An African Cooks Perspective
An African Cooks Perspective
I have written before that there are three times when a PH or guide is “scared”.
First, is when he goes to the airport to meet a client he has never met before, the second is when a client opens up his gun case and attempts to shoot a target, and the third time is when he is charged by a wounded animal.
Well, in conversations I have had during past trips in Africa, the camp cook looks with great in trepidation upon the vehicle pulling up into the yard with the folks he (or she) has to cook for during the next week or so.
Granted she has seen the client’s preference list of foods and drink, but quite often that is vague at best, but when the truck drives in, she gets a knot in her stomach.
I say “she”, as most of the time the camp cook is a woman, but then again I have had men do just a fine a job.
Being the cook is a thankless job. They are the first one up in the morning to be sure that the coffee is on and breakfast is set out for the first clients who show up early.
Trick is, they say they will be up at 6 AM for coffee, and show up at 6:30 while the cook sits there waiting patiently, wishing she had that half hour to sleep.
She can’t make any toast until she sees the client, as it will be cold if put out ahead of time.
One guy likes peanut butter, (creamy only), while the next wants crunchy only, while the next one wants strawberry jam, and not peach, but nobody told her that.
If she is serving eggs, every person wants them a different way, a pan of scrambled like we got in the army will just not do.
That half an hour sleep she was craving was because she is also the last one in the sack at night. The cook has to clean up after everyone sits around the fire and swaps lies until 10 or 11 PM, and then walks away leaving a mess of dirty glasses and desert plates.
The reason they sat around so late is that somebody shot an animal right a dark, and it took longer to find it than expected, take the pictures, and then get it loaded to come back home. By this time it was 9 PM and the roast she had in the oven for a 7 PM dinner is now very well done, of which someone is sure to remind her.
So each night is a crapshoot as to what time the troops will return to camp. Actually she does not even dare start very much of the dinner until they are all in. Then they can sit around the fire and tip a few beers, while she works her butt off.
At least when they are in camp, she can make them wait an extra half an hour and nobody complains too much.
Oh, then there is always the client’s wife, (or girl friend), that thinks the cook is her personal servant and waitress, (or slave).
Like when she comes in for the night, and says “Honey, send a Vodka & Tonic over to my tent, (please)”, then takes over an hour to get made up for dinner.
A dinner she barely eats, because she does not know what everything is, and complains about it openly or picks at everything, and eats nothing.
Oh, did I mention the alcohol consumption in the camp?
Seems a lot of camps include Beer, Wine and Drinks in the daily rate. This is just fine if a person drinks in moderation, but since it is included (free), human nature soon takes over. Some camp managers have pointed this out to the client that it is getting out of hand, and promptly been reminded of what the brochure said, “Drinks Included”.
How or why a person would want to get a snoot full every night, and then have to get up with a pounding hangover the next morning, and then go and hunt is beyond me.
It also seems that when the consumption gets a little high, some men can’t be nice around the cook, (or women), and constantly make off color remarks in her presence.
What is even worse is when one touches her or conducts himself in an inappropriate manner.
One cook told me, that the first time it happens, the clients gets a pan along side of his head with an “oops”, pardon me.
The second time it happens, she just drops the hot pan in his lap, and tells him to explain the burns to his wife when he gets home.
Granted her rebuttal will kill the chance of a tip from the client, but so be it. She is there as an employee, doing her job just like the PH does, and she are not there for the client’s entertainment.
So be nice, and treat the cook with just as much respect as you treat your PH. The cook is one of most under paid and over worked persons in camp.
There is just no reason that the clients can’t take a minute after dinner to carry a couple pots and pans or dirty dishes to the kitchen. The Cook does not need to be a full time bus boy too. Then when is time to turn in for the night, take time to carry your drink glasses or beer bottles in as well.
Beside, if you are nice, the cook just might go out of her way to make you special deserts once in a while.
Be a gentleman at all times, and you wives and or girl friends, take time to help once in while too, it goes along way towards the harmony of the camp.
There, enough said is enough.