The Essay that got me into Stanford.
My Sunday Night Sadza.
“The chief pleasure in eating does not consist in costly seasoning or in exquisite flavour, but in yourself”- Horace (65-8 B.C) Roman lyric poet
Never am l as effervescent and sure-footed as l am on the walk from my small room to the school dining hall every Sunday night. I beam, giggle, whistle and hum, all with childlike energy that would remind anyone of an infant on its way to a candy store. My seemingly bizarre conduct on these nights is condemned by my fellow students, many of whom are in zealous discord with what awaits them for dinner at the start of every intense week: the traditional Zimbabwean meal of Sadza*.
It is tremendously difficult for me to comprehend why the student body so intensely abhors this dish. Though Sadza is a popular local meal, my colleagues deem it unsuitable for the “first-class restaurant atmosphere” of the dining hall, preferring that we feasted on more sophisticated “delights”. Their notion proves very strange to me and so every Sunday night, in my blissful state of mind disregard the mass of nonchalant zombies that lumber into the dining hall behind me. As petulant faces gripe and annoyed torsos slouch around me, l sit erect and smile, patiently anticipating the “corn splendour” that is to come.
Without delay, the kitchen staff steps into the ungratefully quiet hall, regally carrying my “rotund miracles”, housed in glowing pots and pans. My tablemates exhale noisily and listlessly begin to help themselves while l heartily seize my cutlery and delve into the steamy goodness transported once again to the magical feasting world, a place where l pass the time exploring the rich starchiness of corn balls, the supple flakes of slightly salted beef and the thick dark sludge that characterizes the green vegetables. I stay oblivious to the scornful stares pointed at me as l clear the last crumb off my plate and after gulping down a cup of arctic-cold water; l am convinced,despite the discontented grunts saturating the air, that the meal has ended in an unprecedented flourish.
For me, the Sunday night meal of Sadza is more a means of expression than a dish. During these meals, I experience a mixture of unshared emotions; joy at the prospect of the approaching week, satisfaction at the fullness of the meal and a simultaneous light-heartedness that comes with the apparent simplicity of the food. The typically ordered chaos of the meal manifests itself in the students’ futile attempts at appearing classy whilst intently ploughing away at the glutinous mass that occupies their plates. They choke at the spiciness of the green vegetables and grapple with the crumbly beef pieces, eventually giving up and throwing their frustrated limbs into the air. I experience the meal differently; though the green vegetables sear my tongue and the beef-bones maliciously stab at my soft inner cheek, I attack my stinky Sadza with gusto. As l manoeuvre slowly but surely around my plate, l feel skilful. As l swallow each carefully prepared morsel, I gain invincibility. Yet, the most significant thing l obtain whilst eating my Sadza amidst the sea of envious and weary eyes, is a sense of comfort in my own skin, a certain reassurance in being myself and sticking to what l enjoy.
My favourite Sadza may not measure up to the rice and chicken or fried pork ribs that other students yearn but every Sunday night, in the sanctity of the school dining hall, it gives me the confidence to be me.
*Sadza: traditional Zimbabwean dish made from corn dough. Usually eaten with green vegetables and beef
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