Vegetable Medley Quiche

by Sola Osofisan

I saw the oddest thing today. This lady walked up to me to ask for a quarter.

And you gave her?

No. What can you do with a quarter? I gave her $10. She almost gave me a hug. I was so touched and saddened by it all. I didn’t know you had beggars in America.

Don’t make it sound like you’ve never seen people begging before. You come from Africa. Your factories are dedicated to manufacturing them down there.

Yeah, that may be true. But it was the first time I gave someone money who popped into a liquor store before I even turned my back. I mean, she could have waited for me to get out of sight. It was the first time I gave out money and felt I’d done something wrong.

Governments beg where you come from, Sa-la. Entire nations grovel through the streets of Europe and America, looking for droppings. Don’t sound so snobbish.

Snobbish? I thought I sounded sad! I am sad!

No society is perfect. You of all people should know that.

I didn’t mean to be judgmental. I was just sharing an experience that touched me.

Well, it’s touching me in the wrong place and I don’t want to continue this conversation.

Man, you are the touchy one today!

The shoe’s on the other foot for a change, uh? Come on, what are you ordering?

I’m still looking through the menu.

Well, everyone’s ordered something.

Do you guys do this a lot?

Eat? You want an answer to that?

No, I mean go out to lunch like this. The whole department going out to eat together.

We do it occasionally.

Very nice.

You don’t take lunch with your co-workers in Africa – ah, I mean Nigeria…

We do too. There are several “Mama Puts” around the corner, selling Amala or Iyan with serious sweat soaked gbegiri still steaming on the fire.

All that is just one food?

Two actually.

And you…what, cook it with “sweat”?

No, I mean the food seller is usually sweating and some of that drops into the soup pot. Some spit too from all the talking and pushing.

And you all eat that?

It’s like seasoning. Makes it sweeter.

Is that a healthy way to eat?

You don’t think of the health hazards when you eat it. The smell alone is enough to make you want to steal the pot and run away.

Can we change the topic please?

Sure. This lunch must be setting Jenny back some good dollars.


Isn’t she the one who organized it? I got the email from her.

Yes, she set it up, but she’s not paying for it. She pays for her meal like everybody else.

Run that by me again. You guys invited me to lunch…and I have to pay my own way?

If you don’t have money, I’ll pick up your bill.

No, don’t misunderstand me. This has nothing to do with who has money. Where I come from, when you invite people out to lunch, you pick up the tab.

But why would you want her to do that? She merely suggested lunch and then organized it. At the end of the meal, we all split the bill evenly. It usually comes to $10 apiece.

We split it evenly? What if I don’t eat as much as the next guy?

We still split it evenly.

Is that why some of those girls down the table are getting extra of everything? Because I will be paying for half of whatever they eat?

You crack me up, Sa-la.

What if I didn’t bring any money with me?

Always have at least $10 with you. A mugger could shoot you in America if you have no money to give him.

Are you saying I should plan ahead for the day I will be mugged?

Why don’t you just use a credit card –

To pay for food that will digest before I leave this table? You want me to borrow money from a bank just to eat lunch?

You don’t have a credit card?

That’s not the point. Someone should have warned me that I would be required to pay.

It’s okay, Sa-la. We can make a collection to pay for your meal.

You still don’t get my point. I bring my lunch to work everyday so I can conserve my money. This is your country and your long term plans are here. I can’t plan too far ahead because I am not home, so I am careful what I spend my money on. I have lunch in my office right now. Why would I want to pay to eat here when I have eba and efo waiting to be microwaved?

Okay, don’t get so testy. You Africans – Nigerians have a different way of doing lunch –

Yes, someone pays. That’s the whole point of an invitation. If it was a mutual thing, I may pay for my meal while you take care of yours. But the moment someone sends out an invitation, I become a guest. And guests don’t pay. They just eat.

That’s interesting. What if we get on a bus together…or a taxi?

If I’m the one taking you somewhere and I have enough money, I pay the fare. I may pay it on the way back if I still have money. If you get to the conductor before me, you may take it. The point is we pay each other’s way without having to be prompted or surprised.

An interesting lesson in cultural diversity, Sa-la. I apoloize for our oversight. please order something now.

Okay. Sorry about that. When I get going, I’m like a runaway train.

I know that now. You need help?


You don’t have to be shy? You’re among friends. It’s okay to ask for help.

Ok…What’s a vegetable medley quiche?

You don’t have to get that. Order something you understand.

That’s easy to say… What’s this one…Rigatoni with artichokes, garlic, chicken and house salad? Sounds like something you’re likely to choke on. Don’t they have normal food? Don’t they have rice?

They do. You could ask for the Grilled honey-mustard chicken with wild rice and vegetable…

Wild rice? Wild rice? Does it have to be the wild one?

It’s just a way of – never mind, Sa-la. You guys hunt animals in Africa, right? Why don’t you look at the Grill section. This looks good…Hot roast of pork sandwich with mashed potatoes. They caught and killed the pig already so you don’t have to worry about that…

Veeeery funny. If it looks so good, why didn’t you order it?

I did. Here it comes now. And it still looks good.

Want to hear something?


I’m a stark illiterate when it comes to American food. My wife rescues me all the time.

Ah, I knew there had to be a reason behind all that display. If nothing looks familiar to you on that menu, what do you eat in your country?

Food. My rice for instance, I like tame, not wild. If I want to eat wild food, I know just where to go. And the rice must have serious dodo and bokoto by the side. But that’s good for dinner, not lunch. For lunch, nothing beats eba made from yellow gari on ogbono or edikaikong.

What the hell is that?

My point exactly. We kind of eat the same things you guys eat here, but they’re prepared differently and given all sorts of fancy names. And so, I look stupid without my wife to explain your food to me. But you don’t have the faintest idea about my food either, do you?

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1 comment

Anonymous July 18, 2005 - 3:51 pm

I enjoyed your article and love your style.


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