Good girls finish last….not!

When rachet dies unceremoniously…

I am in Mombasa, the glorious wonderful city by the Indian Ocean. Where salty warm waters lap at my swollen feet, because this heat is reminiscent of hell and my body just does not know how to handle it! I refuse to have my mood dampened by unregulated temperatures, and focus on what brought me here. Complete release, an attempt at reliving my energetic youth, to drink myself silly and party my nights away.

I will gladly announce that I failed miserably at both.

I am older and wiser; and can hold more liquor than I care to display, but this heat will simply not let me achieve a state of complete drunkenness. My attempts nevertheless grow more spirited with every passing bottle.

So we are residing in Nyali, such a beautiful side of town. Our residence has us passing outside what I was led to believe is Bayusuf’s estate. I tell you, prosperity is important, and so is longevity if it comes with wealth. He has a Mosque inside his compound, and irrespective of how slowly I insist we drive by, I can never clap my eyes on that property long enough to see what else is inside. I have always been fascinated by big things ( I will allow your mind to wonder in whatever direction you please with that statement), I remember putting up pictures of trucks on my wall back in high school. Mann trucks, Mercedes Trucks, anything that shook the earth when keyed to life had my attention.

I wondered if Bayusuf would have prospered if he had sired only daughters. Bayusuf and daughters just doesn’t have a satisfying ring to it, Bayusuf and Sons simply sounds complete. Would his daughters if any have carried on his legacy? Would they have prospered? I wonder.

If I had daughters would I have them drive trucks? Yes

Would I fix marriages with the sons of Baysuf for my unborn daughters? Yes

Would I lurk outside Baysuffs gate until they finally gave in? Yes

Am I drunk right now? Yes, I mean no, honestly … I am working on it.

Swallows an unladylike mouthful. WHISKEY . IS . LIFE!

My attempts at painting the town red have me hiding from the sun and pretending to swim. Pretending because I am far too lazy to be bothered to swim the length of the pool, the most I can do is dog paddle, then sink at the shallowest corner and deep my head under water. When that becomes tedious, I sashay to the baby pool. Holding my head high like Cleopatra on her way to soak in milk and honey, because she and I understand one thing, LIFE IS NOT A REHEARSAL! If I want to chill in the baby pool, by Jupiter I will chill in the baby pool. Slathered in a bottle of Nivea’s SPF 1000, clad in a polka-dot fatkini, wide brimmed hat and Gucci sunglasses, I settle my generous behind into the waters that even after being displaced only cover my bosom. Yes, this is the life!

Mid afternoon obviously calls for a siesta, which has me waking up sometime after 9 p.m. hungry as a model. A quick shower later, wearing as little as possible and not a lick of makeup on my face, off we go to hunt for some local dishes. I love me some biryani, the real biryani. The kind that this hotel cannot achieve; because such titillating goodness can only be found in the streets. The non-Michelin star cooks succeed at their trade because they love to cook, and will spice everything they way they ought to, the way their mothers taught them how to, the traditional unchained method. Food on the streets is cooked from the heart, and it warms my innards just enough to have me addicted and avail me the opportunity to flash my middle finger at all that five star blandness.  Give me artery clogging scrumptiousness any day!

After driving around and finding most of my favourite spots closed for business, I realise that it is a Monday, and not everyone in this town is on holiday like I am. Upset but not outwitted, we try for the popular spots, only to find the same dismal disappointment. Even Bob’s was closed, so we were referred to a dimly lit restaurant with green eerie bulbs and clients with hooded eyes. If my stomach wasn’t rumbling so loudly, I would have chosen to sleep hungry, but even my worst enemy does not deserve such punishment. So we pull our seats and try get the attention of a waitress.

