Monday, 10 March 2014

Item 13 Is Assured

Frank Mercer was the president of Ghana Engineering Students Association (GESA) when I was in University first year. I can't remember who were the presidents during the rest of my stay there. It hard to forget Mercer, he threw the biggest parties in whole University.

First year (2005) GESA Socialization was the biggest party in the recorded history of KNUST. There was so much chicken, pie and drink it was just ridiculous. Students from other faculties left their socialization and flocked to ours and there was still enough food for everyone. There was an eating competition which was won by a guy in my class. When the party was done, there was so much left over food that one of my friends, Eli Avisseh, who came with his bag, collected a lot meat with which he prepared stew that lasted a month.

With Mercer, every event was a party, even 30 minute seminars. Every GESA event in 2004 was heavily patronized and more often than not, you would find social science students and Engineering events. Item 13 (refreshment) was always implied. There was no need for it to be stated on the program.

Naturally, we the first year students assumed that was how it was going to be for the four year period. I remember taking my bag to the second year socialization with the hope of gathering some meat for stew like my friend did the previous year. Sadly, that year, there wasn't enough food and the little food there was being fought over by Engineering students and the parasitic Social Science students who had gotten used to freely partaking in what was rightfully ours.

During Frank Mercer's reign, he was constantly accused of embezzling funds but we didn't care. The food covered all his sins. In our eyes he could do no wrong. Later presidents were not that loved. They were constantly being berated by members for perceived corruption. In our opinion, if you were going to steal money, the least you could do was make sure our mouths were full. In strict observation of table manners, we wouldn't talk while eating.

In the four years I was at KNUST, any program that didn't have, "ITEM 13 IS ASSURED", on the flyer was poorly patronized. Except of course, when Frank Mercer was president. With him, you just knew.

Refreshment at any Ghanaian program is a big deal. It brings out the worst in people. I'm not sure when we started referring to refreshment as Item 13 but apparently, some years back, refreshment was always the thirteenth item on every program.

At every children's party, the coolest kid is the one who knows that Auntie in the kitchen who gives him more when his food is finish. Center of attention. Everyone wants to be his friend that day. You would think that the 'Auntie-in-the-Kitchen' syndrome was only a childhood disease but no. You will see grown ups at Ghanaian parties following the waiters around and trying to get more food by tracing their relationship with the host. Most guilty of this are extended family.

In 2005, I was helping out with serving of food at a wedding Prempeh Assembly Hall, Kumasi. It was supposed to be a buffet but because of the huge number of uninvited guests, we decided to 'regulate' the food serving. If a guest took plain rice, the person wouldn't be allowed to take jollof or fried rice. If he took chicken, he wouldn't be allowed to take fish or beef. This was just to ensure that the food didn't run out. One old lady started creating a scene when she wasn't allowed to stack her plate. She kept screaming, Ɔyɛ mi Wɔfasi! Gyae mi” (He's my Nephew, Leave me alone). In the end we let her stack her plate with food that was too much for any one person to eat. From there on we found it hard to control the guest who were family. It made me wonder how many of these family members contributed even a pesewa to the wedding.

It used to be that at Ghanaian parties, the (extended) family members made sure the guests ate before they did but these days, they eat before the guest and are always seen packing food into containers.

People eat at funerals and parties as if they can't afford food at home. People start jumping food queues and picking fights over small chops. People you would expect to behave better. It's as if a demon enters them when they see party food. I saw thousands people in Japan in queues for food after the tsunami in 2011 and they were so well behaved and I was stunned. No queue jumping no rushing. I tried to imagine something similar happening in Ghana and kept drawing blanks.

Have you noticed those Aunties who come to parties with big hand bags filled with polythene bags? It's rude to stare but any time I see them stashing food into their handbags I can't help but stare. They find some innocent kid at the party and tell him to go collect more food. When I have my kids in future, I am warning them about Aunties with big hand bags.

Growing up in Ho, there was a lady called Akosua Dompo who, like the old-lady who live in a shoe, had so many children. This woman made it a point to attend every wedding with all her kids and during refreshment, she would be heard saying to her children, “make sure you eat enough, I won't be cooking tonight”. Your wedding was considered a flop if Akosua Dompo wasn't spotted around with here flock. 

In Secondary School and University, almost every guy has that one friend who suddenly appeared when food was ready. Their timing is so impeccable you start to wonder if they have hidden cameras in your room. Sometimes, they even eat more than you do. For some reason, you tolerate this and only complain when he's not around. Some of them actually get angry with you when you refuse to share your food with them. You know who am talking about. You are afraid to mention his name because you fear he would suddenly appear.

What is the most hilarious thing you have seen at a party especially when it comes to food? 

(of course, there is also political message behind this post. You may or may not see it. Either way, do enjoy it and leave a message)