Four star B&B Uganda

From Lois Pollock's diary

I glanced at my watch and hastened with chopping the mound of onions and fifty garlic cloves. Within three hours, Aunt Blessed would lead the Bishop and his retinue through the french doors of the front verandah.

At the back door, a scruffy yellow dog had ventured a paw onto the threshold. As I shooed him away, five brightly plumed local hens scattered. Earlier, there had been six. The plumpest now lay naked on the chopping board.

Blessed, a wealthy Ugandan matriarch, made clear to me that the bishop would expect a quality meal prepared by the 'muzungu'. I was her guest but her reputation would rest on my culinary performance.

Efficiency of the kitchen, although charming with its retro Belling cooker and fly-screened meat safe, was untested.

Scrutinized by the house-boy Isaiah, I weighed the bird in my hands before returning it to him. He brought down his cleaver repeatedly, throwing meat under the running kitchen tap before tossing it in the pot. Averting my eyes, I chucked in the splayed innards and scrawny feet. Nothing was wasted.

I now turned back to the vegetables; chopped carrots, aubergine, capsicum were added to the softened onion and garlic. Next I concocted a stock from water, dried herbs, finely chopped chilli, salt, pepper and curry powder.

Dina, the house-girl, appeared, shocked by the quantity of tinned tomatoes – expensive – and puree that I instructed her to pour on top of the mix. I grinned sheepishly - assured her I'd been instructed to produce a special meal. A glass of red wine was liberated from Blessed's locked reserve. Had she been in the kitchen rather than church, it could not have found its way into the pot.

Preparation completed for a slow -ooked casserole, I was aghast: the rickety oven door would not shut tight, even with a cardboard wedge crammed into the hinge. The top burners barely functioned. Seeing my consternation, Isaiah and Dina moved as one, hoisting the blackened pot onto a charcoal brazier alight outside the back door.

The yellow dog sat and smiled.

Delicious smells filled the air when the convoy of cars turned sedately through the open compound gateway. A higgledy-piggledy line of family, dogs, chickens, servants and me, greeted the guests. As some faded away, Aunt Blessed smiled conspiratorially at me. She and the Bishop took their places at the elegantly laid dining table, shook out the starched and ironed white linen napkins and waited for the feast to be served.