Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Chicken or Beef?

Sunday mornings are the quietest time at Paraa, the small ranger/tourist village at Murchison Falls National Park where I share H.M.’s home. Mornings are beautiful, as he has set up the bed (covered in a mosquito net) on the screened verandah, which faces east.

Hippos grunt from the Nile, which is located right down the bushy hill. Birds chirp cheerfully and relentlessly. The eleven warthogs that roam the grounds battle for pack supremacy, using strange grunts and wheezes as war cries. The sunrises are frequently dramatic, and thanks to the 7 a.m. Nile ferry that acts as a daily alarm clock, we never miss them.

Sundays are unique because this is the day that the Uganda Wildlife Authority staff slacks off a little. The Paraa master generator, which uses diesel and runs daily from 8 a.m. to midnight, fires up late on Sundays, sometimes by as much as 20 minutes. This is probably frustrating for the nearby Red Chilli Rest Camp, which has to get its daily business going as tourism does not stop on Sundays. It can be frustrating for me, as my laptop battery power runs out rapidly when I run all my peripherals off my USB outlets. But mostly, this is a pleasant time for listening to the sounds of the forest without the drone of engines as accompaniment.

Once the generator fires up, I usually try to drown it out with my iPod or with shortwave BBC news. I work on the verandah until noon, when the humidity and heat drives me inside to the shaded dining room, which in turn becomes intolerable by 4, when I move back to the verandah where afternoon breezes bring down the temperature. H.M. bought me a small desk fan when I complained, and I train it directly on my face from noon to 4.

H.M. works daily from 7:30 to 5:30, but no one works from noon to 2 as this is the hottest part of the day. He comes home and lays in the hammock while I cower in the shade of the house, hunched as usual over the laptop and whatever comic book emergency I am dealing with at the moment. Sometimes there is a reason to drive to the north side of the Nile; when there is time I go along and we look at animals along the way. This is the main tourist drive, where tourists go on game drives to look for antelope, lions, leopards, hippos, giraffes, and even the pedestrian (to us) warthog.

Nights are cooler. Usually we cook dinner although on rare occasions, we go to Red Chilli, Nile Safari Camp, or the local village for a bite to eat. Only Nile Safari dishes out the goods in a serious way though; the others are just for variety and are never as good as what can be made at home.

Food is usually one thing cooked in a variety of ways: just beef. Beef, beef, and more beef. It’s good and cheap and plentiful in Uganda. I foolishly showed up in Masindi the first time and said to H.M.: “Where can I buy some chicken breasts?”

He pointed to a live caged chicken by the side of the road.

“There is your chicken.”

At this point, I decided to stick with his steaks he’d bought in Kampala. I don’t know how to kill or butcher a chicken. And vegetarian options are limited to using whatever is on sale in Masindi that week. Right now, avocados are big and mango season has passed us.

So if anyone has any suggestions on something to cook with a piece of amazing beef, please send them my way. I just downloaded a recipe for “chicken fried steak.” This week we’ve already had goulash, some marinated steaks, and something in a yummy sauce that I found on the Internet. Thanks.


Ed Ward said...

When you say "beef," do you mean steaks, hunks o'beef, ground beef, or what? I may be able to help here.

Linda said...

I'm a fan of beef stew, as long as you have onions. Or try it Ethiopian style: Saute onions, add cut tomatoes, water and spice, some green veggies if desired. Once the tomatoes become soft, add slices or small chunks of beef and cook until tender. If you can find some enjera, that's perfect, but I liked it with rice.

Ethiopians use a special spice but you can use a bit of hot pepper with a touch of cloves.