Washington (or Washy, as we came to call him), was the cook on my recent Peregrine trip to Botswana.
He has a great love of food, and honed his skills at the Imbabala Safari Lodge in Victoria Falls. Washy has been cooking on mobile safaris for over two years, and loves everything about it…except the flies. Oh, and the baboons, hyenas and honey badgers who frequently try to steal his food!
Washy's kitchen is in the back of a trailer, and his oven is the fire he lights using Mopani wood (because it produces the best coals). He carries a well-loved book of recipes with him, but on a mobile safari he ignores the temperature advice and relies on his intuition instead.
"I just keep an eye on everything, checking it regularly. I've been making these recipes for a long time so I'm used to cooking them on an open fire."
In the two weeks we were with him, Washy produced some of the best meals I've had in a long time. I never imagined safari food would be so good, and any ideas I had about losing weight while on the trip quickly went out the window.
What we ate
We kick-started each day with tea, coffee, toast and a huge pot of hot porridge, giving us plenty of energy to for our morning game drive.
Lunch was always something light, to be devoured in the heat of the day - think crepes filled with roast chicken, quiche and homemade pizza. Lunch was always accompanied by two or three fresh salads and Washy's famous bread.
Baking is Washy's forte, and we would eagerly tear into his onion bread, olive bread and divine sweet rolls. Sometimes we ate lunch on the road, setting up a makeshift table on the bonnet of our truck and other times we ate in camp.
Then imagine our excitement when a cheese platter would appear, piled high with Camembert, blue cheese, crackers and fresh apple! Talk about decadent. We really felt spoiled, although we think this was a deliberate ruse to get us to take a nap before the evening's activities. And it worked!
After a long day of game drives, talk would soon turn to food. We would often try to guess what Washy had in store for our dinner, but this proved impossible with each night outdoing the last. Every meal started with homemade soup, followed by a hearty main and a delectable dessert (my favourite was the peach crumble).
A highlight for me was spaghetti bolognaise. I couldn't believe I was eating spag bol while camping! Although the beef stroganoff and rolled roast pork stuffed with apple and spinach were also big crowd pleasers. Don't ask me to choose a favourite!
One of the women on our tour, Pam, was a vegetarian. She said prior to coming on the trip, she had never really given a second thought to the food: "I'd have been happy with some fish, vegetables and fresh fruit." But Washi made sure Pam never went hungry. Each night he prepared a special meal for her, ranging from grilled fish with homemade tartare sauce to a special vegetable mince.
"Vegetables are my favourite too, so I enjoy the challenge of making something special for Pam each night," he said.
It is a testament to Washy's talent that on a trip filled with daily animal sightings, spectacular landscapes and ever-changing sunsets that we all arrived home talking about the wonderful food.
Washy provided the energy we needed to get through each day, and frankly I've found it a little difficult to start cooking for myself again!