Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Chilli Christmas

So I’m lapsing into bad blogger behaviour and it’s been almost three weeks since my last post. So much is going on, and so much of it is worth talking about, but blame it on the season, blame it on the undersea cables, I haven’t found too much time to get online.

I have spent much of this month up a ladder, in an attempt to finish the painting in the bar. We repainted the bar and restaurant and courtyard areas (it was much needed, with paint peeling in the corners before). On top of the fresh coats of cream and terracotta red with ebony coloured borders I’ve done some ethnic African renditions of animals and fish from the region. Ethnic African Art as interpreted by a Muzungu that is.

We have a giraffe, an anteater (or armadillo depending on your point of view), a large, domineering snake, a gecko, a Nile perch and an antelope (or just plain goat as all the staff seem to prefer). Soon to be added are a tortoise and a crested crane.

The other thing we’ve been busy with on a personal basis is adopting a new cat. We have Panda, our three-legged moggy, and as readers saw earlier this year, we started feeding a wild cat that was remarkable for the colour of its fur. It was blue. The poor thing had been trapped in some building when it was fumigated, or had, in some other way, come into contact with some blue-fur-making chemicals.

Shortly after starting to feed her, we realized why she was hungry. We found her nest of three kittens in between two cottages on the bottom compound. Blue Cat had some children, and thankfully they were not blue. She moved them all into the store in our yard, and we would see them early in the morning through the kitchen window, asleep in a big furry bundle of limbs and pink noses, on top of a single chair in the store.

As the kittens grew up, it became clear that one of them was braver than the others. He would follow his Mum into our house for extra eating opportunities, ducking underneath the mosquito door frame, leaving his brother and sister outside Miaowing plaintifully.

Their mother will always be Blue Cat to us, but we gave the three kittens names. The brave one became Mandu (as in Cat Mandu), the other white one Chairman (Chairman Miaow), and the skinny, scared black one Galore (as in Pussy).

(I know the puns are terrible, but we have to amuse ourselves somehow out here).

One of our ex-housekeepers took Chairman off us the other week, and may yet take Galore (if we can catch him). But we now have a strong relationship with Mandu, who lives in our house most of the time, nestling on our shoulders when we watch TV, and trying to work out how to jump onto a bed that is closely surrounded by a mosquito net. He’s a cute kitten, and Panda has just about accepted him. There’s still the occasional grumpy hiss, but nothing followed up with claws, and sometimes he looks positive pleased to see him.

What with a new kitten, and our other animals, we have quite a growing menagerie. We gained two piglets (male and female – we want more piglets!) a couple of months ago. They are growing fast, but no sign of piggy babies yets. We gained a hen and a cockrel back in September. The hen starting sitting on her eggs and produced seven chicks. The six surviving chicks (one got taken by a black shouldered kite) are growing quite large. The cock may have to go though – he’s taken to roosting outside one of the rooms and we’ve had some complaints about his incessant crowing.

The goats have been doing well, if not a little confused about life. Max, the surviving goatlet of the summer’s twin birth, is a stocky little thing. He and his mother, who we nicknamed Dave, were joined by another female at the end of August. She was christened Nigel by R and I, tho the staff called her Clare. The idea would be that come Christmas, Dave would hit the barbecue for the staff party, and that Max would fall in love with Nigel and make more goat babies to continue the Red Chilli line.

Sadly, nothing so simple has transpired. The teenage Max, despite still occasionally taking milk from his mother, has also been insisting on trying to take her in a completely different sort of a way. Nigel would look on, clearly feeling a bit left out. And recently, Nigel, despite being very much a girl goat, has been mounting Dave – also a girl goat. All this sexual deviancy is upsetting the staff (you have to remember homosexuality is considered downright freakish in this country) and as a result, Nigel/Clare has been slaughtered this morning for the Staff Christmas Barbecue. The pot is full and the staff are licking their lips. Goat, steamed Matoke (plantain), and Irish fried in eggs (Irish is shorthand for potatoes to you and I). That’s a Christmas meal right there.

Back in the kitchen, the staff have been sweating over a Christmas menu targeted at Muzungus. Roast Chicken with homemade pork, apricot and walnut stuffing, gravy, roast potatoes, caramalised pumpkin and carrots and green beans with cranberry sauce. A vegetarian Nut Roast made from pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, cashew and of course, the ubiquitous G-nut (groundnuts, or peanuts to you and I). Or oven-baked lemon and herb tilapia fillets if you’re feeling fishy. And of course, mince pies for pudding with home-made mincemeat and double cream.

(Image is of Jennifer, one of our kitchen assistants, being camera shy)

I have a feeling we’ll be eating these dishes for days though. The equivalent of leftover Turkey sandwiches. There are people staying – the camp is technically half-full and two nights ago we were full – but it feels like a ghost town – there is no-one around. A lot of people staying are visiting friends or family in Kampala and are off with them for the day. And everyone else, bar a few stragglers, is out of town on safari. Our colleagues up in Murchison are frantic.

So R and I had a roast dinner last night, Nut roast for lunch today, some of the goat as an afternoon snack, and I’ll try the fish tonight. At least that won’t go bad – it was always to be cooked to order anyway.

Either way, we’ll end up as stuffed as we always do. No change there then.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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