At A Certain Age

By The Kenyan Bar Guy

Published on 01/09/2023

Once you hit a certain age, the pressure is off. You are no longer looking to be the best-looking person in the room, you leave that for TikTok stars, young wannabes, the rich clique, and successful Instagram influencers.

For you, it is enough to just look good. Most might argue that smelling good too is a part of the package but at this point in life you are not worried about the Sauvage Dior or some other French brand you can hardly pronounce let alone spell. A good deo is enough for you and for rare occasions a supermarket shelf perfume does the trick. You leave the fancy colognes for the day one of your diaspora buddies decides to gift you and if it is really a must you can easily get refillable on a budget. No one really knows and if we were to have a blind smell experiment 87.3% of participants would not be able to tell the original from the fake. That’s why most people fall into this rabbit hole of vanity where they show off their perfume collection just to prove to others that they buy the real sh*t.

How about good phones? It does not matter if you have the latest Samsung or iPhone. When in public spaces, the table or holding it in your hand dangling it for all to see is something you have outgrown. Besides what we call “kabambe” can equally send and receive M-Pesa transactions. The same with car keys, you keep the relationship between your car and yourself private. If it is all about the law of attraction Nyanchwani once said using material possessions will only get you the low-hanging fruit. It could be the women who want someone who looks rich or it could be the guys who want status by association. This is the age where you let personality and intelligence do the work for you.

This is a sort of freedom that comes only once in a lifetime and when you miss this chance you will end up competing with the 21-year-olds on social media like certain gaudy alleged money launderers brandishing designer whatever and wads of cash for the sake of clout. But, the most important part about this freedom, is the food. Oh, yes! The food! This writer acknowledges that unless it is your job, you have no business fumbling over yourself, accepting disrespect in the name of bad service, paying a hefty amount for a meal only so that you can flood your social media channels in the name of aesthetics.

Here is where you realize that yes; ambiance is good once in a while but it is not a necessity.

I had the chance to visit one of the food joints along Tom Mboya Street a few moons ago. For those who have not been to those parts, it might be daunting at first. The conductors over there are shouting over each other. Phone sellers are busy blasting their music to attract customers – which I think does more to repel them. There is no dress code and no one really minds your business unless there is an urchin looking to squeeze out a few coins from your pocket. Another thing I found interesting about the place is the clothes sellers. They do not show the aggressive behavior that you will find in thrift markets. They lazily sit outside their shops chatting each other up and I strongly believe it is because walk-ins are not their major business – thank God for social media.

Strolling in with the tallest writer in Africa, we enter this place that is littered with different sellers, phone repair men, and M-Pesa stalls there is a unique vibe about such places where you can feel the money changing hands. This is the true backbone of the economy away from the glistening glass towers on the upper side of town. Here they are not waiting for invoices to be cleared or LPOs to be sent you either have the money or you keep it moving. We found our way up a metal staircase and at first, I was a bit confused because the walls were lined with all sorts of clothes and shoes but we kept going up. I became a bit skeptical because were supposed to be having lunch.

When we got to the top, there was a change in the air. The shouting was different. It was women – some young and some old shouting things like “hii meza waliitisha ugali saucer haija kuja” and in the same breath you would hear a man shouting from a back room “INATOKA!” That was about it and in fractions of a minute that table would be served. There were also people lined up to wash their hands at a makeshift sink, you know? The blue ones forged out of water tanks, installed with a tap, and standing on three metal rods threatening to tip over. There is a lot of sizzling in the air, clanking of sufurias and laborious chatter all across the space. Here, there is no need for reservations if you come late you will share a table with a stranger if not you will wait outside until a table opens up then you dash across before someone else takes up the open seat.

The place is non-discriminatory. You will rub shoulders with people in suits with unbuttoned shirts and loosened ties – because there is no other way to dive into these meals in such heat without doing so. You will also bump into ladies who balance their weight on shoes that might as well be toothpicks. Then you also meet the guys who always have a hat on, ripped jeans, and faded t-shirts. It is just but a melting pot of what the Nairobi metropolitan is supposed to be.

We find some space, luckily. Before we even decide if the seats are comfortable – they are not. There is a server who quickly comes with a wet cloth and clears the mess that was there earlier with such finesse like she has been doing this her whole life and if you are slow she will rush to attend to a different table. There is no decorum in these places or a menu – in fact, if you ask for a menu they will just rattle off what is in the kitchen and walk away waiting for you to decide not caring if you understood them with their accents thicker than their stocky legs.

kuku Rice”, I said or sort of shouted as she cleared the table.

Her response is not like that of a fancy restaurant waitress, she will not bite your ear with

“Do you want anything else with that?” No, she simply says “Mboga” and your reply should be as apt as her response. So go for the most common and just say “kienyeji” The interaction is quick and by the time you are done you will hear that order being shouted to the person working the kitchen and that pretty much sums it up. Silas was a bit disdained by my choice, understandably because he believes the only accompaniment meant for chicken should be ugali. It is an unwritten law much like rum and coke or gin and tonic or tea and bread.

Now, if you are a stickler for hygiene, you will get a running stomach before you even touch your food. There are flies around the place and you have to constantly fight a losing battle if you are a slow eater like myself. But, the food is exceptionally good. They do not use any fancy spices, I doubt they use any spices at all and the best part is it is all fresh since they do not have the luxury of freezing their food. The chicken was what food enthusiasts would say has ‘fall off the bone’ meat and this is not a mean feat to achieve considering it is kienyeji chicken. The stew must have come off directly from the chicken broth because it is flavorful and to some extent, I think they use it to simmer their rice as well. Of course, there is a small steel bowl of what they commonly call teargas – this for the newbies is a bowl of freshly cut chilies since as mentioned these are not places you make personalized requests like mild or hot.  

This place is not an acquired taste. In fact, I would encourage everyone to drop in more than often. But, at this certain age, you begin to appreciate the simplicity of things and how we are the only ones who make them complicated. You get your money’s worth, you get to enjoy the hubbub that comes with bustling city life and you leave feeling connected to the roots.

Also, it is a really good date spot if you want to get to know someone. I mean, really know someone. You cannot judge a person by their looks but you can definitely judge them by how they handle a chicken leg that’s dripping in stew without cutlery.

Disclaimer: Do not go late anything past 2 p.m will leave you disappointed as all the food will be gone.

The Restaurant is in some unnamable building along Mfangano St., nestled on the fourth floor and frequented by mostly the Kisii.

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