I am all too aware that I live a privileged MEDC life and therefore the following taster of the Malawi menu experience has been summarised with lashings of affection and a nod to a well know Torquay hotel, blended with the heart of a Mzuzu lodge.
Waiter:- (looking hopefully at the team) Do all of you want to eat tonight?
Me:- (eyeing the abandoned eating area) Are you open?
Waiter:- (big smile) of course. Would you like a menu?
Me:- (slightly smug, knowing that African menus are more
aspirational then a food list)
Yes please. Is everything available today?
Waiter:- (frowns) …of course.. (long pause) .. except the goat. (another long pause)
Me:- O.K. What is the fish?
Waiter:- Chombo.. (code for lake road kill) (another long pause)… but we don’t have any..
Waiter:- Sorry….all gone..
Me:- (still with a tad of patience) Exactly what do you have?
Waiter:- (looking pleased with himself).. Cuckoo.
Me:- Cuckoo? (musing the fact that this may not be legal)
Waiter:- (in a patient voice translates the obvious) Chicken.. You will have to have chicken.
Me:- OK… (resigned) I will have chicken.
Waiter:- How would you like it.. fried, crumbed, curried? (pencil poised for action)
Me:- Curried for me (at last)
Waiter:- Sorry.. no curry.. (somewhat hopefully) Fried?
Me:- OK (resigned) fried.. However you have it.
(muttering under my breath but a little too loudly)..
but preferably dead.
Waiter:- (looking perplexed) Of course sir.
This routine is repeated, although a little more briefly with the rest of the team who wanting to eat before they die all stated their preference for fried Cuckoo.
A couple of beers and one and half hours later in the still empty restaurant.
Me:- (playfully) Have you caught the cuckoo yet?
Waiter:- (looking worried) Why would I have to catch it?
Me:- (helpfully) So we could eat it?
Waiter:- (patiently) But that would make you sick sir. It needs cooking.
Me:- I was just wondering whether it would take much longer?
Waiter:- (Looking puzzled).. Soon..
Six plates of fried chicken are eventually brandished by a triumphant waiter;
Every plate is a different collection of random Cuckoo body parts.
Team member that will remain nameless:-
Why is my chicken different to everyone else?
Me:- (note to self:- do not strangle team members in public)
Waiter:- Would you like me to cook some more?
Me:- (resisting the urge to get violent) No thank you.. We will work it out.
Waiter:- Good… (then somewhat hopefully) Would you like to book for tomorrow?
Me:- (unable to stop myself) Why would we do that?
Waiter:- (stating the obvious) You might be hungry.
(massive smile as it is nearly tip time) Now.. would you like to see the desert menu?
Me:- (silently, slowly and repeatedly bangs head on table)