I went to have lunch with three colleagues recently. We left the office (forfeiting our free but rarely tasty company lunch) and headed to a place that I can only afford when they just pay salaries. ( Abeg, I can’t be eating N1300 a plate rice with palm stew everyday- it will easily lead to my own personal financial recession).
While in the car, someone else suggested that we go and eat amala instead. Me, I was willing to roll in whatever direction and I told them so. That was how we went past our airconditioned eating place and headed for the amala joint. On getting there, I discovered that the place was part mechanic workshop and that the wooden shack that was in the middle of the compound was the eating joint. When we went in, the place was FULL. One of my colleagues literally had to stand around and wait until someone was done before he sat down. Another one copped a seat on a table next to ours. In fact, we later discovered that some people were eating outside with the sky for a roof. How is that for good business?
There were several workers (including several children aged from about 7-11 who busied themselves cleaning tables, fetching water and other junior < forgive the pun> staff duties) and in a few minutes our order was taken and steaming hot plates of dark amala placed in front of us. Next came the soup: I never slack- I always have gbegiri, ewedu and stew a.k.a Abula. The pepper was just right. The consistency of the gbegiri was not watery and not too thick. Then they brought a final plate: The meat. Different cuts of goat meat and innards lay waiting to be devoured. My colleague was so moved that he actually gave his heartfelt thanks to the girl that brought the plate of meat.
We washed our hands and faced our meals. All talking ceased as we spent the first few minutes doing justice to the meal. This meal was much better than the one that my work provided. I am the sort of person that likes to eat meat after my meal (yeah, my mother brainwashed me to within half an inch of my life). By the time I reached for my first piece of “ogufe” (goat meat) the plate was only half full - my colleagues having had a head start. The meat could not have been more perfect if someone had stuck a thermometer in it to gauge that it was rightly done.
Before I forget, we were not the only ones that wanted a go at the food. We also had our friendly neighborhood flies. There was an abundance of these. We were eating with one hand and swatting flies with the other. However, the presence of the flies seemed not to perturb anyone. Outside, one could easily see the women pounding and turning large amounts of amala. Their faces dripping with sweat which took off on a race from their faces to the valley between their breasts. Sometimes, due to the force of the pounding a few drops would fall into the mortar and quickly become one with the dark amala.
When we were done eating, a girl came to calculate the bill. No fancy receipt, the girl just stood there down and in a sing song voice recited everything we had eaten: “Amala meta thirty, thirty nera pelu plate merin….” By the time she was done, our bill came to about N1,500 for all four of us. All I could think was: "with all that meat?" The last time we went to the other place for a quick lunch we paid about 6,000 for all of us.
Now questions arising:
At these prices, do they actually make a profit?
Are the other eateries overpriced? I recognise that the Amala place has far lower overhead costs.
My colleagues are serious ajebutters but did not seem to mind the squalid conditions at all. I lay no claim to being an Ajebutter but seeing one fly in my car is an issue but here I was playfully wrestling them for rights to my meal and I did not pull the customer is king, what the heck is a fly doing here? stunt. What makes one so tolerant of these places?
And yeah...the food was oh! so good!