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City of Banjul
Monday, September 28, 2020

The Art of Eating: Bon apeti…

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 He salivated and waited for long but the problem was that the cupboard was locked so he could not access the appetising bowl. There was only one solution and the kid would not waste time any longer. It was the sound of glass breaking that woke his mother from her nap. The woman came rushing and guess what she saw?

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We will come back to this story later but for now I want you to answer these questions:

· What do you eat?

· How do you eat?

· How much do you eat?

· When do you eat?

· Why do you eat?

I ask these questions because the answers you give will determine how healthy you are. Obesity is one of the worst diseases that confront this world now and its source is that little hole on your face that extends down into your bossom. Be careful what you eat for it will determine how long you will stay here eating. If you eat unhealthy food, all things being equal you, will be sick and die earlier than normal and that means you miss many years that you would have lived and eaten. A young lady in my neighbourhood learnt this lesson recently. She used to eat in some careless way not heeding advice about healthy diet habits. She believed in what she called the principle of nbumbaye, the Wolof word meaning party. But then her eating habit caught up with her when she developed complications of diabetes and high blood pressure. Lying in her hospital bed, she cried and regretted her nbumbaye. Finally upon the doctor’s advice she now eats food that is largely unpalatable having to cut down on salt, sugar and all those delicacies that spice up our food. So much for nbumbaye!

 

Eat healthy food that contains minimal sugar and less fat. I still drink my ataya but I have cut the amount of sugar I use by some 80% and I have also stopped drinking it in public places not only to avoid the excess sugar but also to avoid the unhealthy habit of sharing the same glasses with many others including strangers. I do my ataya in ten minutes and boil it much less than before to preserve the nutrients in this very special tea. In fact with my new formula I call it diet ataya. 

 

I do not have accurate statistics on this but sampling the number of deaths I hear about in our country in this day and time, diabetes and high blood pressure account for the lion’s share of funerals I have attended of late. Yes, you will be saying that people die only when the decreed time comes and I would agree with you. But you would not be careless enough to lie in front of a speeding truck on a highway. So in the same vein you may wish to avoid the high-speed angel of death in our midst of late that thrives on bad food and sedentary life styles.

 

You may wish to keep an eye on how you eat too. Food is supposed to be completely masticated before sent on that journey that trails the intestines, going through the rectum and ending you-know-where. Eat what you need to carry your functions and give away the rest. There are enough hungry people in the world to make better use of your excess. Over-eating is the mother of all diseases I dare say. The time you eat is as important as how much you eat. Filling that truck called stomach and heading straight for bed hurts your digestive systems and causes problems like indigestion that can make your life very much uncomfortable. Leave some time between your evening meal and your bedtime. Some religious teacher once taught me that the formula for when to eat is simple: you should only eat when you are hungry and you should not eat just because lunch is ready even though you may not be hungry.

 

And before answering the above questions you should have answered the why question first but I left it for last on purpose because if you answer the above ones properly, you would have been clear by now on why you need food. I make bold here to advise my favourite sanaaws the Kiangkas that eating is not an end in itself but rather a means to an end. Yes, I make this statement because it was recently reported in the local media that a Kiangka man allegedly killed his wife over a fight for a bag of rice. The deceased wife allegedly wanted the rice alone rather than sharing or allowing it to go to the co-wife. So my people from the region of Kiang, I hereby inform you that food is meant to help us carry our purpose in life, which as far as I am concerned, is to serve the Almighty Allah. You will need food to work and walk but both activities should lead you to your Creator the Most Benevolent Most Merciful who put you here on earth and provides you with the wherewithal for survival.

 

I guess you are now saying that I am too harsh on the people of Kiang, but I can confess here that my Baddibunka kinsmen are no better in the art of eating. There once was a naming ceremony in the Tobacco Road ward of Banjul and when the guests were ready to eat the porridge that was made for breakfast the tin of Tunka Paint that was below the bed was pulled out mistakenly because these Fulas who sell sour milk were not smart enough to label the container properly. They just sold their sour milk in used tins of Tunka Paint, so when my people pulled out the container, they just poured the white liquid on the porridge and took their fill of the meal. They only realised it was paint and not sour milk when the porridge was finished. The matter ended in the ‘high courts’ of the then Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital.

 

I hope by now you would have seen the need for an essay on the above subject beyond your suspicion that I am obsessed with eating. It is important that we keep an eye on this most important matter and treat it appropriately. I just finished three pieces of roasted corn and then I still thought about lunch. Then something alerted me that food is not only rice, it can be maize also. But you surely know that when a Gambian eats even a bowl full of the heaviest meal but there was no rice in that meal he would say that he did not eat the whole of that day. Times have changed and even our bodies have changed. We must make a shift in our eating habits if we are to live as a healthy nation in peace and prosperity as stated for in our national motto.

 

Back to the story of the kid standing in front of a cupboard with a bowl of gari glistening with peak milk floating on top. Yours truly was the principal actor in this A-list true story of a movie. It was around 1980 at number 84 Old Perseverance Street in Banjul and I had already developed a liking for gari. I headbutted the glass on the cupboard door and it shattered exposing the bowl of gari but before I could take action on my potential victim, my mother was standing by me asking who broke the glass and you can guess my answer: It was broken by the cat, (Moosi Njie, we called it)!

 

Such memories of the gourmand were aroused in me when I saw my daughter Khadija make a theatre-style attack on an apple that I bought for her mother in our bid to shift from sugary snacks like Snickers chocolate and ice cream into healthy ones. So I thought I should share my thoughts here on eating hoping the Sarahullehs and Kiangkas will learn something from their father, I the noble Mandinka man just from Baddibu.

 

Momodou Sabally

The Gambia’s Pen

                                      From our arcvhives

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