D | E  

Dakar, kitchen of the «Keur Souadou»

Scene 17

As always, when Hektor Maille was confronted with a lack of proper information, he was consumed by an over-riding need to cook. Ah, how much clarity of thought the simple act of chopping an onion can bring. Even more effective is chopping two or three of them, until the pure tears streaming down one's cheeks blind one to the knife. And what calm it brings when one lays one's hand on a cold leg of lamb and feels the cool moistness of the meat, the powerful yet relaxed musculature of the butchered animal. As the time of the evening meal drew near, the frustrated Maille returned to «Keur Souadou», where he had waited for Roff the previous day. There were hardly any guests there – and so it was easy for him to persuade the proprietoress to allow him to use her stove for a small fee. The lady was called Souadou and had eyes like tamarind seeds – dark, with a lighter (and highly effective) outline. Her kitchen was clean, but there wasn't much raw material in it. Maille found some beef that looked somewhat tough and stringy, and heaps of onions, lemon and chillies. 

Among the most famous recipes of Senegal is «Poulet Yassa», which is supposed to have originated in the tropical Casamance region in the southern part of the country. Maille decided to prepare a bovine version of the classic marinated-in-lemon free-range chicken with onions (see the recipe). He chopped the meat into large pieces, sliced the onions into thick rings and doused both with the juice of a couple of lemons. While he hacked the garlic, Souadou stepped into the kitchen and offered him a glass with French mustard in it – with a faint smile playing on her lips. One did not quite know whether the smile signified mere amusement or amused mockery. The mustard was from «Maille». That, however, was not the reason for her smile. No, Souadou was highly tickled that an eccentric visitor was cooking for her guests – a first-time experience for the restaurauteur. Perhaps he was a nice fellow, she thought, even if he was a tad too serious and too nervous for the Dakar climate.