Sunday 11 March 2007

My fingers - scalded to the bone

Back at WaZoBia

I find myself returning to the Nigerian restaurant (WaZoBia) in Antwerp even though it has never had the best of reviews from me. This is because, for now, it is the only restaurant I know serving that cuisine as a business.

The ones I hear of in the Netherlands are housed in seemingly ghettoised locations in people's homes and are completely out of the reach of food safety just in case something untoward happens.

I do like goat meat pepper soup, however, I have never been able to source meat properly for that recipe, I have been too supermarket trained to packed meat treated with carbon monoxide to keep its redness.

The cubes of beef and heart that would have been a good improvisation have now been dual-labelled human and pet food, I really cannot handle dual-purpose foods that cross the species barrier like that.

All meat is dog to me now

Then there is the unintended consequence of the dog meat story that the BBC ran about Nigeria during the week. I usually get lots of fried meat from the African store at the Amsterdam Central Station, but that and the meat that was in the pepper soup yesterday all tasted different.

I have never had dog or horse meat before, somehow and strangely, none of the meat seems to taste like beef, goat or lamb anymore, they all taste different, I suddenly feel I am going to bark - this is not good, I think I am going off meat for fish - this can take a long time to recover from. Now, some might say I am fussy, you bet, when it comes to food, you have not seen a fuss-pot yet.

I gave up on my fish and chips the other day when I saw an eyelash embedded in the batter of the fish; these company canteens sometimes go out of their way to poison us.

Some cow in the hide

Anyway, I picked out the cowhide (ponmon) and left everything else as the tripe and beef chunks, I would not know what horsehide or dog-hide is like, do not get me wrong, I am not accusing the restaurant of any untoward activity, it is my sensibilities that are a bit fragile.

Then, the main course arrived, pounded yam, melon stew and assorted pieces of meat, very good when the appetite is there. This restaurant always seems to mar the whole thing by heating the stew with the meat in the microwave oven at full power.

The result is like rock-climbing the mount Vesuvius, a rock comes loose as you clamber and you are faced with molten lava about to scald your whole being, you are almost about to face a death too hot to contemplate.

Scalding my fingers

In the many times I have been to that restaurant, I have only been able to touch the meat in the stew twice; most West African foods need to be served piping hot but definitely not scalding hot.

When food is warmed in the microwave oven, the food needs to stand for a few minutes for the heat generated in the core of the food to properly dissipate through - better still, cook on medium-low power where the heating activity is better controlled.

I had a few bites of the meal such that the waiter was quite discouraged that so much as about to be thrown away, I could not help it, I had thoughts of dog meat on my mind and feelings of scalded fingers to contemplate, I was going no further.

All I had to endure

The drama however got interesting when another African "brother" walked in looking as if he had been drugged beyond a stupor, sat at my table in front of me aggressively spouting out incoherent babble about being a Gambian with a Nigerian girlfriend and the consequences of living in Belgium.

Half the time he was talking in some Reggae-ish genre, not helpful in a restaurant you are trying to feel comfortable in, so, the owner of the restaurant came round to eject him from the restaurant on the premise that he was not buying drinks not so much for the fact that he was a nuisance annoying other customers.

He even remonstrated at the waiter for not ensuring the man was buying something, and I did not get any notice for having to sit and listen to a drugged up person on a licensed premises - so much for service and ambience - we need some decent Nigerian restaurants on continental Europe, I hope there is more custom than myself to frequent the new places.

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