Why I don’t eat hot food



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I am a fan of food. Truth is, if eating was a hobby then I probably I’m the best example there is; if it was a job, I’d be getting stellar appraisals and maybe even 90 per cent salary raise; if it was a disease, then…

Anyway, my love for food goes beyond normal. And I have come to accept that my appetite is exceptional.

But what I will not accept is that my body is starting to show signs of it. Perhaps I’ll work on that soon.

My love for food made me one of my grandma’s favourite people. My grandma likes to cook for people.

It also helps that she’s a great cook and everyone looks forward to her irresistible dishes. And boy does she lord it over people, especially those who border on her definition of ‘skinny’.

For the rest of us, she admires how we clean a plate of food and I suspect she sometimes bets with imaginary people in her head on who will finish first and who she believes will be the first to ask for seconds.

Because she knows we’ll definitely ask for second helpings.

I remember a long time ago when we had visited her and we were scrambling for the plates of food she was dishing out.

My cousin and  I began fighting over a particular plate—I wanted it because it had a piece of potato in the meat stew, my cousin argued that it had more meat.

And there was the push and pull. I wasn’t giving up because there were a few potatoes in the stew and not everyone was lucky enough to get a dish with one.

Grandma then asked what we wanted. I wanted the potato, he wanted the meat stew because it appeared to have more meat than the other plates.

She made us reach a compromise and instructed that I take the potato out and put it in the other plate that no one had claimed and told my cousin to take the plate we were fighting over.

Problem solved, right? Well, not exactly.

As I stood there smiling at my plate with a potato in it, my cousin began complaining that I got more food than his.

Sensing an impending argument in which I could lose my potato—it was the most important piece of food for me—I scooped it with my hand and put it in my mouth.

I felt the sting. I parted my lips and tried to cool the potato by blowing out the heat while not dropping my prize.

Tears rolled down my cheeks and I began to hop from one foot to the other, and using my hand like a fan near my mouth. It didn’t help so I dropped my prize back into my plate.

“Eeeeeew,” I heard my cousin say and he turned away, holding his plate close to his chest, as my siblings and other cousins laughed at me.

My tongue stung and I was humiliated beyond words. My tongue was painful for a week or so after that and eating anything hot was torture.

Even thinking about this incident just brings back painful memories. Suffice it to say, I am not a fan of hot food. I learnt my lesson, but, of course, I cannot resist meat curry, or any food for that matter.

I visited grandma again a few years ago and she made traditional uji; the type where the flour is soaked, fermented and sun dried, then cooked into wonderful porridge.

I was walking to her kitchen in the village when the glorious aroma pulled me in.

Oh, the beauty of being upcountry and waiting for the meal to get ready while the older women tell stories…

When the porridge was ready, grandma told me to serve my uncles and the wazees who had called on them. They were seated under a tree and I took the porridge to them.

Then I settled down for mine, waiting for it to cool. There was no more steam so I lifted the calabash and drew a long sip. I was not ready for the tears, red flashed eyes and the need to spit everything out.

I jumped up, dropping my calabash to the ground, some of the porridge splashing on my legs, and ran out. I spat the porridge out but the pain was unexplainable.

My mouth was on fire, my feet in pain and my brain out of sync. ILLUSTRATION| JOSEPH NGARI

My mouth was on fire, my feet in pain and my brain out of sync. ILLUSTRATION| JOSEPH NGARI

My mouth was on fire, my feet in pain and my brain out of sync. And the pain in my mouth… People, has your mouth ever been coated with hot porridge? I tell you, I’ll never forget that day.

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