My last blog post on my delushious vision featured a photo of the giant BBQ The Carnivore Restaurant in Nairobi. It received a lot of interest despite me saying nothing about the food. Almost as much interest as my post aptly named “Why did I quit my day job?” Did you read that one? Did you see I never really gave a straight answer. Maybe I will one day!
Let me tell you a bit about The Carnivore.
Here you are.
- It opened in 1980 and was an instant success.
- You can eat ostrich, crocodile, snake and camel meat as well as lamb, pork, beef, spare ribs, chicken all roasted over the huge spit and carved at the table.
- You can get a small salad (why bother?) and there is a vegetarian menu (again, why bother?).
- It features an A la Carte restaurant called the Simba Saloon which transforms into a nightclub where you can buy a fab vodka based cocktail called Dawa (meaning medicine in Swahili). In our day we danced the night away whilst watching Benny Hill (on silent) on the big screens, I have no idea why….it was all part of the Carnivore experience and I assume that part of it has now gone, at least I hope so!
- I have kept a receipt showing that I paid Kshs 20/- to get into the Simba Saloon in 1986 (again no idea why).
So based on my recollections of The Carnivore you’d think that I learnt to cook by burning meat on a fire. How nice that would be. But no I didn’t. Unless you count Cowboy’s Supper, dampers round a campfire or the one sad occasion where we watched a goat we’d believed was a pet, but was in fact a thank you gift to my friend’s father for something he had done, being roasted and then served up for dinner….I have missed out the part about the goat’s sad demise for the benefit of anyone who is sensitive but I can assure you the story is interesting so if you want it let me know!
So how did I learn to cook? It was not something we learnt at school – it was something we watched other people do and then tried ourselves. As products of working parents, my brother and I and most of our friends were not quite feral, but tended to be on the wild side. Hence we had free reign in the gardens and at home to a certain extent. Not a day went past when we did not concoct something strange. From green or chocolate pancakes, to all kinds of fudges and toffees most of which were eaten long before they set.
Probably due to the fact we wasted endless ingredients with all our experimenting we found wrapped under the Christmas tree, cookery books that we could at least attempt to follow. And so we began.
On my shelf sits a fabulously retro book called “Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book. A Complete Collection – for All Occasions, for Every Taste.” (So you see, she is a real person …not just a name on the side of a cake mix packet) Now and then I still use it.