Friday, June 22, 2007

The Worst Lunch

N.’s friend, S., arrived a few weeks ago to work here for the summer with N. and J. We used the opportunity to go out for Ugandan food, as I had only had it once but still hadn’t tried matooke, a dish made from mashed plantains eaten at most every Ugandan meal. We went to Ekitoobero, a much more formal restaurant than most Ugandan food establishments, but, well, easy.

We arrived at 12:20 on a Wednesday. The waitress came over to take our drink order.
Us: I think we’re ready to order our food, too, whenever you’re ready.
Waitress: I can’t take your order for another twenty minutes.
Us: Why not?
Waitress: The food is not ready yet.
Us: The food won’t be ready for twenty minutes? Or you can’t take our order for twenty minutes?
Waitress: The food is not ready yet.
Us: It’s 12:30. When do you normally start serving lunch?
Waitress: The food is not ready yet.
Us: But can’t you take our order now and then bring us the food in twenty minutes when it’s ready.
A shrug indicated her consent. We were pretty sure we would not be eating for a very long time.

We ordered. And we waited. The sun came out. We finished our drinks. We waited. It grew quite hot. The table was outside on an incline and I could not get comfortable since I felt like I was falling backwards and there was no back to the bench we were on to lean against. There was no sign of our waitress. It was past 1:00. We continued to wait. We searched for our waitress, but there was no sign of anyone who worked there.

Finally the food arrived around 1:30. The way it works is, you order your starches and then you order your “sauce,” which can be chicken, beef, goat, fish, or beans. They don’t scrimp on the starches. I ordered matooke, sweet potato, and chipati (a fried, flat bread) for my starches, and chicken for my sauce. We also order g-nut (groundnut, like peanut) sauce for the table for some flavoring since the matooke is quite bland. There was an enormous amount of food on the table, but I essentially ate only my starches with g-nut sauce (not terrible really, but not great either) because I could only wrest one measly piece of chicken off the bone.

The waitress cleared the plates and brought us dishes of pineapple and watermelon. A nice touch, we thought. The bill came. The total was unbelievable. More than what dinner at one of the most expensive restaurants in the city cost us the night before. They’d charged us for the fruit – nice indeed. They’d overcharged us for our meals. We argued with the waitress and eventually got the bill reduced. But the one other time I’d had Ugandan food and had essentially the same amount of food, it had cost about 1000 shillings per person. This time it cost about 30,000 shillings per person.

We left lunch two hours after we arrived, sunburned, irritable, and a lot poorer than we expected to be. We learned the hard way not to take the easy way out at Ekitoobera.

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