When we were in Australia I really enjoyed experiencing the culture of the BYO restaurant. This is not something that we know well in the United States. We have all course heard the term BYOB and probably even attended parties in the past that were BYOB themed, but at a restaurant that is quite out of the ordinary. You can of course bring our own wine to some restaurant for which you can certainly expect to pay a corkage fee. But Australia was different, when you are tight and cash but wanting to eat out and drink a few rounds you just stop in a bottle shop pick up some cheap beers and carry them into in BYO restaurant to enjoy with the meal at no additional charge.
Jump ahead to here in Cameroon and the idea of BYO has been turned on its head. Instead of bringing your own drinks to the restaurant, (something you would never have incentive to do since all bars, restaurants, stores and markets all sell beer for the exact same price) you typically bring your own food to the bar. Not all bars here sell food but even those that do have no quarrels with you bringing in any and all outside food. In fact it is nearly impossible to finish a beer at a bar without being hassled at least once by a street vendor coming into the bar to try to sell food.
Even other restaurants will gladly deliver your food to a competing establishment at no additional charge. This is particularly advantageous when you are in a large group and can’t decide on one particular food to eat, but all want to sit together. All you have to do is find a bar larger enough to accommodate everyone and the food will be brought to you. Even those finicky eaters who can’t decide what they want can sit back and watch a virtual buffet of Cameroonian culture walk by on the tops of children’s heads. Anything from peanuts to pilipili to a fried fish can happen upon you in the course of a beer.
In fact the items that emanate upon you are not limited to just foods. It is often said here that you can do a full days market shopping without leaving the comforts of your favorite bar. We have known people to buy everything for an ironing board or a spatula to even a new rug for their living room while sitting in the bar. Yes, it is amazing the things that will find you when you are not looking for them in Cameroon.
So the next time you are out in Cameroon and can’t decide on what to eat, just remember that here every bar is BYOF.