EXPAT FOODIE: BREAKFAST IN PARADISE

by missfootloose on January 30, 2010 · 13 comments

in Expat foodie, Expat life, Food, Ghana

Do you like breakfast? As an expat or a traveler you get the opportunity to eat breakfast in lots of fun places. Planes, hotels, restaurants, huts, palaces, even in a car repair place (a story not yet told here). Let me tell you about having breakfast in Paradise. My man and I were living in Ghana, West Africa at the time, and we had just returned from a month of home leave in the US and Europe.

BREAKFAST IN PARADISE

Breakfast is a notoriously difficult meal to serve with a flourish. – Clement Freud

The first weekend after our return from home leave, we drive west out of Accra to Till’s No. 1 Beach Resort for a bit of peace and quiet. Home leave is full of airplanes, dentists, family and shopping malls, so we’re craving a bit of physical and spiritual restoration. Till’s No. 1 Beach Resort is a good place for that because it’s often deserted, except for a couple of hours midday on Sundays and Saturdays when people from Accra bring their kids for a swim and a hamburger. Sometimes there’s a dancing and drumming session going on which is fun, but by four we usually have the place to ourselves. A romantic, white sand beach, palm trees, nobody there. A bar right on the beach where they’ll mix you a fresh fruit rum punch and deliver it right to your lounger. Imagine that. And at night you can dine on grilled rock lobster tail and greasy fries.

Okay, so the place is not five star, but you can’t have everything. Breakfast, for instance, leaves a lot to be desired.

We like breakfast, generally speaking. However, not all breakfasts are gustatory delights and sometimes you take what you can get and are stoic about it. At Till’s No. 1 Beach Resort you have to be stoic.

And I have no happy expectations this tropical Sunday morning. We awake early, which is what we always do, and wait for seven o’clock, at which time my mate strolls to the outdoor restaurant and orders breakfast to be brought to the porch of our room. (No phones in the rooms. No TV, either, but who wants it?)

While we wait for our food we read and listen to the ocean, which would be the Atlantic in case you don’t remember your geography, and breathe in healthy sea air. So relaxing, truly, even if the chairs are clunky wooden ones with cheap foam cushions covered in a faded flowery fabric. The table is a rickety affair, painted brown, the top covered with something pretending to be wood while chipping and peeling with abandon. Inside, the sheets and towels are thin and greyish, and the ancient air conditioner doesn’t always work, but the mattress is not bad. We like this place. It has a certain faded charm, if you know what I mean.

After some time a waiter appears with a tray, looking rather formal in his black pants and too-big white shirt, his face solemn like an undertaker.

Now, before I go on, let me tell you that generally Ghanaians are friendly, eager to be of assistance, and eager to please. Which does not mean that the concept of service is understood or that people employed in the service industry are well trained and well managed. Fortunately, what is lacking in service usually is made up for with enthusiasm.

We give him a cheery good morning and he brightens up considerably and smiles back at us, placing his goodies on the table. What he has brought for us is coffee, tea, two water glasses very full of fresh orange juice and a generous pile of anemic toast points, already cold. No plates, no silverware.

We wait some more and listen to the waves washing onto the beach, a very soothing sound. Ten minutes later the eating equipment arrives, along with jam and butter and the fresh pineapple we ordered – two thick slabs of pure culinary delight. From experience we have learned not to challenge the kitchen by ordering eggs or anything complicated like that.

I pour tea in my cup, which has seen better days, like in 1973. The orange juice is not the glorious nectar we were used to in Palestine, but it’s good and fresh. We attempt the toast, which was made from bad white bread. It’s dry and tasteless and not any warmer than it was ten minutes ago. It turns to wet sawdust in my mouth.

But do not despair, I have come prepared. I bring out the honey-spice bread I brought from home, and the brie left over from our private little feast last night, and the cashew nuts. Yes, cashew nuts are excellent for breakfast.

The honey spice bread, koek, is a traditional Dutch food and I baked it myself. All sorts of spice breads are available in the supermarkets in Holland, and I’ve found a recipe to make my own so as not to feel deprived. My favorite way to start the day is with a cup of tea and a slice of koek.

We settle down to eat and count our blessings. The air is cool and fresh. The pineapple is heavenly, the spice bread sweet, the cheese rich and creamy, the cashews crunchy and nutty. All in all this makes a fine breakfast. We eat as we watch the glittering ocean, listen to the birds and the wind in the coconut palms.

The toast is dead, but life is good.

*

The waiter comes back half an hour later, strolling down the path, clearly not in any hurry. He is painfully skinny like many other young men in Ghana. His black pants have been altered, the waist taken in by a number of inches in the back, leaving deep folds to droop down his flat buttocks flowing away into the wide pant legs, flapping gently in the breeze. This is his third trip. He is here to collect our dishes. He manages to pile everything on the tray and departs. He has not brought a bill. That will take trip number four.

When he returns later he has the handwritten itemization of our consumption, but no pen with which we can sign it so it will be charged to our hotel room account. Fortunately, we travel with pens, not to speak of notebooks in which to record these adventures.

You’d think this is the end of this breakfast saga, wouldn’t you? It isn’t. Unfortunately they’ve forgotten about the orange juice and it’s not on the bill. The waiter points this out, hoping we will understand. My practical husband says he’ll just write it on the bill and sign it.

No, no, this cannot be done! He’ll be back, please!

