[History]: ON THE BANKS OF THE CROCODILE RIVER

7 days ago

 Hi friends! 

Today we look at an article about Africa in 1988. It is very unusual for Russian people that people eat crocodiles. Russian reporter talks about his acquaintance with a dish of crocodile. I have never tried a crocodile and I do not have such a desire...

ON THE BANKS OF THE CROCODILE RIVER
When I was in Cuba, I was told how delicious fried crocodile — it turns out, cut off the tail, cut like sausage, roundels and thrown into the oil in the pan. They say that the meat is very tasty, although fatty. The carcass goes on the release, it is inedible. I didn't have to try the crocodile there.
But many years later I was in Africa!..
We had dinner in the restaurant of the hotel "Cosmos". The distant sounds of the city of Brazzaville, the noise of the street on which our hotel was located, and even the quiet, sad voice of Louis Armstrong, whose songs here in Africa have become immortal, cut through the evening quiet as through cotton wool.
The General Manager of the hotel, Bernard Lemaire, came to the table. Lemaire — elegant, elegant and thin, looks like a hussar of the Patriotic war of 1812 — he has bluish-gray, without a single dark strand of hair, luxurious black mustache and thick coal-shiny eyebrows, picturesquely traced on a narrow pale face. From under the eyebrows tightly are blue with cold, mocking-a smart skeptical eye: Monsieur Le Maire, it seems, no one in this life does not believe, even to himself. Monsieur Lemaire politely asked if we liked everything-politeness was on duty, as was the "menu de jour", but nevertheless it was pleasant. We answered together: Yes, all of it! Thank you Monsieur Le Maire and company Pullman, which keep both the hotel and restaurant to a high standard: comfortable, clean, tasty, quiet, and no one comes down, and throws the crumbs into the soup, the service here is French, and in General Monsieur Le Maire know how to restore order.
— You can order any dish in our restaurant,— said Monsieur Lemaire.
— Can I have something from the crocodile?  I asked. Where did that come from? Did Cuba remember?
 Crocodile who is not— frowned Monsieur Le Maire. It turned out that he was not omnipotent — the restaurant was not crocodile chops! — I must ask my friends if any of them have been hunting a crocodile these days. If he hunted, they'll give us meat. Specifically for you,— Lemer bowed,— specifically! Have you eaten a crocodile yet?  he suddenly asked.
— No. They say his meat is too fat — that's all my gastronomic information about crocodiles.
— It's not fat,— said Monsieur Lemaire,— it looks like a rabbit, white and tender.
— More chicken, ' said sitting at the table South African poet Keorapetse Codicil.
— No, a rabbit, after all, " said Monsieur Lemaire firmly.
The next day Monsieur Lemaire met us at the door of the hotel.
— There is a crocodile!  he said cheerfully.— Come at one o'clock for lunch. There here is please, not in the restaurant, and there.
He pointed to an open, seven-winded hut with a thatched roof. These are depicted in tens, hundreds of thousands of drawings: once Africa, then necessarily a hut of measles with wooden props, topped like an inverted nest massive, hard-lying roof.
From this roof, but rather of an opening, not designated neither pipe nor any pipe with stone to the cane, not heat of the moment,— was curly blue smoke.
Madame Lemaire cooked crocodile meat, cooked with her own hands, not entrusting the sacrament to any of the cooks. She's from Guyana — a small country in Latin America, where to eat a crocodile (so she claimed) — just spit; they say, eat in Guyana, as in Europe in the village of chickens — turn the head and in the pan. Madame Lemaire cut the fillet, soaked it in a special marinade, made, as I understand it, of vinegar, wine, pepper, onion juice and something else local, unknown, but very sharp. Slicing fillets like barbecue, small pieces, planted them on short wooden skewers. Then the crocodile was preparing how to prepare skewers of regular RAM. The iron box was piled with stones, they were heated. To stay longer the fever, the top put wood coals and covered the grill — that grill. Not only a crocodile, a bull can be fried!
Madame Lemaire was replaced at her post by Monsieur Lemaire, who rightly judged that it was one thing to marinate a crocodile, another to cook it in the heat, the last thing, of course, was a man's. From time immemorial, the man had two things — to get meat and fry it. Women's — this soups and porridge, cleaning and children, tears and moans. And male — meat. Monsieur Lemaire prepared the crocodile perfectly — he, like his wife, Guyanese, knew a lot about it, felt the Golden mean — removed the meat from the grill, not overexposing it for a second.
