So it’s a lazy Sunday, the diet starts tomorrow (as usual), and I peel myself off the couch, inspired out of nowhere (but for the looming supper hour approaching), to make some chili. (I am usually off the hook for this task, as we have a cook who comes from Monday to Friday... I know, I know... spoiled).
I was humming away to myself in my sauna-cum-kitchen (in the house we inhabit, which used to be the Libyan Embassy of Accra – no joke! Irrelevant to this story but interesting and random).
I was actually feeling quite happy with myself, since I’d remembered to pick up chili powder in Houston last week. Chili powder cannot be bought in Ghana. Here, chili powder is exactly what it says it is – fire hot peppers, dried and ground into powder. I found this out the hard way once in my earlier years in Ghana, while making one of my ‘killer chilis’. I near killed a couple of guests…
But I digress. So there I was this fine evening, cutting and sautéing and humming, (this is a rare thing in my life), when Q walks in with that inevitable teenager question,
“What’s for supper?”
Me, proudly, “Chili!”
Q - “With rice?”
Me – “No, why?”
Q – “Well chili’s not chili without rice!”
So there it was. All my cooking ineptitude quivering, hanging, about to spill out, on this statement.
I cannot cook rice. There, I’ve said it.
I haven’t tried many times, but when I have it’s always been a disaster. Think rice pudding with lots of salt. Hmmm.
It’s not entirely my fault though. I grew up on the hideous fast-food-inspired Uncle Ben’s Instant rice. WHAT IS THAT STUFF?! I always hated rice as a result. Uncle Ben is creepy in general - who owns that company? Somehow I doubt it was Uncle Ben himself. Between he and Aunt Jemima, lots of racial stereotypes have stood the test of time... but apparently in unrelated news, Uncle Ben has a new image! He is now a CEO executive type, traveling the world...
Shit, where was I?
When I moved to Africa, I met a continent that is obsessed with rice. Carbs in general, but rice specifically.
I have a colleague from Mali who declared at lunch one day, “Without rice, there is no life. There is no life without rice.”
So, I tried rice in Africa, all over Africa, and it is great. Cooked so many ways, but always delicious. The texture, the taste. Who knew? Then I discovered all this rice is imported from Thailand, or thereabouts… When I had the misfortune of tasting local Ghanaian rice, I understood why everyone imported rice. Come on Africa! Come on Ghana! The climate is perfect – grow your own rice commercially!... sigh, one day…
But we are here to expose my pathetic ineptitude for making rice. And there we stood, my son and I in the steamy kitchen… and we made a decision.
An hour later, my humble gardener returned from his ‘quarters’ with the remaining dry rice and a tub of salt in one hand, a full, steamy pot of perfectly cooked rice in the other.
Yes, I asked my gardener to make rice for me. I know how pathetic this sounds. Having a gardener, who lives on-hand, available for my demented whims…
The fact that I laughed at myself nervously to him, offered him a bag of uncooked rice and some beers from our fridge as well as a small ‘overtime pay’ does not make up for it, I’m sure…
I think I’ve sunk to an unprecedented low.
I can imagine he and his new lady friend in their room…
Eric: “Please, we have to make a pot of rice for Madam”
Lady friend, “What? Rice for your madam, why? She cannot make rice?” Lady friend thinking, WHAT WOMAN CANNOT MAKE RICE?!
Eric and lady friend thinking, AH, THESE STRANGE, DEPENDENT OBRUNIS (whites), WE’LL NEVER UNDERSTAND THEM…
The truth is that if we take a look across cultures, and then back at ourselves, a lot is revealed about strange practices and habits we find normal. But sadly, in this instance, I cannot even blame cultural differences. I am just a spazz – cross culturally, who can’t make a pot of rice to save her life.
PS – the chili AND the rice were delicious! The diet starts tomorrow…