FINE DINING, PNG STYLE

Panting under the great weight of the salver balanced overhead, my native waiter’s arse-grass rustled with each slip-slap of his bare brown feet. For efficiency, he had pushed up the sleeves of his tweed jacket. A correctly knotted tie bisected his shirtless Papuan torso.

He was delighted to at last serve a delicacy adapted from the Pidgin translation of Escoffier’s Complete Works (left by an earnest missionary keen to change the dietary preferences of the locals).

Before me he placed a gargantuan crystal bowl of cubed ice, an egg-cup of (very) imported caviar poised on top. Alongside, with leads trailing from a globe sited low in the ice, was a genuine car battery, beautified by a pleated skirt of tin-foil.

The cook craned from the kitchen door and the industrious fellow who drove the treadle sewing machine ceased mending donated damask tablecloths to watch this illuminated spectacle.

It tasted more-ish and I confess my fetish for eclectic dining started that day.

This civilised lady once dined

In a café your critic won’t find.

Ever since I’ve been urging

The eggs of the sturgeon

Be served in this manner defined.

Incongruous as it may seem,

New Guinean waiters, I deem,

Know best how to show

That magnificent roe

By lighting the ice with a beam.

In awe, I am nearly struck mute,

For the battery out of the ute

Has been placed on the tray

To adorn a display

Befitting Escoffier’s repute!

A Pidgin account of his book

Had been given the Papuan cook,

Long waiting a guest

Who might be impressed

By the diligent efforts he took.

That day when I ordered this dish,

I granted the native his wish –

He bore to my table

Ice, battery and cable

For lighting these ova of fish.

He beamed at the spectacle made

When presenting the eggs a fish laid.

And not one was wasted –

To date I’ve not tasted

A caviar quite of the grade!

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