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.
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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!