Category Archives: Health & Nutrition

Lodge Dinner

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Money can only make your surroundings pleasant. It cannot create inner pleasantness.

In my job as Catering Manager in a large private boarding school I also have to cater for the Headmaster whose wife cannot cook.

Every couple of weeks he has a dinner for about twelve people from around the Community and he expects a first class three course meal with all the trimmings.

The school is 90 years old with 90 year old equipment and a staff of cooks who have learnt from each other and their fathers or relatives as time has gone. I cannot change the school menu too far from the norm as they only know what they have learnt over the years, so the menu hasn’t really changed over the years. In the time that I have been here they have been so grateful for all I teach them and any training or knowledge I share with them. Coming from a hospitality training to school catering is certainly a big step and was quite confusing in the beginning. I had all these menu changes which were soon shelved due to lack of knowledge; all these exciting salads and vegetable recipes to incorporate until I realised that I was feeding children who definitely weren’t interested in veg & salads. Everything had to be bland, non salted, non sugared and of course cooked in large quantities.

So with the above explanation you can understand that the cooks have no idea how to cater to dinner parties, so I plan and cook them myself. Its a lot of work on top of the rest of my job but I have become very clever and learnt to plan a menu (which has to be sent to him and his wife for approval) which can be prepared in advance, is basic and simple with the most flamboyant of names and presentation and which can be served by the Madam without too much explanation.

This dinner was :- Creamy Asparagus Soup with blue cheese crostini, Lamb & Bacon Casserole with sweet potato mash, sesame carrots, green beans & roasted beetroot & feta salad and for dessert was Creme Brulee.

My dinner plans never follow the menu I normally send to them a month before the dinner, I have never figured out if they notice this. Its hard to plan and organise a meal living far away from any decent shopping centre so its only really two or three days before the dinner that the menu comes together with what I have been able to find, and of course the progression of my cooking.

For this dinner the Creamy Asparagus Soup required fresh asparagus of which I only found 5 sticks – add in brined asparagus. I could only find one bunch of leeks – add in spring onions. The cream had, of course, gone off, and created a curdled look which made me panic at first but then after I had blended the whole lot for a good time and boiled and boiled it, it all seemed to come together.

The Blue Cheese Crostini – the french loaves I ordered from the town bakery turned out to be kitka loaves, and of course no blue cheese to be found. I found brie & camembert and melted it onto the halved slices of bread – my opinion was that it looked as horrid as it smelt but that must be the gourmet slant.

The main course was easy – but the old anthracite stove which normally doesnt get hot enough to boil anything suddenly had a spurt while I was out of the kitchen and I came back to find millions of burnt bits. I also realised that I wouldn’t have enough lamb so my casserole became loaded with carrots and potatoes. The sweet potato mash was good but as I had used the carrots in the lamb I had to replace them with something orange to balance my menu – roasted butternut, then I realised my beetroot & feta salad was not enough as the only packet of  beetroot I could find had shrunk while roasting. So the beans changed to minted peas and the beetroot & feta salad became beetroot, green beans, onion slices & feta – a very nice salad I must say.

The Creme Brulee – oh those Creme Brulee! My cream was off, remember, so the first batch never set. I got fresh cream (we get fresh milk from the dairy down the road daily but I thought buying box cream would make it all taste better) and started again. We don’t have a blow torch or anything so I had to grill the sugar topping under the small salamander we have. It took ages and I was nearly late delivering the dinner to his Lodge. Wouldn’t have made a difference though as I never see anyone when I am offloading my car, I think they watch me from a window then only come into the kitchen as I am leaving for any last minute instruction.

As I said, I always plan a menu to be able to make in advance. I had made the soup, the lamb and the Creme Brulee the day before then finished things on the day of the dinner. That was something else I learnt, my cooking comes bottom of the list to the guys preparing lunch or dinner for the children so any of the equipment I need I have to make sure they don’t need. When there are sports function teas, plus lunch and supper for 300 to prepare the oven is much fought over.

I always get nervous over the dinners, but this dinner I lost my nervousness and developed a feeling in my gut that it was going to be one of my worst. I always cook from my heart and this time my heart just wasn’t interested. I felt disappointed, and worried all night.

The next morning was the first time ever that the Headmaster came into the Kitchens to say thank you for a lovely meal. He gushed over the deliciousness and said how happy all the guests had been.

We in the Kitchens always judge the meal by what gets returned in the dishes form the Lodge – they were clean, except for some stinky cheese crostinis.

 

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Changes

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Changes

My life is a huge bunch of changes at the moment and I feel discombobulated.

