24 lunches and counting

by Evans Yonson

(Note: The series Mondays in Africa were originally written and published on September 2005, as a countdown for The Light Traveller’s leaving his university residence in Madrid, Spain.)

madrid – i have been endlessly talking about the food that the people in africa have been feeding me. if there’s one thing that has variety in these days in this dormitory it must be the dessert.

i have learned to eat yoghurt in africa. there’s a wide array of choices of this healthy treat. natural. strawberry. coconut. sugared. pineapple. banana. i disdain the natural flavor because it has a certain taste that does not blend very well with my buds. i love the coconut version because it reminds me of home, where we have about 8 trees if i am not mistaken. well, it’s not our trees it’s my grandmother’s. i also prefer banana and pineapple as these are very tropical flavors, and simply slurping teaspoonfuls of this delight would remind me that home is just a daydream away.

upon entering the dining hall, the first food that greets you is BREAD. it’s the french bread we call in the philippines but a shorter version of it. and it comes in two styles – the regular and the diet. it’s like your cola – the regular and the diet. how am i supposed to describe these things? it’s soft (regular) and hard (diet). it’s bread and that’s it.

first plate. and second plate. unlike the real africa, the meals here are in abundance. but most of the time it’s disdainful for those with preferences. if you’re the i-don’t-care-what-i-eat type of person, then africa is a treat for you. for those who are so delicate and the no-red-meat type of person, then you’re a waste of time for the chef. i know somebody who has written everything he has eaten in africa since the day he arrived and he has proofs to prove it. potatoes. eggs. bacon. ham. beef. pork. fish. after almost 12 months of gorging on the same menu, your internal pets would get used to it. they even have a version of milkfish (bangus).

and at the end of the line is the salad bar. this is where you will find the greens and RICE… i tell you, the Philippines’ staple food is not the same here. it’s cooked differently. and it’s disgusting. the plates not consumed last time would be served at the salad bar. talk about recycling.

and i almost forgot fruits! africa is a haven. it’s a paradise of fruits. it flows like the rio grande. or the amazon river. these are the fruits of labor of unknown hands right on my table. as a fitting tribute to those who labored and filled my days with nutrition, i can never thank you enough for all these favors. as i count the remaining days of my stay here in africa, i can’t help but be nostalgic about the food. i have grown to like them except potatoes, please.