Ranked! Boarding House Meals


April 12, 2019

Boarding house memories usually elicit two kinds of emotions. Either PTSD at the level of trauma you experienced from bullies or nostalgia at memories of friends, field trips or for me eating boarding house meals.

Having gone to a Federal Government secondary school, you can imagine that the food was far from great. But it wasn’t just about the food. It was also about the people it was shared with and the bonds that form when everyone on a table forgets their cutlery and you all end up sharing one.

It doesn’t matter what kind of boarding school you went to, or where in Nigeria it was. Some staple meals were prepared across all boarding schools in Nigeria. And I decided to rank them. From the meals that had me braving punishment to avoid the dining hall, to the ones that had me waiting at the dining hall door before the meal bell even went off.

Eba/Semo and anything.

Whether it was paired with a sad vegetable type soup. Or Egusi which was always made up of more water than actual Egusi. Eba was the worst thing to plague the dining halls of boarding schools countrywide. The stories are the same everywhere. Hard, cold, stale mounds that could serve better as balls than food. Sometimes in place of Eba, sad, lumpy mounds of Semo will be served.

Indomie or spaghetti.

Several years after leaving boarding school, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that several school administrators, or whoever was in charge of making these decisions thought it’ll be a great idea to cook Indomie or spaghetti for hundreds of students at once. In schools where the entire boarding school consisted of less than a hundred students of course it worked great. But in schools were 100 students made up JSS2 X and Y only it was an absolute disaster.

Porridge.

You know the porridge that made Esau give up his birthright. You could never find it in a Nigerian boarding school. What you’d find instead will be a yellow sludge completely devoid of any kind of vegetable and sometimes even yam. In fact, the only way you got chunks of yam in your porridge is if you fought to be one of the first people served on your table. If you happened to be the last you’d get a palm oily mash with a vague yam taste.

Bread and stew.

Here’s the thing about bread and stew. It could easily go either way. Depending on the time of the day, the colour of the sky and who’s on duty in the kitchen, it could easily be your best meal of the week. Like on the days where the bread was delivered fresh that very morning, and the stew was thick and nice, even containing some bits of fish. But the slightest shift in the cosmos could have you eating days old bread, with stew that looks like the water they used to wash the stew pot.

White rice and stew.

Much like bread and stew, white rice and stew could also go either way. If luck is on your side the piece of meat or fish you get might be a little bigger than the usual sugar cube size. And instead of getting a rice mash that only needs a little prompting to turn into tuwo, you’d get a bowl with distinct grains and little to no granules of sand.

Beans and plantain.

Beans and plantain is so high up on this list not because of the beans, but because of the precious dodo you got to eat. Usually only once a week. Just seeing the brown, soggy pieces of plantain was enough to make you forget about the watery mess the beans usually was. For the days where garri replaced plantain, it’s only right that it ranks even below Eba.

Bread/yam and eggs.

Whether it was boiled egg or ‘scrambled egg’ made with mostly onions and way too much oil, bread and eggs was one meal that managed to almost be consistently right. Maybe it was because it was usually served on Monday mornings and the cooks liked to take pity on us at the beginning of the week. Or the fact that it’s just really had to get it wrong. Especially on days where boiled eggs are served. Whatever it is, I’m still grateful for it. Especially because of those weeks of drought where you had run out of provisions and visiting day was still weeks away.

Pap and akara.

The staple meal of many a Saturday and Sunday morning, in not just boarding schools but in many Nigerian homes. Pap and Akara was one of the best boarding house meals. The trick to getting the most out of Pap and Akara days, was making sure you were one of the first people to get to the dining hall. That way your Akara is fresh and hot, the Pap is nice and thick and you can steal extra milk off other people’s tables.

Jollof rice and chicken.

There are two scenarios in which Jollof rice and chicken might have been served at your boarding school. You either went to a school that served it once a week, probably on Sunday afternoons. Or you went to a school that served it only on special occasions. Like founder’s day or the principal’s birthday. Whatever the case was, one thing was sure. Days when Jollof rice and chicken were served were glorious glorious days.

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