Saturday, 18 April 2009

My Dinner in the Bin

After arriving in South Africa, for about a month, I lived in a hotel not far from Jan Smuts Airport. Then another ex-pat asked if I would like to take his rented house over, as he was returning to the UK.

I jumped at the chance and moved in about a week before they left, to get a feel for the place - and act as unpaid babysitter.

Then I was on my own. I still hadn't got used to the 7.30 start at the office, or the altitude and heat - although it was winter, the daytime temperature could rise to 28°C.

But, I was out of the hotel, I was free to do what I wanted, eat what I wanted. And I wanted cassoulet. I had all the ingredients so I set about soaking the beans for 24 hours and preparing everything else I needed, ready for the big cook-up the following evening.

So, the following evening, I started to make the most delicious meal I had ever had when I was living in France (each to their own). Everything was on the stove and I was very pleased with myself. I had prepared enough for that evening, and also for the two street kids I was looking after at weekends. It would be a real treat for them, I hoped.

I sat in the lounge and waited for my meal to cook - and fell asleep.

Now, do you know that smell of burnt meat, I don't mean singed around the edges, not BBQ burnt, I mean fully burnt right through to a cinder?

That's what woke me up. I sprang into the kitchen through a brown fog, opened all the windows and the door to try to dispel the odour. My maid, who lived in the compound rushed in.

"Devit, Devit! Dey being burn! Fire!"

I calmed her down (she had been caught up in some riots in a township and was a little anxious at the smell of burning flesh), and eventually sent her back to her room.

I had fish fingers for dinner that night.

That was a Wednesday. The cassoulet and the pans I was using ended up in the dustbin.

On Friday evening, the boys got to the house soon after I arrived.

"Ag man! Devid, what is this smell?" This from two township kids who live in an area where the smoke from the burners hangs around for days. It must have been really bad.

They were not amused when I told them that it was their dinner.