The thing about the coastal region is everything slows down. EVERYTHING. I kept flagging down waitresses, all of whom flashed me what I think was their teeth, and walked by. The only good that came from all the waving was my armpits cooled down, finally found some use for my wings. About a half hour later, one arrives and smiles ever so sweetly and asks what we will have. A round of cold sodas, ice cubes, water and food. She says they do the best pork in town, we order for some, to be accompanied by French fries and Ugali, which she calls Sima (shoot me now! I do not care for Swahili lessons at this moment!)

I did not expect the food to arrive any time before dawn, so I busied myself watching my surroundings and wishing my skin would remain this clear even in Nairobi. The ladies here have such amazing skin! It must be from all the sweating, and not constantly wearing makeup. They are very beautiful and soft spoken, and all those other things that rumour has about coastal women. These ladies also dress very decently nowadays. I see several women come and go. They are all clad in cute dresses, or pencil skirts and heels that I would wear. Do people here now work night shift instead of 8 to 5? Which would make sense because this heat is good for only two things, sleeping and then sleeping some more.

I realize that even if these women were going to work, surely, there have to be some men folk also on duty. My attention immediately spikes, I feel like Sherlock with no clues but armed with resolve and smart ass responses. What the devil is going on here?

It is one girl after another, all going into the bathroom in jeans and whatnot, and coming out looking like they were going for interviews. I am talking well-dressed girls, even the thick ones emerged looking like they had strapped on spanks and brought some order to all that jelly. Surely, which employer is this? I follow one girl to what appeared to be her end destination. She stood alongside her equally well dressed “workmates” and I assumed that the bus would be by any minute to take them to the factory or call centre, because they were many.

I waited and waited. No bus, no food on my table. What there was however, was an increase in traffic along the street outside this restaurant. My smartly dressed girls would kill the chatter when a car drove by, one would break away and approach the vehicles, the conversation seldom lasting more than a few seconds. Then it struck me like a punch to my ribcage, these were not “good” decently dressed girls! They were ladies of the night!

Who changed the bloody dress code? Have I been living under a rock?

I was so shocked I temporarily forgot my hunger and irritation at the terrible service we were getting from the smiling Coastarian waitress with her perfect Swahili.

Whatever happened to call girls wearing nothing more than matching ribbons? Did they stop chain smoking and looking like drag queens on Meth? Did the allure of too much skin die? Have people stopped being attracted to “bad girls” and now want to be associated with the not so obvious? Who changed the effing rules?

In an era where being normal is too mainstream, and everyone wants to be different in order to get ahead; how is it that the oldest profession is peddling backwards to remain relevant? Is hiding the obvious in plain sight the only way not to judge a book by its cover?

My food has come!

 

Image credits

Chopped? not my kitchen!

Why Siba and Ina prosper….

I would like to declare that the image you are looking at is the exact likeness of me. Which would be a complete lie because I look nothing like that, not even in my raciest dream; which are far and in between because my life has more action than required, thank you.

By now you know that I have a continuous fulfilling love affair with food. I will shamelessly allow myself to be seduced by rich aromas, and have my tongue cheat on different food groups. I usually host ménage-à-trois in my mouth, because separating my food is intolerable cruelty and life is too short to have a neat plate. Yes, I like to think of myself as the barefoot Contessa, with Siba’s body and possibly house, and a pantry as well stocked as Chandarana’s food isle. Life is what you make it folks, my dreams are valid!

So I have been binge watching the food channel since 0630 hours. I have trouble going back to sleep after my first one goes to school. The telly comes on, and re runs are not my thing.  The food channel however is always interesting to watch, there are so many things you can cook from a myriad of ingredients including leftovers. Now that I have a family of boys, I must cook a lot of food for the ever increasing appetites, and varying palates. I do not believe in wastage, so the left overs in my house must be consumed; in their present form or modified to take on an entirely different meal. This task is usually taken on with varying degrees of gusto, depending on my emotions and more often than not, how much chilli I can throw in. I love me some spice, anything that will tickly my taste buds and make my eyes tear is welcome on my plate. Tabasco and all other chilli sauces are okay, but I find green chillies cooked in the pot along with other ingredients just takes the meal to a whole new level. A better level.  A spicy level.  A world where every bite is an adventure, you never know what to expect, and the suspense of biting into a big slice of the chilli is just too exciting. (yes, I find thrill in such mundane things… tee hee hee!)

