I HAVE never really liked pizza, in spite of what American television claims it represents. I do like cheese, though, in some of its various forms and presentation formats, but I generally would not choose pizza ahead of most other meals available to me.
For years, the pizza in Kampala has been presented as special in some way, as if only capable of being produced by persons of a sacred training and anointment, using rare equipment that the ordinary Ugandan would find hard to own, let alone manufacture.
When it was brought to my attention, therefore, that a Pizzeria had in recent months opened up across the road from one of the small, ordinary offices I occupy, I was surprised because I hadn’t realised that pizzas had become so easily available in Kampala.
I need to stress, at this point, that I am not politically against the pizza as a form of nourishment. I just don’t rate them highly over other forms of food in which I have a culinary and economic interest.
So when two weeks ago I was trapped by hunger at a crucial hour of the day and had to place an order at the Pizzeria across the road, I was a bit sceptical. An hour later, I was surprisingly pleased with the experience so much so that I was a repeat customer within the week.
I even mentioned this to my children, later that first evening, since they are prone to suggest pizza as an option when we approach dining out in a democratic manner. Luckily for me, our domestic democracy only gives them nomination rights until they have jobs of their own even if they accumulate wealth through savings, so pizzas are not a frequent hazard in my home.
Even as I notified them of the new development up my office street, I was mindful that I had not yet made them queue up at any roadside rolex guy’s stand, for obvious reasons – and I was to blame for something there.
My office neighbourhood had a couple of roadside Rolex stands whose popularity was disturbing for the distraction they caused when the hunger of their customers overcame their fear of irresponsible drivers speeding up our narrow street.
Then last week as I was whizzing past my favourite pork joint, that also serves up a traditional buffet on working days, I was flabbergasted to see that they, too, had opened up a Pizzeria and were advertising it heavily with very specific branding!
For a few seconds, my mind linked the rise of Italian food places in my part of Africa to the recent rise in disastrous incidents of African migrants in the Mediterranean Sea near Italy.
It was discombobulating!
Worse, it is a little sad that we have more pizza joints cropping up, with their own branding and advertising, instead of Rolex (or Rolleggs) stands upgrading to that next level. (Again, I feel a little guilty here, as I will tell you shortly.)
Sadder still, the Rolex guy on my street is no more, which I coincidentally noticed after ordering the first few slices from the pizza place across the road.
Perhaps he didn’t secure the right licensing, or premises, but he sure had the clientele wrapped up from what I saw over the months he was in operation.
Thus my guilt, because I have had the opportunity before of branding this product properly and professionalising this food product to rival the Pizza of Italian origin so efficiently that we could have been opening up Rolex joints in Venice rather than Pizzerias in Kampala – but I haven’t grasped it.
On a related side-note, I suspect that the origin of the Ugandan Rolex as a street food offering dates back to a hungover weekend morning at work when I – yes, me – walked across to the chapati guy near my then-office and bought two eggs from a kiosk nearby to liven up my breakfast meal.
I didn’t pay much attention to what I was doing then, and every time I see a Rolex stand I see lost opportunity for myself; but today, every time I see a Pizzeria in Kampala I see an economy heading the way of those Mediterranean migrant boats!
Pizzas are even made in ovens apparently imported from some other country, whereas Rolex are made on pans fabricated locally from materials recycled here. Even the ingredients that go into the Pizza are reportedly imported, for some reason!
This coming week you guys have an event happening in Kampala called the ‘Kampala Restaurant Week’ – let’s see how many Rolexes are on menus over there, as opposed to Pizzas and other foreign dishes, and then we’ll have a discussion about food, tourism and building local economy.