By: Toluwalope Ayeye
“It’s true! While the women are very nice, the food is usually poorly cooked,” Ara interfered as this correspondent spoke to her roommate. “I bought rice from there because I was tired; it was bitter and cold.”
In almost every undergraduate hall of residence in the University of Ibadan, there is a cafeteria with at least two food vendors to meet the belly needs of the students and make sure that each student has a wider range of choice. It is so in Independence Hall, Nnamdi Azikiwe Hall, and some other halls, but the case is contrary in Obafemi Awolowo Hall. In Awo Hall, the beginning of the physical classes during the first semester heralded the resumption of only one food vendor – SBJ Foods.
Usually, there’s bound to be complaints from one or two people about a particular food vendor or the food they sell. This is quite expected, as different people have different preferences when it comes to food – some might like it hot, others cold, or spicy. However, when similar complaints repeatedly begin to surface among different people, then, it’s an issue beyond just preferences.
This has been the same with SBJ, with students – freshers and stalites alike – having similar complaints about the food vendor. Let’s look into two things allegedly wrong with SBJ:
SBJ FOOD: Awoites’ Complaints Of Spoilt Food, Troubled Stomachs And Others Claims
During the interviews with Awoites, there surfaced two categories of people: there were the three-timers (those who had eaten at the cafeteria at most, three or four times) and the regular customers. These three-timers are further divided into two categories: the bulk of them having something sour to say about the food SBJ sells. The most frequent complaint is that that spoilt food is mostly served.
“I bought food from there and I couldn’t eat it; I had to throw it away,” Sharon, a three-timer complained. When she was asked about what exactly was wrong with the food, she explained that the rice she bought was soggy.
“I don’t know how to say it in English, but in Igbo, they will say it gbammiri,” she complained. Sharon was not the only person who had something to say about the food served by SBJ, as Funke, a stalite, also gave out more information.
Funke introduced herself as a regular customer, and although she sometimes left there a happy and satisfied customer, most times, left with an upset tummy. While stating that the food was often not good, she revealed what she has noticed.
“I think whenever she (the owner of SBJ) cooks herself, the food is okay, but whenever it’s any of the workers that cooks, it usually not”. Several Awoites also attest to Funke’s claim that whenever the owner of SBJ wasn’t around, they were faced with spoilt or poorly cooked food.
A Beautiful Cafeteria Until You Step In: Complaints Of Hygiene-Related Issues
Stepping into Awo’s Cafeteria, you will notice one thing – the big space is divided into two parts by an invincible line, or what could be called a mental line. One side of the mental line is the space meant for Marvelous Foods, the second food vendor who is missing in action.
On the other side resides SBJ Foods. While the mental line could be mistaken for the difference in their furniture, it isn’t. Rather, it is the simple fact that the empty space is left dusty and dirty.
The first rule every food vendor must follow is: a good hygiene around the kitchen environment and the place food is sold. At a first glance, it may be excusable for the owners of SBJ to not have their focus on how clean ‘the other side’ is, since their customers don’t sit there to eat, however, it’s still a fact that hygiene matters. It seems absurd, having to keep half of the place tidy and the other half untidy, for in all, cafeteria environment is dirty.
More complaints came in about the cafeteria environment and the hygiene of SBJ specifically.
“When you get to the cafeteria, look up. It’s not as if the ceiling is as high as Klazz’s ceiling that they have not cleared the cobwebs. What if something falls in my food?” Oyinkansola complained angrily. “I have asked severally for water to wash my spoons, because they are not always clean” another regular customer complained.
SBJ Owner Speaks As Regards The Claims
Speaking to the woman in charge at SBJ on the complaints laid by the students, she defended herself, claiming that she has been in the business for long and knows exactly how to go about it. For the hygiene, she defended that she is as clean as she could be. She also went as far as showing her open kitchen and claiming that she has nothing to hide, since she practices cleanliness and her restaurant is very clean. She became apprehensive at the mention of her food being spoilt and causing upset of stomachs among students. She mentioned that the spoilage of food wasn’t her fault, since her help was the one serving the spoilt food, even after several warnings. She also went on to explain that she had hired a chef instead of the cooks just for the students to have a better meal, but they didn’t seem to know the ropes of cooking.
She also brought to light that it was quite difficult for her to cook high quality meals when the turnout of customers is so low. The hall policies not allowing people from outside into the hall and then, Awoites not patronizing her, being the main cause.