"I worked at the Hard Rock Cafe," he told us, not specifying where. "I know all about how to run a restaurant." For the 15 minutes we stayed in his shop, the majority was spent insisting we needed a stand-up glass fridge (space and power inefficient, I kept repeating) and telling us how to run things.
"The most important thing is your menu," he said, after we told him we wanted to serve something different than the fast food and imported drinks on offer. "For instance, you must serve hamburgers."
This had happened before, when Nate and I were in Ghana on holiday. The last day, we took a taxi to visit a restaurant wholesaler in Accra. There, we met with the company manager, as the man we had an actual appointment with was also on holiday. "I supply many restaurants in Monrovia," he told us, making us feel better about maybe bringing over half a container by sea. "What kind of restaurant do you want?"
I told him, although he preferred to listen to Nate repeat what I'd said two minutes later. "We'd like to use local ingredients to make slow-cooked, clean food," I said. "So you'd like a schwarma display." I looked at Nate, who volunteered, "We'd like to see your ovens and fridges." The manager's response? "Shall I show you our new cotton candy machine?" Such patience, my man has. "
Back in Monrovia, Baseem, on the other hand, told us what our options were in terms of menu. "There are," he announced solemnly, "only five ways to cook shrimp."
At this point, my patience returned. "Only five ways to cook shrimp?" I asked innocently, counting in my had. "Yes." And here is his list:
- Grilled shrimp
- Shrimp cocktail
- Fried rice with shrimp
- Sweet and sour shrimp
- Fried shrimp
"Will you have lobster?" I told him yes, we would have lobster. "Then, there are three ways to cook lobster." Here they are:
- Fried lobster
- Grilled lobster
- Lobster thermidor
Sure enough, there are exactly five ways to cook shrimp at Monrovia's oldest hotel:
- Grilled shrimp
- Golden fried shrimp
- Garlic shrimp
- Shrimp with hot sauce ("for the daring")
- Shrimp curry
This post reminds me--I must go and seem Baseem after today's public holiday (J.J. Roberts' birthday). We need to get some of his fridges.