Thursday, 9 May 2013

There is a day that is yours for embracing / Everything's nothing, and nothing is ours

The cheerful woman pulls her cardigan tight against the chilly morning air, and whispers with a conspiratorial tone:

"I used to make a bit of extra money from doing research".

"Doing research?" I frown at the translator. "Are you sure?".

"Yes. Foreigners come here from Kigali. They always come to ask us about land, so we go and answer their questions."

I see. Research.

"So what do they ask you?"

The woman pouts and turns her head to one side. "They want to know private things. How many children we have, and if we are poor. Of course we are poor! They ask if we understand that we can inherit land from our fathers."

"Can you inherit land from your father?"

"Yes." she nods "The law says so."

Pascha at the Aberdeen House Hotel

Kigali has a Turkish restaurant.

"The problem is, when I see the word sumac on the menu, I start thinking 'Mmm... sumac'. When the food comes without the promised sumac the disappointment is doubled."
There is a little bit of sumac on the plate. At least I think it is sumac. It is the merest dusting over a pile of raw onions. The raw onions still taste like raw onions.

Çöp kebabs are presented on their spokey little skewers, but the lamb lacks the smokiness of the ocakbaşı - as if they've been cooked over a gas grill. There is little crunch to accompany them - no parsley or salad veg, just half a grilled tomato, a tiny chunk of grilled pepper, and a pile of rice and lukewarm chips. The onion "sumac" is left untouched. The lavash - what little there is - is soft and fresh. Adena kebab suffers a similar fate - no smokiness, too little of interest on the plate. Just bland cooked meat and carbs. At 8,000 RwF a plate this may very well be the biggest rip-off since Heaven water.

You can't fault the service, which is quick and gently obsequious, and it's nicely laid out for daytime eating, with beanbags for children and a bit of greenery.

The parsimony over the sumac seems to sum up what is wrong with Pascha. The strengths of Turkish cuisine lie in its simplicity and generosity. It should be rugged, driven by fresh ingredients and primal cooking techniques. Pascha takes all the guts and soul out of good Turkish cooking and presents you with a greedy bill.

Still, Kigali has a Turkish restaurant.

Aberdeen House Hotel
"Why do you think they come here to talk to you?"

"The woman who brings them from Kigali has an Auntie living in this village. She likes to help people here".

"Do they pay you for answering questions?"

"Sometimes. The American people pay the best. Maybe 1,000 or 1,500 francs just for sitting there talking. Sometimes you just get biscuits and fanta and no money."

We pause. The translator is anxious to go. I wonder if the woman hopes I'm going to pay for our chat.

"Are your parents surviving?"

She looks down, smiles. "No. My father passed when I was young. My mother passed last year"

"I'm sorry... Madame, did you inherit their land?"


I give her a small tray of peanuts from my backpack and we leave for Musanze.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi! I think you are describing Rwandan food when you say the defining characteristics would be 'simplicity and bounty'. You must be a careful observer. Have you heard of the Ottoman Empire?

Much love,