Its nearly noon, my tummy is rumbling rather loudly. A steam engine would blush over the present noise emanating from my digestive. The last episode of chopped just eliminated the chef I had put my money on. I have watched enough episodes, and I see a trend here. Anyhow, maybe Caribbean and African themed dishes do not make the cut, but I beg to differ. I take on the challenge and decide to have a “chopped off” in my kitchen. 20 minutes for a starter, 30 for my entrée and another 20 for the sweets. Mmmmmh! That is plenty of time to prepare three courses. If they can do it, so can I! Kwani?

I limp off to the kitchen, I had not realised I had been seated cross legged on my favourite spot, and now my legs are numb. Perhaps five minutes of down dog will get the blood pumping again, or should I do the cobra? I had forgotten how painful pins and needles are, age is not a kind thing.

Right, I start with the fridge. What do we have in here?

  • 6 brown chapatis ( I insist on eating whole food, because it makes me feel better, almost as if the notion of eating wheat is watered down because the said wheat is made of whole grain)
  • A medium sized head of cabbage
  • Three beef medallions, my butcher is a superstar! He really knows what I like and how I like it! May God continue to bless the work of his hands!
  • Left over Tripe (this is my all-time favourite food! Because it tastes delicious and has zero calories. Yes, I am conflicted like that!)
  • A bottle of Honey Tennessee, half full. ( My bottles and whiskey glasses are always half full, because I choose to see the option of topping it up with ice, or very cold water, to bring out those soothing aromas….but this is not the time to take you on a trip on how to taste whiskey.) I open the bottle and breathe in the goodness. Darnit! This here is some good stuff, I will just have a shot to confirm that it has not been watered down by imaginary persons.

Right!

I think I have covered all the food groups. I have a vegetable, protein and starch. A quick look in the pantry, and I find plenty of tomatoes, squash, onions, garlic and some unripe bananas. Now what shall I make of them? My whiskey induced brilliance brings me to the following.

Appetizer

Cream of squash soup

Entrée

Beef flambé with garlic butter and lightly steamed cabbage slices

Desert

Microwave chocolate sponge cake with Vanilla ice cream

I am feeling so good about this menu I bloody well want to print it out and lay it on the table. Lets get to work already!

First. I wash my hands. Then wear an apron because I am feeling cute and every cook worth his salt wears an apron. It is expected. The same way a dentist MUST pull a mask over this mouth as he inspects your cavities, and must always wear gloves while handling his tools and anything near your mouth. I cannot explain why I prefer them in white gloves and not the blue ones. Am I being anal in thinking the blue ones hide some undetectable dirt, the type of trace dirt that would probably be magnified by white gloves?

Anywho.

I pull out my non stick cooking ware… I love these pots. Place them on the stove. I place the chopping board on the counter closest to the stove. Retrieve the vegetables and wash them, then admire what is about to be a decadent meal.

Because the devil is a liar and so is alcohol, I go ahead and set the timer on my phone, I will produce a meal in the exact time that it takes the chefs on Chopped. Nani kama mimi? (Who like me?) Do you see why I do not like translating? The meaning is always lost, or comes across as foolish. Aaaargh!

The clock is ticking, I decide to start with the trickiest of the three rounds, desert! I know that I am cheating with the order of meals but this is my kitchen dammit and I will make the rules here! I pull out the flour, some eggs, cacao powder, baking powder and a whipping dish. I roughly eyeball the ingredients, beat them to within an inch of their existence, pour them as neatly as I could into four cups and throw them into the microwave. I set it to 15 minutes because I figure the waves will need more time to work through the four mugs, I am a bloody genius!

