Saturday, April 20, 2024

Nairobi men eat roast meat while women and children eat sukuma wiki

Nairobi men eat roast meat while women and children eat sukuma wiki

In low and middle-income housing estates in Nairobi, most butcheries have informal eateries where cars are parked shoulder to shoulder.

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Men in neatly pressed suits sit in smoky makeshift sheds devouring roast and boiled meat, chicken or mutura in silence as busy workers keep refilling plates and shouting orders to the kitchen staff.

But a stone throw away, women and children line up to buy sukuma wiki (kales) and have it sliced into pieces in readiness for the evening’s dinner.

By the time mothers and children eat their sukuma wiki and ugali — awfully bland for the non-vegetarian palate unless sweetened with beef — husbands will be washing down their roast or boiled beef, chicken or mutura with their favourite lager.

Jason Momanyi admits he is a mutura ‘addict’.“With just Sh60, I can have my fill and walk home. A man needs to eat meat, but I can’t buy meat for my family daily with the sort of money I earn. So I eat mutura and go home,” he says.

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But because he feels guilty for engorging on protein daily as his family subsists on a vegetarian diet, he occasionally throws in a couple of eggs when he walks home so that the wife doesn’t raise a ruckus.

Standing at one of the vegetable stalls, Mama Johnny, as she prefers to be called, stares at the men chomping away with relish.


“What kind of husbands and fathers are these?” she asks with disgust. “Why would a man develop such greed and selfishness to eat in bars instead of buying meat and sharing it at home with his family?”For Mama Johnny, it is personal because her husband, a real estate agent in Westlands, is often spotted whiling the evening away at a joint in Donholm while her family suffers.

“He leaves me Sh200 for dinner and only shows up at 10pm, claiming he was held up in traffic. The only time his children see meat is when he vomits on the sofa,” she complains.Hers is an experience that many women are familiar with. Alice Wangari says her husband prefers eating hotel food as opposed to what she prepares for the family.

“I don’t know what they put in the food he eats in those filthy places. Even on weekends when other men are home, he must somehow find an excuse to leave the house,” Wangari complains

“He disappears the whole weekend claiming to be visiting friends. But they are always spotted in funny joints in Kariobangi eating and drinking. But you should hear him fume when the electricity bill goes up by Sh100,” she fumes.

Martin, her husband, began eating hotel food when he was a bachelor but somehow couldn’t shake off the habit when he got married. Wangari has  tried making his favourite dishes to no avail. It hurts her that even on the rare occasion when he eats at home, he barely ‘touches’ the food before retiring to bed.

Caleb Ofwona, who frequents a nyama choma joint at Pipeline Estate in Nairobi, says he avoids eating at home because the environment doesn’t allow for peace of mind.


“My wife is always complaining about one thing or the other. You can’t eat in peace. Besides, she never cooks, delegating that task to the house help whose food tastes like sawdust. When I complain, it leads to noise and problems.

“But here, I can eat at peace, watch a game, drink and enjoy myself. It started out as an occasional habit, but I now do it almost everyday. They even know my favourite in the menu,” Ofwona says, referring to the waiters at the joint.

For Gilbert Waweru, however, he eats out for practical reasons that, he explains, have nothing to do with selfishness.


“Look, I give my wife money for food once a month. The only problem is, I never know what she is making for dinner. Imagine coming home drunk at midnight only to find she has prepared chapati, ndeng’u, cabbage or omena. When you are drunk, you need meat! So I eat out to avoid unnecessary quarrels,” explains Waweru.

“In any case,” Waweru adds, “Nairobi women serve very small  portions. Unless you are careful, usipojipanga, you will starve alone because they eat in the kitchen and as you know, an African man doesn’t go to the kitchen.”

Jacob Mukhwana, a mason,  explains that he eats out because his job requires stamina.

“I must eat ugali na mlima (ugali served with a chunk of boiled bony meat) now and then to get energy. If I eat sukuma wiki daily, I will not have stamina for my work. Worse, my wife will be the first to complain that I’m not meeting my conjugal obligations,” explains the wiry man.


“Besides,” he adds, “an African must always let his children to finish the food on the plate. So it is good to come home full, wake up the children and pretend to eat with them. That way, they grow up knowing they have a father who loves and cares for them.”

For such husbands, theirs is a life of deceit.

Roseline Kigoro, a housewife, is angry, because her husband has developed very shameful habits

“He normally comes home and enquires what’s for dinner. If it is none of his delicacies, he will say ‘nafika hapa. Narudi tu saa hizi (I will be back in a moment)’ and then slips out of the house.

“He comes back home looking as if he has not eaten anything. In fact, when the food is served, he eats normally. But I always smell meat on him,” says Pauline.

Much as she is disgusted with his behaviour, she is afraid of facing him head-on and is now considering reporting him to his family.

“It has reached a point where I’m almost telling my father-in-law about my husband’s crude and disturbing behaviour. It is shameful for a man to condemn his children to vegetables by walking out to eat meat in funny places and then sneaking back to taste food in ‘solidarity’ with his family,” says Pauline.


Maina, a butcher at Umoja Market, says from the moment they introduced the ‘ready to eat’ nyama choma, mutura, fried and boiled meat, business has been booming, especially in the evenings when most of their clientele are headed home from work.

“This is their first stop. They park outside the butchery and have their fill before heading to their homes,” Maina reveals.Maina sees nothing wrong, instead choosing to look at it as a Godsend.

“Business is good. In fact by 10pm, the food is sold out. Some men say our food is fresh, tasty and healthy because it is boiled, unlike the fried food with so many spices that their wives cook.

“They even call and say, ‘Maish, keep something for me,’ when they think they are running late. Most say our boiled meat reminds them of their mother’s cooking,” says the butcher.

Moses Ogolla, a driver with a logistics company, thinks some of these habits are picked up innocently before one is driven to addiction, just like alcohol. Interestingly, he adds, women are part of the bandwagon.“I know a middle-aged woman who stops at a joint on Jogoo Road nearly everyday for mutura or boiled meat before proceeding home. I don’t know whether she has children, but still, it just looks odd,” he says

Soon, maybe fathers and mothers will be eating meat in bars daily while the children have dinner with the house help.

-Names have been changed to conceal identity

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