Monday, September 28, 2009

Cooking on surfari

This week I get unfettered access to the kitchen of the best (okay, the only, but it's still the best) lodge in Liberia, which incidentally is right next door to our campsite. The entire crew of National Geographic and Fuel TV show On Surfari are staying there, and a daily dose of Liberian food, which the cooking crew admits has "plenty pepper and plenty oil" is not idea of a family of professional surfers with two young kids. So, I stepped up and created project #8 of Robertsport Community Works -- the Robertsport Cooking School.

It works like this: I train Tina, who runs the kitchen, with her two assistants, to make a variety of western-style dishes by explaining them as we cook for the On Surfari crew. If things work well this week, this could be a more regular deal: friends and family know I've been dying to run another restaurant kitchen since The Dhow Restaurant was such a success in Zanzibar years ago. This might be just the opportunity -- from a distance.

I'm not going to start running the lodge kitchen -- at least after this week -- but I will train the women working there how to make things that I like to eat. Meals, for example, full of locally-grown produce and fruits picked from nearby trees. Nothing fancy, just good, nourishing food.

Here's how my day went. I woke up early, as it was getting light, and made sure fresh fruit was set out for breakfast -- most of it had frozen in the deep-freeze, but thawed admirably, which was a relief.

Before lunch, I opened the storeroom, took out the Italian salami I'd brought from Monrovia, waited for the restaurant manager to bring Fula bread (which is a lot like mini-baguettes), and boiled some eggs with Tina, who I then taught how to make sandwiches. We needed her assistants, who were busy bathing in the nearby lagoon and did not appreciate being summoned to work by Augustine shouting at great distance...

In the afternoon, we used the leftover bananas from lunch to make smoothies, for which I have created great demand and expectation. I enjoy that.

Dinner took longer to make than anticipated, as it took awhile to chop vegetables for the ratatouille (which also had to thaw, see above) and as I was making food for 10, everything took longer to come to a boil. I almost forget to mention that we ran completely out of water, or at least seemed to, and Augustine suggested getting water from the bathroom tap until I reminded him (actually, Nate reminded me, ahem) that it has Dettol disinfectant in it, which is nice for a shower but a poor choice for boiling pasta. And we managed to scrounge water in half-liter plastic bags from the bottom of the deep freeze, so problem solved. I did manage to instruct my trainees on how to make a roux flavored with three cheeses, which they enjoyed after the guests had eaten and we managed to transform the unfrozen banana smoothies (the deep freeze continues to mystify me) into a much-enjoyed dessert.

In between long stretches of work and surfing, it's fun to be in the kitchen. More about spending a full week in Robertsport to come.

1 comment:

  1. That is awesome! I feel like you have had a lot of experience cooking up delicious food from sparse ingredients both in Tanzania and Rockaway, no? I'm sure everything was delicious.

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