In John Tinney McCutcheon’s book, In Africa: Hunting Adventures in Big Game Country (1910), he wrote the following words about an apparent jewel of a cook, whose hands moved in the kitchen with the touch of angels. (And this after a very Eurocentric introduction to said personage, Abdullah his safari cook, in which McCutcheon focused on the words “dark” and “darkness” in regard to Africa and her people.)
His name was Abdullah, his nature was mild and gentle, and his skill in his own particular sphere of action was worthy of honorable mention by all refined eaters. He was about fifty or sixty years of age, five feet tall, with a smile varying from four to six inches from tip to tip. It was a smile that came often, and when really unfurled to its greatest width it gave the pleasing effect of a dark face ambushed behind a row of white tombstones.
When Abdullah joined our safari it was freely predicted that he would do well for the first month or so, after which he would fade away to rank mediocrity; but, strangely enough, he became better and better as time went on, and during our last two weeks was springing culinary coups that excited intense interest on our part. He had a way of assembling a few odds and ends together that finally merged into a rice pudding par excellence, while his hot cakes were so good that we spoke of them in rapt, reverential whispers. There wasn’t a twinge of indigestion in a “three by six” stack of them, and when flooded with a crown of liquid honey they made one think of paradise and angels’ choruses.
Just about any cook would like to be described thus. And all this done on the move, on a camp stove or over a fire on the ground.
© 2009 C. Bertelsen