One of the things I noticed when I arrived back in the motherland was the generous nature of the natives. When eating, they would always invite people in the vicinity, even strangers, to join them. With careful observation, I noticed that most people, when invited would smile and not partake of the meal. Interesting!
It didn’t take long to see through that cultural façade. Most of the time they don’t really mean it but they say it anyway. It’s a bit like a rehearsed play and everyone knows their part. So you say to someone, “You are invited”, and the person according to the script should say, with a smile, “Thank you,” meaning, thank you for the invitation but no.
I went to lunch with a friend at one of the eateries at the Trade Fair. We used to go there every day and the young woman who always served us is called Albertina.
On this particular day, we arrived later and most of the food was finished. My favourite Ghanaian meal has always been ampesi and palaver sauce with tuna fish and boiled egg, which I ordered every day.
We sat down, ordered our drinks and the ever-smiling Albertina came to take our food orders. Much to my dismay, Albertina informed me that the ampesi and palaver sauce was finished. I feigned shock and Albertina, taking me seriously, went on to explain in a loud voice, that a man sitting at a table nearly had eaten the last portion of ampesi and palaver sauce.
Thinking I was a stranger, the man smiled brightly and took the Akwaaba route, grabbed a shovel and proceeded to dig a hole for himself.
“You are invited,” he said happily.
I threw the script in the bin and said, “Thank you.” I grinned and handed Albertina a plate for her to collect half of the man’s food for me.
From that moment, everything moved in slow motion and the place became so quiet, you could have heard a pin drop.
Albertina, rooted to the spot, was tossing the plate from hand to hand as if it were a hot brick. The man had also gone into a state of shock, because he obviously didn’t expect me to take up his offer. His knife and fork hovered above his food and his mouth gaped open – I am sure several flies entered and exited – with a John McEnroe look on his face that said, ‘You cannot be seriously thinking of sharing my food with me.’
– Alba Kunadu Sumprim, The Imported Ghanaian
**To know how this story ended, join Alba, Kofi Akpabli and Nana Awere Damoah for an evening of fun, literature and laughter at JamRock Restaurant, 10 Jungle Road, East Legon on 3rd Sept. Reading starts at 4.30pm.