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Would You Like Fries With That? Trans Africa Eposide III from Cade

 

Cade, tour leader on our Trans Africa Expedition sends us his observations on Bennys mincer, shopping in Senegal’s markets and how West African countries mince your senses!

It was just another day back in Morocco where the simple purchase of a single meat-mincer for the truck changed one man forever.  Prior to that day Benny our driver, had claimed to strictly specialize in ‘driving and fixing things’ and nothing more.  He preferred his fingers to be grasped firmly on a spanner than a stirring spoon; liked to keep a five metre radius outside of the kitchen; and claimed he was unable to wash his own dishes as he was acting strictly under doctor’s orders to keep his hands clear of soapy water.  Since that fateful Moroccan day it seemed that Benny began whistling to a different tune.

Selling wares at a West African market, visited on the Trans Africa ExpeditionFirstly he began taking an active role in cook groups by encouraging everybody to use the new mincer as much as possible and was willing to provide each person with a free and detailed demonstration.  We began with mince patties, then worked our way up to turkey burgers and before we knew it we were not only having notions of mincing our meat, but the vegetables and anything else edible that can possibly be minced with it.

For a time Benny couldn’t be more proud of both his new toy and our imaginations that had combined to expand our culinary horizons.  But again another turning point came on a day in Senegal when I thought I’d put a smile on Benny’s face once again by putting the mincer to good use.  So I headed into Dakar with good intentions and a lasagne on my mind.  It was that day that a single revelation burst Benny’s bubble into such a state that all the mincing in the world wouldn’t be able to put a smile back on his sad little face.

“Trois kilos?” asked the butcher.

“Sea-view-play” I politely replied.

Despite what I had said having been my honest and best attempt at a French ‘please’, it didn’t deter from the fact that the outcome was possibly the biggest abomination in the history of the French language.  In fact I would go so far as to say that although I hadn’t cursed, it was so insulting that the phrase ‘excuse my French’ had never been deemed so appropriate.

The butcher smiled, turned and hauled the cow carcass off the hook behind him.  He dropped it down on the table like it was a bag of wet laundry, landing it with a thud.  The coating of flies that had seasoned it lifted and hovered momentarily like a dark rain cloud, before gently re-settling back down onto the carcass.  The butcher took his machete, raised it behind his head and began hacking furiously.  Small fountains of bone, meat and gristle spurted each time the machete connected with the carcass.  As he carved with one hand, he used the other to toss chunks of meat onto the scales as nonchalantly as if he were dealing a deck of cards.

Shopping at a West African market on the Oasis Overland Trans Africa ExpeditionThe strong smell of sweat and stale fish wafted past the tip of my nose and tickled my nostrils as I turned to observe my surroundings from behind my sweat-fogged sunglasses; brightly coloured walls of apples, oranges, fluorescent plastic shoes and vibrantly coloured materials.  Sweat-soaked people littered the paths lined with stalls selling the likes of toothbrushes, children’s toys and the odd machine-gun.  Goats and chickens meandered through the stalls and skipped around and between people’s feet, while the donkeys and cows simply barged people out of their way.  The high-volume voices of vendors shouting prices above the chaos sealed the sensory explosion that is provided by, and encapsulates the true essence of a West African market-place.

“Trois kilos!” said the butcher wrapping up my meat in a newspaper and handing it over the table.

“Mercy buckets” I said in yet another French abomination, waving him goodbye.  I tucked the meat under my arm and made my way out of the market and onto my next port of call, the bakery.

On entering the bakery I was immediately struck by a wall of cool, clean air.  My feet scuffed the pristine tiled floor with the fresh grime they had picked up from the market place.  My ears were alerted to the grinding sound of an imported espresso coffee machine and massaged by the gentle sound of elevator music.  Behind the hygienic glass cabinets were a variety of fresh pastries, breads and croissants; and behind the cabinets stood the baker in clean, white attire complete with the goofy-looking baker’s hat.  It was then that it struck me the complete contrast in experiences between buying a piece of meat and a loaf of bread.  It was also then that the revelation hit me like an uppercut pulled all the way up from South Africa: Benny was not the only one with a mincer.  Not only that, but also wasn’t the only one with an imagination to use it!

The United West African Nations Union have for some time not only had a cheeky little mincer of their own, but one hell of an imagination to match.  Firstly, West African nations take your standards, hygiene, comfort, common-sense and sanity.  They then feed all the ingredients through their mincer to produce patties of processed contradiction, confusion and conundrum and cook what they call ‘Triple C Burgers.’  These Triple C’s are sold on mass and are typically served with a side of cold fries and a hot beer.

