Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Out of Africa: Breakfast at Kimingini

My Aunt Joan's father was a missionary in British East Africa in the 1920s. Her older brother, Homer, wrote an unpublished memoir about his life, and included many stories of the family's time in Africa. He followed in his father's footsteps and returned to Africa as a missionary in 1933. This is another story from his memoir:

Mining camps have been the setting for many a yarn. Sometimes tragic and other times hilarious. This little incident is sort of in between and just a bit ridiculous. Kimingini was quite a place as it flared into a mining center. Houses were built there tier above tier, ascending the slopes of the hill. Out there in the valley of the Yala river, on this unusual hill, a sort of modern city sprung up almost over night.

Kimingini is located Kakamega County, Kenya

General ordinary kinds of laborers were given quarters on the lower levels. As one climbed to the higher levels, the small houses were occupied by European personnel. Above this level one came to the homes of the white-collar office people. At the very top, overlooking the whole area, stood the mansion of the mine manager. Most of the small cottages cluster about the hillside, were by the nature of things, quite close together. Due to contour or irregularity of the terrain, the houses faced in odd directions. It just so happened that the home of my friend, Morton, had a fine view, directly into the kitchen of the house next door. 

As has been true through the years, of our mining camps anywhere, there were few women. It early developed that the bachelor house holder of Kimingini, had in general, very little knowledge of the intricacies of home making. It therefore was the custom in those camps for a bachelor to employ someone to care for those duties. 

Homer's friend hired a young man based on a recommendation in a language he could not read.

From the book entitled, Diamond Mines of South Africa,
by Gardner Williams

Coming out of the mine at the end of the day, Morton, found his clothes washed and pressed nicely. The house was clean and neat. Some of the food not all that bad. It turned out breakfast was the worst meal of all. At first, the bachelor, "bwana," speaks kindly to the cook: "Breakfast not good." The next morning, it was no better, and gradually the tone of bwana's voice changed; it became sort of hostile. Breakfast was still "not good." The cook sat for hours during the day, wondering what he could do to correct the situation. He'd hate to lose his fine position. At breakfast bwana was no longer patient. He called his cook a few names in Ki-Swahili, punctuating with some choice ones in English. Things were indeed very bad.

The cook gathered that the bacon was too greasy and that was why bwana was so displeased. The next morning, Bwana Morton was surprised. The table was set in good taste. The coffee pot and cup were there, smelling wonderful. The toast was not at all bad. The eggs were fried in an easily acceptable manner. Morton was most surprised by the bacon; it was not greasy. 

How did Morton's cook improve frying the bacon. Homer called the new process "Bacon ala Kimingini."

Lifting each slice of bacon from the frying pan, the boy very carefully held the ends, and gracefully ran the slice through his lips, sucking off the offending grease. He then arranged the breakfast in a neat manner. Placing his white cap, which all servants were want to wear, upon his head and donning a clean white gown, he delivered the breakfast to the dining room table. 

Homer's friend, Morton, likely worked for the Kimingini Gold Mining Company, which had been organized by the Tanganyika Concessions in July 1934. After formation, the company embarked on an intensive development program at Kakamega. By November 1938, the company was in liquidation.

NOTE:  Previous "Out of Africa" posts:

Doctor Livingstone, I Presume
The Kikuyu
The Eland Hunt
The Hippopotamus Hunt
Kagui and the Python
Water Buffalo Trouble
Baboon in the Sweet Potato Patch

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