Trip number five: A separate bill for the orange juice, carefully written out, a charge less than two dollars.

This is Paradise.
—–

NOTE: This was a few years ago, so it may be that Till’s No. 1 Beach Resort has been renovated, upgraded, modernized and adulterated into oblivion, but no, I just found a link and it’s still there! And now it’s called Till’s No. 1 Beach Hotel. And there is TV! And Internet! But it still looks much the same, including the lovely thatched restaurant and bar. Maybe breakfast is better these days.

* * *
Do you have a fun breakfast experience tucked away somewhere in the nooks and crannies of your memory? Or a Paradise story? Serve it up, please!

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Mud in the City
Guest

That sounds familiar – bewildering and unhurried logic. But it is good to have to retune to a new pace of life, if only for a little while.

Land of shimp
Guest

What a lovely, vivid description you provided. The accompanying photos were delightful too. You have a gift for conjuring images with words, though, so the photos are just a bonus. Now, I’ve come to tell you something. I tagged you with a Kreativ Blogger award over at my blog. Turns out there is a whole process with that, which I do explain, but I want you to know that if you don’t wish to do it? Fear not, there won’t be any hurt feelings on my part, at all. I was just given an opportunity that amounted to, “Check out… Read more »

Miss Footloose
Guest

@ Nancy, thanks for your story! Yes, I can well imagine remembering a sandwich in such a setting! @ GutsyWriter, I can picture you sitting there in that fancy place, and then experiencing the service. Very familiar! @ Butternut Squash: Oh yum, fish with eyeballs and raw egg for breakfast 😉 Memorable for sure. These events make wonderful memories if not wonderful eating experiences. @ Lakeviewer: Ciao! The world is a fascinating place, and I’m thinking there might be a possibility I’ll end up in Italy, so I’ve been playing around with learning the language. Your site is a fun… Read more »

Anna Yeritsyan
Guest
Anna Yeritsyan

We had funny story in Jalalabad, Kyrgyzstan – in Central Asia… We stayed in hotel for 5 days and we had 3 meals in hotel restaurant during each of these days. Every time they brought tea, we would ask for some sugar for kids and every time they would bring sugar in a bowl without spoon… Sounds funny now, but it was quite frustrating then.

Mary and Sean
Guest

Love it! And love that you supplemented with your own bread from home. At least the guy wanted to do the bill right (according to ghana standards anyway) my breakfast story takes place in Egypt at the “Ciao” hotel. We arrived very late the night before and we were honestly a little frightened of the hotel… we were independent travelers, not on a group tour, which is an extremely hard thing to be in Egypt. in any case, we went to breakfast in the morning, and found ourselves in the strangest room, decorated like a dense jungle with vines and… Read more »

lakeviewer
Guest

What a rich post! Thanks for following Italian for Beginners. It’s great to exchange, isn’t it?

Butternut Squash
Guest

My first morning in Japan my host served me a bowl of rice covered with tiny whole fish, eyeballs and all, topped with raw egg. There was seaweed paper and soy sauce on the side. I ate it. The taste was not bad, but I gagged on the raw egg all the same.

GutsyWriter
Guest

Yes, I have a breakfast story. In Belize last October when a group of eleven nurses and myself were volunteering, we stayed at a gorgeous resort owned by five South African investors. The staff were Belizean and I enjoyed getting up early to stroll on the beach and swim before breakfast. My waitress knew what I enjoyed for breakfast: a bread basket and coffee. I could only get my teeth to cut through the fry jack. Microwaved bread and cinnamon rolls become rock hard after five minutes. I have no clue if its the flour they use or what. Cutlery… Read more »

Nancy
Guest

It would probably be in Hawaii. I was sailing around the islands with a friend back in the late 1970’s. We came into a little bay and docked at a YMCA. It was getting dark and our boat was ill equipped – no lights, no charts, no head – well when you’re young who needs such things, right? Anyway as soon as we dock a man tells us we cannot stay there. It is private property. We are worried about sailing so close to the island without lights and charts. Not to mention we are in shark breeding grounds. He… Read more »

Miss Footloose
Guest

Mary Witzl, you gave me a laugh with your comment about your daughter. Some people just are like that. About breakfast, yes I remember eating breakfast in Singapore and it was a soupy noodle dish with pork (I think) and perfectly delicious. Kimchee might not have been my favorite breakfast food, either, but hey, now you’ve had the experience ( and then some.) @ Elizabeth Bradley, glad you liked my story! An open mind is a wonderful thing. As long as things keep pouring in rather than out! @ injaynesworld – the fun part, or challenge, is always to see… Read more »

injaynesworld
Guest

What a wonderful tale indeed. Your makeshift breakfast sounds like a feast for kings the way you tell it.

Elizabeth Bradley
Guest

The Husband has done a lot of traveling and he says an open mind is the best method for dealing with the surprises of foreign cuisine. I loved this account, you made me feel as if I were there!

Mary Witzl
Guest

Fresh pineapple — that would make up for a lot! That waiter would have driven me wild. He sounds a lot like my younger daughter. She can make twelve trips just to do one thing. She won’t be pursuing a career in waiting. In Korea, they have nice breakfasts, but not quite what you expect if you’re a westerner: hot rice, soup, and kimchi, or pickled cabbage with chilli and garlic, among other things. Kimchi is served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Traveling through Korea, there were times I would have done a LOT for a piece of toast and… Read more »

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