Change A
We have decided to sell the restaurant and the house and leave Mozambique to go back to Zimbabwe. It is only a three hour drive from Beira, Mozambique to Mutare, the Zimbabwe border town, but we don’t plan on stopping in Mutare. No, when I choose to do things I make sure I do it on a large and grand scale. We are moving all the way across Zimbabwe right up to the snout of the “pigs head”, Victoria Falls. In my craziness I have opted to pack up the house in Beira, my flat in Mutare, my son’s flat in Mutare as he is joining the venture and transport six cats and two dogs and about six or so various people on a journey which, hopefully, will take two days of slow and careful driving. I am dreading it and whereas, normally, I can picture stages in my journeys and imagine how things will work out, this time my mind is a total blank.
This change was decided two months ago as we have a friend who owns a restaurant in The Falls who has gone through a huge amount of bad changes himself suddenly and was ready to give up his dream and life’s work due to all of his problems. My other half has been constantly moaning about his lot in life here and wanting to change things, so I suggested why don’t we join up forces with the Falls contingent. The offer was leapt upon!!! I was quite amazed at the response as from listening to both parties moaning for a couple of months this thought had been in my head for a while and to my way of thinking it was a natural conclusion. Why hadn’t they thought of it? Within a weekend we had planned it all. Both my sons also needed to change their lives so were giving up what they are doing and coming into the business with us. We were going to sell the house and the restaurant here and invest in various things that side starting a company in the process and everything was go, go, go and we were all very excited with plans and dreams.
This is Mozambique, don’t make plans or deadlines and expect them to be kept. Due to seriously dumb administration it turned out that both the house and the restaurant weren’t actually owned by my other half. We couldn’t find out who owned it at all. No deeds had been drawn up, no papers signed, no transfers. I was amazed. Never in my existence had I ever heard of someone owning a piece of land for twenty years but not owning it!! Paying taxes and rents and dues etc but having absolutely no paperwork showing ownership!! Unheard of and unbelievable and so, so stupid in any country in Africa, never mind one that is not your birth country. Land here can be taken away from you on a whim and if any of the power hungry politicos heard about this gross mess, we would certainly be out on our ear. Luckily – we found a very good lawyer and with much “under the table financing”, slowly things have progressed and maybe, maybe, another two weeks.
I am not even thinking about it. I have stopped packing and am living out of the boxes I had already packed. I refuse to jinx the whole operation again by hoping and planning so I have stopped and moved over to a path where I sort of wander along daily trying to keep myself busy.
Christmas is coming and every year I craft and decorate and love celebrating Christmas. This year my craft stuff is mostly packed with some in Mutare and as I am so determined not to think anything negative or plan anything, I have kept a few crafts out and am crocheting and sewing things for little nephews and nieces. Cannot say if they will actually get them as I probably will pack them and forget where but anything to keep my mind busy.

Change B
The Change!!! Why the hell is it happening now? I had a hysterectomy nearly twenty years ago and have had a very hormonally crazy life since then, but I thought I had missed The Change, The dreaded mad Menopause. Now, going into the hellishly, hottest months in Beira, when I am trying to plan and coordinate a huge move and start of a new life and have to have all my wits about me as the males in my life sincerely aren’t the brightest lightbulbs, my body has let me down. I am breaking out in horrific sweats, my joints ache, I can’t sleep and lie awake panicking about the future and I have turned into a forgetful, snapping witch.
Over the past couple of weeks I have watched in astonishment as my middle area suddenly ballooned and I developed a roll!! For no reason that I could see. I wasn’t eating any different or behaving any different and yet my jeans wouldn’t do up. If anything I was eating less as it is too hot in this place to eat. I upped my running, yoga and other exercise and kept as busy as possible. Then my body seemed to pack up, my joints started to ache and pain, sometimes continuously. I thought I was overdoing the exercise so I cut right back and only did yoga.
The pain has continued though and some days I cannot rest at all as my ankles are so sore. Nights are a nightmare, I wake up in a bath of sweat and realise I have pain in some joint, either my ankles or my back or my shoulders and then I cannot get back to sleep again as I start worrying about things. Really pointless, stupid worrying about totally mundane ideas that suddenly develop into huge mental problems which keep me awake trying to solve and sort. I read somewhere that not sleeping enough can make you fat so as I lay not sleeping I worry about that as well, and of course don’t sleep.
Days have become a an exhausting cycle of battling to get up in the morning and then struggling through the day with aches and pains popping up everywhere and sweating, always sweating. Its actually so hot in Beira that I often cannot figure out if I am sweating normally or from a hot flush. I have lost all my energy and mojo and to do anything is an exhausting trial, even to think about doing something exhausts me.
For months now I have been scratching. I thought I had an allergy, then excema, maybe the stress, the heat, I have spent hours on the internet trying to see why I am scratching. I have had to rub tonnes of cream on to prevent myself scratching my skin raw and bleeding. What really worries me though is my mind has been taken over by aliens, my memory is now a sieve and I have lost what little intelligence I had. When I first noticed this happening I was seriously worried that I was developing Parkinsons or Alzheimers or some such age disease.
This morning I woke up and just lay in bed wondering how I could get up and try to do a bit of yoga, or even just get through the day. Friday is my grocery shopping day but the thought of trying to go round hot smelly crazy town just drained me. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t even seem to open my eyes! I just lay there for maybe an hour just trying to be, you know the feeling, just be, at one with the bed and the cool air conditioned air. Then as I felt another hot sweaty flush starting to roll over my body, I suddenly thought to myself “Duh, you stupid woman, its the menopause”. It was like a flash in my brain.
I googled all my symptoms, I googled menopause, I googled menopause blogs, I googled treatments, natural and medical I googled everything remotely related. It all matched up! The knowledge doesn’t help me much as living where I do there are no doctors to speak to, I am going to have to wait until I get to civilisation to get it all confirmed and sorted. I am not sure when that will be so I have searched the town for some of the more natural products I saw on google. Not much luck there either surprisingly as I had thought with the number of Chinese and Indians we have here that surely I would find some natural remedies. You can buy any drug you want here over the counter and without a prescription so this was quite disappointing. It’s a males town.
I am going to have to learn to live with the discomfort and keep as positive as I can and take it slow and easy. One step at a time. What an awful phase to go through though and I hope it ends soon. Any advice would be appreciated.
Menopause

Herbs are so healthy, so beautiful and their smell makes me feel healthy

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