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Can we stick with the mammals please?

Jun 23 • 1390 views • No Comments on Can we stick with the mammals please? Africa, African food, East Africa, Kampala, Lake Victoria, Society and culture, Travel, Uganda

I feel sick, I feel excited, I feel sick. What the hell s happening to me?

I’m getting excited at the thought of T coming over so set about cooking – for a change. Living on my own has made me lazy and I realise how I miss cooking for someone, how the thought of having him around is good for me.

Time to cook dinner.

I picked up our heavy wooden chopping board and placed it on the counter. I didn’t like the look of that side so flipped it over: SCREAM! What? How can that be?

Stuck to the wood, squashed paper thin is the biggest – and certainly the flattest – cockroach I’ve ever seen. I scream.

Now what?

Luckily Simpson is home so he does the honours and scrapes the offending insect off the board and scrubs it clean for me. I quickly put the scene behind me – see how I’ve grown up since I arrived n Uganda? – and dinner’s soon bubbling away.

A little later, I hear the telltale sign of the tank (a.k.a. T’s diesel engine) in the compound. In walks T with an enormous and beautiful fish, a Nile Perch “introduced into Lake Victoria by your grandfathers” he says. I wasn’t sure if T would definitely turn up so I’m delighted to see him and quite touched that he’s decided to surprise me with this beautiful fish.

It’s over a foot long, glistening silver and beautiful. We stand there admiring it – and then I freeze. Cockroaches. Cockroaches?! They’re coming from everywhere, they’re running all over the counter, jumping in the drawer, scurrying under the cooker. I feel sick.

“You’ve brought them in with the fish!” I accuse, in the nicest way I can find.

“No way. They can’t have been in the fish, you must have them in your kitchen.”

“They must’ve been in the cavera (plastic bag)” I say and he doesn’t argue with me.

T quickly kills most of them, mashing them into the wall with a spatula, and I try and forget about them, kicking their bodies out of sight for Eva to pick up in the morning. (It’s ok, we have an understanding).

We can’t agree on how to cook the fish. I try and explain how I’m used to having an oven and that I don’t know how to cook a big fish like this on the gas ring. I feel pathetic: I can’t cook fish on the gas and have never cut up or prepared a big fish like this. I think of the sanitised individual portions I buy back home. Timo’s been trying to persuade me to start eating meat again, and I’m wary of bringing the subject up.

I feel sorry for him. He’s hardly talking, he’s still ill (suspected Malaria is now suspected Typhoid) and I expect the last thing he wants to do is hack up a big fish. But I cannot do it. I’m still reeling from the insects and I’m upset that communicating with T seems to be getting harder for some reason, I would really have to be in the right frame of mind to tackle this. A blunt knife doesn’t help, he’s not getting it done quickly enough for me!

I try to button my lip: who wants to hear the moaning mzungu? The sight of blood and scales blocking the sink makes me go pale but I’m relieved and grateful that he’s washing the board and knife.

Then when I think the worst of the carnage is out of the way, and he’s about to start frying, he decides he had to cut the head in two. For god’s sake. It’s quite normal for Ugandans to eat the head but he does this transverse section, slicing directly though the brains. I have never seen so many shades of red. I couldn’t suppress one YUCK! I think I earned it.

So all in all quite an evening: that big cockroach that Simpson insists isn’t a cockroach (it’s just got enormous wings and can’t run like one but it IS one). Then the little ones.

Then the mosquitoes. The house if full of them. Every room. T spent the rest of the night with the mosquito bat investigating every nook and cranny of the house. Twice. As he finishes sweeping one area he moves back to where he started : he’s a man on a mission, especially now he thinks he’s had Malaria.

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