JEWELS FROM THE ROVING STOVE

From VIP entrances in Versace to service entrances in my apron

  • Julie Anne Rhodes

Out Of Africa III

...my passage back into the land of the living

Julie Anne & Tatjana Rhodes - the lioness with her cub

Growing up I'd always considered myself a pacifist. That was until Tatjana was born. The moment I first set eyes on my baby girl, I was consciously aware that I would kill anyone that threatened her without a moments hesitation or a backward glance of guilt. I am a lioness with her cub when it comes to my daughter.

Arial view of the great migration from the hot air balloon

After Samburu we spent four fabulous days in the Masai Mara. We stayed at Cottar's Camp with it's breathtaking views of the Mara plus the Serengeti beyond, and the refined elegance of a 1920's safari. Calvin Cottar had been Peter Beard's friend and guide for many years, so we felt safe in his hands. The first morning we went hot air ballooning over the Masai Mara before breakfast in the bush, and still more animal tracking by foot and jeep. We silently crawled up behind some bushes on the river bank and sat for hours watching the hippos lazing in the water and crocodiles on the banks around them waiting for some hapless wildebeest or zebra to cross. The air is always pregnant with the possibility of impending drama in the bush. At night you could hear the lions calling out to each other, and the occasional yelp of a kill.

Hippo's lazing in the river

Lions resting up for the nighttime hunt

By the end of our stay, Calvin asked me to come back as head chef for six months. His chef quit the night before we arrived, and Peter and Nejma had told him about The Roving Stove. He would sort out a six month visa and I could name my price, if I would stay long enough to train a local Masai how to run the kitchen. By this point I was besotted with the bush, so I told him I would seriously consider his offer. Tatjana and I went on to Tanzania to see the Serengeti, and then onto Lake Manyara where our guide met us at the airport and we continued onto the game reserve.

At the entrance we stopped to take pictures of two baboons, then continued on down the hill. Tatjana and I sat next to each other in the open jeep talking while the guide went into an office to pay the park fees. I glanced off into the opposite direction taking in the beauty...Lake Manyara was much more lush and green ...more jungle like than any of our previous stops...

Baboon picking nits out of the other baboons' fur

... when I heard Tatjana say "Oh shit, oh shit!" I turned, expecting to see her sitting a foot away from me, but instead came face to face with a very large baboon sitting in the jeep between us. Reflex threw my body away from him and out of the jeep, but I realized Tatjana was frozen on the spot, so I caught the rail on the side of the jeep to stop myself...never losing eye contact with the baboon. In that split moment we carried on an entire nonverbal conversation. He undoubtedly knew I was the mama and would fight to death for her (keep in mind that baboons have fangs larger than lions and can be extremely vicious), and I knew he meant her no harm when his expression changed into one very similar to my dog when she knows she has done something wrong. He turned, grabbed Tatjana's sack lunch, and hightailed it halfway up the hill where he stopped to examine his bounty. Just then the guide came out and shouted, and he disappeared through the trees. It was the larger of the two baboons at the entrance...he had smelled our packed lunches when we stopped to take the picture, and followed us for a snack.

Julie Anne & Tatjana Rhodes

One would assume that was enough close calls for one trip, but don't forget everything happens in threes! See what sways my decision to stay in Africa next time.

Breakfast in the bush

to be continued:

Bright Eye Muffins

Breakfast in the bush for me usually consisted of yogurt, fresh fruit, and a muffin, although a full English breakfast was often on offer. This is my favorite morning muffin recipe.

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 small bananas, mashed (make sure they are ripe)

1 cup carrots, grated

1 cup parsnips, grated

1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped

1/3 cup sunflower seeds

1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

3 large eggs

1 cup canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

1). Line muffin with cupcake wrappers. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2). In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, and baking soda. Stir in bananas, carrots, apricots, sunflower seeds, and mini chocolate chips.

3). In a separate medium sized bowl, beat eggs. Mix in oil and vanilla extract. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop spoonfuls of batter into lined muffin tins. Bake in the preheated 375 degrees F. oven for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested.

Serving suggestions: Great on their own, accompanying fresh fruit and yogurt, or with scrambled eggs for breakfast. Nice afternoon/tea time snack as well.

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