Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: DELICIOUS (02/04/16)
TITLE: Snails and Frog's Legs Anyone?
By Elaine Hemingway
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“What on earth are they doing?” I asked in amazement.
Crowds of people were crouching under the street lights in the Police Training Camp of Lilayi, just outside Lusaka in Northern Rhodesia. They appeared to be gathering something from what looked like a writhing mass of soft silver.
“Oh, they are picking up flying ants,” was the reply from the mackintosh coated escort, taking us to the Mess Hall for our first meal time at our new abode.
It had rained that afternoon, even more than the night I applied to join the NRP, back in England.
“It’s the start of the rainy season,” I had been told as we arrived that afternoon. “October is also known as suicide month; it’s the hottest month and leads to depression, stress problems... Don’t worry, it takes time.”
Our flight had needed stops at Entebbe and Ndola before landing in Lusaka. The last lap had been so turbulent just about everyone had had to use the bags provided, causing the most awful stench. I had managed without but had to confess to a little squeamishness.
Travel was not so comfortable back then. After disembarking there was the sight of excited African children clamouring to see the ‘plane from behind wire netting fencing, then the customs and immigration to get through before we were loaded onto a troop carrier, not the best introduction to a tropical city?
“Alright, away you go, and get to the mess hall before 6o’clock or your next meal will be breakfast,” were the parting words after our luggage had been deposited for us to drag to our allotted rooms – military style.
The dramas hadn’t stopped there. I opened the door of the built in cupboard cum wardrobe only to jump backwards with a scream that echoed in the corridor, where the “Thing” had scuttled, and disappeared.
“What is that?” I screeched, to be told it was merely a cockroach. One of the girls had been to Africa before, and she informed me, amidst giggles, “The Durban cockroaches are really big. They come inland with the Container Lorries travelling from the coast.”
When could I get a flight back to civilisation? I wondered.
The torrential rain had left the roads slick, and shiny for the sun sets early in Central Africa, and on the way to the Dining Hall, there we saw the many Africans accumulating under the street lights where the silver flickering could be seen on the ground. The silver effect, I discovered, was the consequence of the discarded wings
“What on earth do they want to collect ants for?” I asked. Remember, not only had I not seen a cockroach before, neither had I even heard of ants that flew!
“Apparently they are delicious,” I was told.
“I hear they like Mopani worms as well, supposedly also very tasty, but I haven’t tried them myself.”
My informant was a guy who had come from the then Tanganyika, so much better informed than we poor Brits.
Later I noticed him in the crowd of the older recruits who were laughing hysterically as they watched the uninitiated, of whom I was a member, futilely attempting to eat corn on the cob with a knife and fork! We soon learnt the correct way, salt, butter, dripping sticky fingers, and yes, truly delicious. I had never seen such things before, not in our part of post war England.
By the end of our three months of initiation I had met with many culinary delights, and my palate had been introduced to some of the more exotic fruits and vegetables, many of which are now firm favourites. But then our passing out parade had to be organised, and a theme chosen that would outdo any previous examples. Community living brings out hidden talents, I guess, and we decided on a French theme. The decor was quite easy as we three women amongst the thirty plus men found that we were very capable hanging basket manufacturers, notwithstanding a few wire entanglements. The men were organising the table delicacies so the house keeper was given the shopping lists, which had to include snails and frog’s legs! It’s amazing what one can eat when you are young and adventurous!
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