From the brown Saharan landscape of Mauritania, onto the green Senegalese coast and down to the jungle hills of Guinea, it is the people that bring their explosion of colour and culture and it is the people that breed this extraordinarily beautiful insanity.  The butcher vs baker contradiction is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg and if you care to take the time to listen I will care to make some sort of an attempt to explain the lengths to which West African nations can go with their mincing abilities.  Let’s take for example, the simple process of buying a bag of ice:

Firstly, to take a taxi into town you must exit the camping area and walk out to the road.  The roads themselves vary in condition from dirt tracks to potholed tar-seal that melt like butter under the heat of the African sun.  They are shared between an array of donkey carts, bombed out old cars that resemble backyard tool sheds on wheels and brand new Mercedes.  The tools-sheds are over-crowded with so many goats, chickens and people that you would be mistaken to think they are competing in some sort of Chinese game-show.  They sputter and roar like epileptic chainsaws hurtling down the road while behind them, the sleek and silent Mercedes glide with the elegance of a figure-skater.  Chickens, goats and street vendors weave through the traffic at intersections; the vendor’s arms full of fly-swatters, belts and cheap plastic toys.

To catch a taxi, simply hail an over-crowded tool-shed and negotiate a price with the driver.  Once an agreement is reached you are free to board the vehicle via a number of options.  You can sit in the back seat on the lap of an old lady, ride in the boot with the chickens or even sit on the roof with the luggage and goats, but beware when choosing to sit in the front seat.  Despite a total disregard for all other safety issues, if you sit in the front seat the driver will insist on you wearing your seat-belt.

West African market, Trans Africa ExpeditionIf (and I do mean ‘if’) your taxi delivers you safely to town, it is best to avoid buying ice from the more obvious stores that sell a range of drinks because they will no doubt tell you they have no ice to spare.  Instead, it is best to try a shop with one man who advertises to simultaneously please all your footwear, barber and photocopying needs.  While the attendant has taken off down the street to fetch your bag of ice from his family’s freezer in his home four blocks away, you may see his random display of footwear on sale and decide you need a new pair of flip-flops.  But if you’ve learned anything thus far, it’s that you never buy yourself a pair of flip-flops from what is clearly an ice-shop!

So you make your ice purchase, exit the shop and walk back out onto the street.  It is here where you search for a pair of flip-flops both the right style and the right size.  Once the right pair has been found, simply stop and interrupt the person wearing them, inform him or her of your interest in purchasing their footwear and make them an offer they will most certainly refuse.  If like mine, your French is lacking and your numeric vocabulary does not extend beyond ten fingers, use one of those fingers to write all amounts in the dirt provided by the footpath.  After a short period of negotiating, a price will be agreed upon. O nce an agreement is reached, an exchange is made and you can finally return to the campsite with your bag of ice, new pair of flip flops and one heck of a headache.

So after what has resulted in a whirl-wind romance, Benny’s relationship with the mincer has slowly faded under the shadow of a far greater opponent, whose daily reminders serve to continuously rub salt into Benny’s wounds.  Benny has resumed his old-faithful position behind the wheel of our truck and well outside the now ten metre radius he keeps from the kitchen.  I guess that now Benny might be able to find some solace in the words of wisdom given from none other than himself to those who had also stumbled in the past.  And he might now at the end of it all, understand the extent of truth that his words held when he would tell them “Well, if you wanna run with the big dogs, you gotta be prepared to piss in the tall grass!”

Read Cade’s Episode II of the Trans Africa Expedition

Posted in Africa, All Blogs.


5 Responses

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  1. Sam says

    Cade I just love your blogs you have me laughing out loud every time!!Just amazing. Safari Njema and you never know we might catch you in Nairobi!

  2. Patrick says

    Nice work Cade. Loving your writing on your West Africa trip. Enjoy the trip I cant wait to do it next year!

  3. Robyn says

    Brilliant – that is so well written and bloody funny. Did’nt know you had it in ya Cade.
    Robyn – Cairo-Cape 06-07

  4. sky anytime plus problems says

    I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you make this website yourself or did you hire somone too do it
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  5. admin says

    Hi! Our website is by Strawberry Soup: http://www.strawberrysoup.co.uk/



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