Thursday 1 March 2007

Dinner with Chxta

The meeting

Lest I forget about London where a long weekend is to continental Europeans the equivalent to daylight robbery in a favela ; one is however thankful for good fortune and sufficiency.

As Sunday drew to a close, I was finally able to make a rendezvous with Chxta in front of the British Library where we had to decide which of the Nigerian eateries would be graced with our company.

I was thinking of trying out Angie's Restaurant - interesting reviews, however, it being almost 21:00, they close at 22:00 on a Sunday night which is a bit early, one would say. I found myself asking a question that one might ask in Amsterdam - Is 10 o' clock the time the kitchen closes or when you close your doors? This happens to be an interesting distinction, because in Amsterdam, a restaurant might remain open for long after the kitchen has closed and the chef by then is far and away.

So, we ended up at 805 once again - I never know if it is Old or New Kent Road, well, that is why the Black Cab drivers have to pass The Knowledge - where a polyglot South African waitress who speaks the 11 official languages took a few lessons in pronouncing the Nigerian names of meals we ordered.

The capsicums are hotter today

As one is wont to do, we had the Goat Pepper Soup for the entree which this time was almost off my scale of tolerable Scoville Heat Units - the measure of the hotness of capsicums (chilli peppers) - by the second spoonful my scalp was a wet sheet and at the fourth spoon, I was ready to be Sniffy, the 8th dwarf in line with Snow White - Yes, it was ho-ho-ho-hot.

Chxta basically lapped it up as if he would use the stuff for eye salve, I would have succumbed to it being used in a can of pepper spray.

Anyway, for a crowded restaurant the crowd was not in anyway raucous and there were enough waitresses to handle the customer traffic, in fact, it looked like the "rainbow staff" with at least one from the very Far East.

Sometimes, I am concerned for how Nigerian food gets unnecessarily Westernised that it takes away from the essence, things like a salad dressed with mayonnaise on jollof rice are just beyond the pale considering I really do hate mayonnaise.

The dodo and omelette dish left us in no doubt about the plantains but quite unsure about the omelette, it was so plain it could have been blanched.

Much learnt indeed

As we ate, Chxta came across even more interesting than his blogs, I learnt a good few things about Nigerian history and the events going on in Nigeria today, an analytical mind with ideas that would help change Nigeria given the opportunity - and there are many young minds that I have met in the blogging world who are not driven by the quest for filthy lucre through outrageous entrepreneurial cons, but who through knowledge, determination and inspired vision are destined to lead Nigeria to a promise we have always so desired.

As the night ended, we only just caught trains back, by which time the cab driver in one sentence made us understand why Chinua Achebe is so readable and Wole Soyinka is almost inscrutable - the former is a writer, the latter is a poet who just happens to write - I suppose that is an allowance for being a playwright too..

If any of us ever had the opportunity to produce, direct or adapt a novel for cinema audiences, it would be none other than The Passport of Mallam Ilia by Cyprian Ekwensi - a book no longer in print, unfortunately - and how can I forget The Drummer Boy who happens to be Akin (taunts I endured from O so friendly colleagues at school - they were too blind to see what they were doing) - certain memories of secondary school can be such bliss.

Thanks to Chxta for a nice evening.

Cyprian Ekwensi - Africa Database

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