Friday, October 17, 2008

As for Papa’s Big Mistake, I really think it is quite serious, and it is one in a long catalogue of offences.
Yesterday was a big day at Hotel Djenne Djenno, because the L’OMATHO (Office Malien pour le Tourisme et l’Hotellerie) had invited 30 guests to have lunch here. These guests were representatives of various international tour operators, here in Mali for a conference in Bamako.
The menu was simple and well-tried and aimed to please- it normally does. The starter was a chilled cucumber soup with yoghurt. For main course there was Boeuf Keita, Keita’s delicious beef stew with mashed potatoes and blanched sweet potato leaves from the garden, or African Spinach, as we call it. The dessert was a fruit salad of watermelon and date in ginger and lemon juice.
I tried the cucumber soup at 11 am and decided it needed some more olive oil and some more salt.
The dessert was tried the evening previously, and this was a mistake. I said 'yes that is great, just do exactly like that tomorrow'. During the lunch I was too busy to even try any of the food myself. Nothing alarming seemed to be going on and people left saying nice things about the hotel.
In the evening Keita and I had the left overs, including the watermelon salad. I tried a spoonful and spat it straight out: there was an overwhelming taste of washing up liquid!

I stomped in to the kitchen to find that Papa had already left, but Fatou was there. She told me that the watermelon had been marinating in a plastic bowl normally used for washing dishes. She had asked Papa to change the bowl because she feared taste contamination, but he had taken no notice and ignored her.

I have not yet spoken to Papa. In my mind this is a very serious fault and I am now on the verge of demoting him to Sou-chef and letting Fatou take over. Fatou is a thousand times more intelligent and has much more cooking talent, as well as infinitely more finesse and even an aesthetic eye for presentation.
Papa will of course not be able to cope with the humiliation, so he will probably leave on his own accord. Fatou will then be able to chose a new sou-chef, who will almost definitely be another woman, since it is very difficult for a Malian woman to give order to a Malian man. I quite like the idea of the Djenne Djenno restaurant being run by women. It would be a first in Mali.


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