Lunch

The service in Rwandese restaurants is notoriously slow. Waiting an hour to get your food served is no exception. When the restaurant is full of customers, I can imagine it takes time, but somehow that doesn’t seem to be the reason. The same thing happens when you are the only customer in the whole restaurant. It might be because everything is prepared from scratch. It’s not easy to estimate how many customers will come to the restaurant in a day and food that has been prepared cannot be preserved. I can only empathise with attempts to preserve food, but why then does it take at least half an hour to get a cup of coffee?

To most Rwandans, lunch is the main meal of the day. Most of them live to far away from work to go home, so they eat in a restaurant. Right, you see the problem coming. Everyone wants to have lunch at the same moment and with the slow service in the restaurants that means… people are away from their job for a long time. In most African countries that wouldn’t be a real problem, it would only mean the lunchbreak would be a bit longer, but it’s different here. Economic growth and efficiency are important, so the President ordered that lunchbreaks would only last an hour. The result is that most restaurants serve a buffet around noon, where the food is ready and everyone can choose what to take themselves. Added advantage is that Rwandans can indulge in their preference for a lot and especially stomach filling food.

A buffet here usually contains three sections. Section one has two or three kinds of meat (of which you are supposed to take only one piece, more is not appreciated), the second section has some kinds of vegetables (at least one of them being beans). And the last one (or really the first and most important) are the stomach fillers: a large selection of fried potatoes, boiled potatoes, steamed plantane, boiled plantane, white rice, spiced rice, ugali (a cake made of maizeflour), yam, or cassave). The restaurants that cater to foreigners on a regular basis might add a small corner with salad (lovely avocado, my favourite!). And then it is funny to watch the different cultures. Of course I’m generalising, but where westerners usually (remember, it’s daily routine here!) put a lot of salade on their plates, a bit of potatoes or rice, a decent amount of vegetables and sometimes a piece of meat, Rwandans make completely different choices. They fill their plates first with the stomach fillers, and I really mean filled to the brim, so I wouldn’t be able to add anything more. On top of that come the vegetables, preferably the beans, and a piece of meat. Sometimes they add a bit of salad. The result is a plate of food enough to last me three days…

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