Next, Entrée.

I descend upon the beef like a moth to a flame. The meat is so cold, I must remember to turn up the temperature in that fridge. I set it on the chopping board and season it well. Some salt, garlic powder should do the trick, I have seen more than one chef chopped because he did not season the food properly ( yes, I am a quick study). I heat up the pan, holding my hand over it because I do not know how else to check if it is hot enough. When my hand could feel the heat from 15 centimetres , I figured I was good to go. So I seal the pieces first, making sure that I got the sides as well. Then I allow them to cook for two minutes on each side, because Siba said so. I throw in some butter, and a stalk of rosemary then do that thing where you “wash” the beef with the butter so it can cook evenly. Then I remember that this here is to be flambé, with the reckless abandon of a new lover on an old mistress, I pick up my glass and throw the contents into the pan.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOI! LORD!

How does the ENTIRE stove come up in flames? I swear I was engulfed in a ball of fire! There was smoke pouring from I do not know where, the pan was spitting at me like an ill behaved child, and what is that hissing? Have I completely charred my meat? Noooooooooo! I push open all my windows and throw open the door, the smell in here is so acrid even the neighbours start coughing. I will not be defeated! I have seen this happen a million times on chopped, I will save the situation if it’s the last thing I do!

Turns out, it was the last thing I did. As far as these pieces of my favourite meats were concerned. They were pure black. Like Tar. And they had shrivelled, I cannot explain how and why it happened so quickly. The stalk of Rosemary that I had thrown in… gone! Maybe it escaped the ball of fire and ascended into spice heaven.  Chieth! (Merde in French). I put the blackened pan aside, I will deal with it later.

Beep beep beep! My cakes are done! I can trace faint smells of Chocolate cake, but the air is still rancid from the incident. I pop open the microwave and retrieve one of the mugs. What is this? Instead of a beautifully risen chocolate sponge cake. I had in my hand a sunken  brown substance  that was bubbling quietly. I can swear I could hear it sniggering at me, with those slight bubbles making a mockery of my attempts to produce a cake in the microwave. I decide that maybe this one was the only failed one, but with each mug that I pulled out, the results were consistently bad. Surely, what went wrong? Did I not put in enough Baking powder? Was the consistency wrong? Whatever! I still have enough time, I will make some more and try it again. I dump the mugs in the sink and turn my attention to the vegetables.

I quickly peel the Squash, handling the knife with Jamie Olivers dexterity. I dice them not too finely and throw them into a pot. I add some salt, a teaspoon of sugar ( to bring out the sweetness in the butternut), cinnamon and a dash of cloves. I add some chopped onion, and one clove of garlic. Two cups of water, and bring to a boil. I chop the cabbage in thick slices, I realize that I can use them to wrap the “charred” beef , but I would need to make them sweet to hide the burnt taste. I put them into a pot, add about a quarter cup of water, some sugar and honey. I cover them and allow them to steam for nothing more than five minutes.

I turn my attention to the pan. Honestly, this is an unholy mess. The beef has unbelievably shrunk some more. To add salt to injury, they are super glued to the pan. I try and try to scrape them off the pan, but nothing, they will not budge. I check the fridge for more meat, I have none. I check the freezer, there is nothing there but sausages and pre boiled beans. Darn it! Back to the pan, I scrap with all my might. Now I am talking to the meat, please come off the pan, I promise to make you look better than you do. It is not working. I lay a table mat on the floor, and bang the living daylights out of the pan. We shall eat this meat by force by fire! I am banging away when I smell something sickly sweet. Cabbage! My vegetables! Double Chieth! I turn the knobs and pull off the covers to find that what was meant to be slightly steamed has turned black.

Tititititititititi! My phone rings, my timer alerts me that my time is up.

I stand back and look at my kitchen. What the hell just happened?

 

Image Credits.