It’s Sunday and am getting ready to meet my girlfriends. Wendy is visiting from the United States with her husband, I haven’t seen her in years, probably more than 5 years. Finding time to meet friends is very tricky when one has been away, everybody is busy doing something. When Wendy moved to the United States we were still fresh from high school, with no major responsibilities, now everybody has somehow furthered/is furthering their education, some of us are married, some have kids, some have very demanding jobs, everything is not done unless planned properly. Eunice asks me if noon is a good time for me. She knows that I don’t like making commitments with anybody other than family on Sundays. Sundays are for family. “That’s okay, but I’ll only sit with you guys for two hours then leave” I confirm. Eunice has been my friend since Kindergarten, I feel very comfortable not having to give her excuses but that’s the kind of relationship I have with my circle of friends, we don’t give excuses, we tell our truth and let you make your decisions and when one of us does something really silly and we need to laugh, we laugh hard, genuinely but there is comfort in knowing that it’s all from a good place. Judy couldn’t meet us, she’s busy nursing a newborn, she’s very excited to be a mum, we are just waiting to see what kind of mum she will be, if it’s what we suspect, that baby is in for a wild ride.
There is usually very little traffic on Sundays. It takes me fourteen minutes to drive from Westlands to Thika Road Mall, where we agreed to meet. I find Wendy and her husband already there and getting upset at our ‘Africanness’. I was only ten minutes late though. Eunice on the other hand joined us 30 minutes later. The couple looked very tired, they hadn’t had proper rest since they came to Kenya. They had gone to Maasai Mara and thereafter visited Wendy’s village then traveled back to Nairobi that morning. “We are really starving, we haven’t eaten since yesterday lunch, let’s find somewhere to sit and have a good meal” Wendy suggests. We decide to go to Java House, on the ground floor. We are only seated for two minutes then Wendy’s hubby excuses himself, he quickly realizes he won’t be really needed in our company plus we were seriously mixing languages, from Swahili to our native language, Luo, to English, he was going to look lost if he stayed. He is an American and he’s white, Wendy hasn’t taught him our local languages yet, but he’ll learn, it’s only a matter of time. Eunice joins us and we make our orders.
I’ve been telling Eunice about the crispy chicken breast salad, it’s all I ever order whenever I eat at Java. Java makes great Salads. Eunice decides to try it, after convincing her so much. Her appetite has not been the best since she fell ill. Her doctor says it’s the side effects of the medication she’s on, that it will all fade away with time. She can’t tell the taste of food, she’s been preferring to have soup as her main meals, I convinced her to have the salad, I also ordered the salad. Wendy ordered a chicken sandwich. Generally the service at this specific Java is very poor, the staff took more than twenty minutes to take our orders and it’s not like the place was super busy. They also took quite some time to get us the meals. The moment I set my eyes on our salad, I knew it was different…the bad type of different. The lettuce didn’t look fresh and they filled the plate so much, my plate looked like a garden, the crispy chicken didn’t look fresh either, in fact, it looked like it had been deep fried one too many times, I could literally count the number of peanuts in the salad…this is not even petty by the way. I couldn’t notice anything different in the dressing… because, it’s the dressing. I asked our waiter why the lettuce did not look so fresh and she told me…drum roll… she said “That’s because the chicken was hot so it burned the lettuce a bit” “Say what now?!” Eunice asked, obviously dismayed because that excuse was out of the ordinary, lol! She decided to give a comprehensive explanation as to how hot chicken can sometimes be placed on top of the lettuce and that makes the lettuce look unfresh (I know this word doesn’t exist, does it?)…let’s say stale then. At this point, all three of us couldn’t believe what our waiter was telling us, she looked so sure though. “You see, this not about the position of the lettuce per se, that is even beside the point, even the chicken is very dry, it’s not fresh chicken” Wendy chided…”I am certain of what we are talking about because this is what I eat at every Java and I know they make it the same way so when it’s different, I’ll know” I complained. She decides that the issue was beyond her and she calls the chef. We go over the same complaints with the chef and he says “Am very sorry for that, it’s actually a problem in all Javas in Nairobi right now, I’ve been trying to thoroughly clean the lettuce, they don’t look so good” “Wow, thank you for your honesty, are we safe though or we are gonna get sick?” I ask. “No, no need to worry, you are safe” he replies.
The chef goes back to the kitchen, we are somewhat satisfied with his explanation, because clearly, we figure, it might not be his fault entirely. Eunice and I try to eat our salads, Wendy on the other hand enjoys her sandwich and clears her plate. Eunice eats a little chicken and abandons the salad altogether, she didn’t even touch the dressing. It’s not what she would have liked to eat. I dress my salad and forcefully try to eat it, it just didn’t taste right. A few minutes later, one of the waiters brings a small plate of french fries for me, she says its from the chef. “I know it’s a bribe but I won’t say no cos the salad is just not working for me” I respond. Eunice laughs at me, she doesn’t want the fries either, her appetite is at zero.We indulge in conversation so much so that we part ways about five hours later.
The next morning, I woke up as usual, dropped my daughter at school, went back to my house for breakfast then decided to get my car washed. There’s also another Java joint where I took my car to be washed, so I waited there. After the experience I had had the previous day with the salad, this time I ordered a double cafe latte and a samosa. Java samosas are very huge by the way. Just when I started eating, I had a serious urge to a call of nature, It was urgent, I left my food on the table, only carried my purse and rushed to the cloakroom- to powder my nose, lol!. I was sick, I was nauseated and my stomach hurt like hell, i felt like I was drained of all energy. It was a marathon. I was stuck in the ladies for nothing less than an hour, I kept flashing and reflashing the toilet. This was food poisoning for sure, it was the salad that I had the previous day. When I finally got the chance to leave the small room, I went back to my table and found my table cleared. I had no energy to argue, I only asked for my coffee, they didn’t look like they were going to replace my samosa, I paid my bill, went to get my car and quickly drove home. At home I still had the same problems, the only comfort was that, I was in my own toilet. I was stuck in my bedroom the rest of the afternoon. I couldn’t go anywhere, even if I wanted to. I’ve given my kids ORS before, this time I learned just how how disgusting it is, lol!
I’ve never had this kind of extreme reaction to food before so I know that salad was not good for consumption at all. I also learned that whenever you go to a food joint, it’s better to order the food that is popular in the area, so if the population in the area like eating salads, you can be sure that salad is fresh. My lil’ brother has also had food poisoning at the Java at Yaya center. He had chicken. Java is a really big enterprise with a good name, it’s really sad to know that sometimes their management doesn’t pay attention to the meals they make. Food poisoning can easily cost a life, that’s a high price to pay for something that costs less than ten dollars. I had this experience about four weeks ago, since then, I’ve still eaten the same salad at a different Java joint and it was fresh and very delicious. The problem is not the lettuce in all Javas in Nairobi as that chef said, the problem was that they had stale food and they still served it to a client. Very bad for business.