In Africa, it seems, it is not only the crocodiles and flies, and butterflies, if with a mind to cook. And the and the hot from larvae giant mosquitoes — what?
But I approached crocodile meat with pleasure.
When all sat down at the table, then went narratives — as without them?
Monsieur Lemaire talked about his wife's homeland, about the beautiful Guyana — about palm trees with ten-kilogram coconuts, about birds of Paradise, whose plumage is valued more than gold, these birds specially come to hunt. About the divine fishing and girls with gentle exciting voices, which he can not forget, although for many years already married and on his knees he sits, spinning little black-eyed daughter Zara.
Bernard Lemaire was the first to mine a crocodile in Guyana. They went hunting when the earth was made invisible by a pitch-black night. It seems that night was their own matter, their own flesh tough, tough, unkind. Each hunter in a plastic helmet, in which the builders go, with a headlamp in his hands — loaded with cast bullets guns. Guns all the time ready - with crocodiles delay is dangerous, they attack quickly, God forbid to manage to shoot. You'll be late for a moment, for a tenth of a second — and before the shot deafeningly slam crocodile fall!
In the night, in the narrow beam of the headlamp, there was an answering gleam, purple, disturbing. Crocodile! He flashed — and disappeared, and in the blackness stirred something big, agile, like a fish, and smelled fish — was stupidly strong smell of raw fresh fish. But this smell is not crocodile. He probably gives like a wet dog, dung, sludge soured, still something, but not fish.
With Lemaire and his companions in the same pie was a local fisherman named Cayman Barbudo — Bearded Crocodile. Clever, toothless, always laughing, with a few curly shoots, unreliable obecause wide oval chin, the Cayman Barbudo zakvakali, squeaked in toad and summons a crocodile. But he did not respond to the call. That's the same squeaky, muffled, in toad screaming young cacodylate, and Caiman can be pulled from the bushes only this cry. And so Cayman cowardly, cautious and, sensing something was wrong, would not swim out to the man. Cayman Barbudo repeated the call. Uselessly.
And again in the beam of the lantern flashed purple fire — or rather, two flames, affectionate, widely set, then between the two lights there was something shining, pale pink — Bernard did not immediately realize that Caiman had already opened his mouth. And when I realized, recoiled — terrible pink mouth Caiman, although it is known that Caiman — it is not an alligator, completely swallow the hunter with boots and a gun will not be able.
Cayman Barbudo, crouching down to the bow of the boat, as if he wanted to hide, again boomed like a toad. The crocodile did not move — it was a male. Only females swim to the cry of the offended cub — like all mothers, they hurry to console the child, to caress. The fathers can come with only one purpose: to eat their own offspring, to gnaw off his tail, leg, leaving an inedible bony head. This did not move, only the mouth turned pink in the night. Lemaire, looking at the crooked, dirty teeth, chilly shrugged his shoulders. Cold? Or hot? Typical dumb-ass dad who likes to eat and sleep in the sun. Not far from the purple motionless "lanterns" dad appeared two more and moved to the cake.
Get ready, hunters, milf floats! The crocodile slipped silently into the water, aiming the nose is exactly in the cake. Cayman Barbudo continued to call her — the cries of the child were anxious, dreary. Lemaire drew his head into his shoulders and put his gun in front of him, thinking that now he would have to shoot. But it was not necessary to shoot just — the gun was given to the hunter in case the pie will turn over and in water it is necessary to beat off attacking crocodiles.
Beckoning, Cayman Barbudo slowly bent down, pulled out from under his feet a pole with a rope at the end of which was made a loop. And gently, very precise movements summed up the pole under the head of floating crocodiles — she and I drove in a loop. And she pulled it on herself. The jaws of crocodiles were tightly compressed, and what is a crocodile with no mouth? This is not a crocodile, and, sorry, a normal beam. With legs, with mystical purple eyes, emitting a sad light, with a tail and rough skin. Still, a log.
The crocodile desperately rushed to the side, slapped its tail on the water, but Cayman Barbudo was ready to jerk; for many years he had studied the habits of crocodiles and never missed. Lemer and his companion helped him, and the Crocodile surrendered. They give up very quickly, crocodiles, when they are captured, as if something breaks in them, refuses, a long flexible terrible body in itself is interrupted by a certain life — the crocodile subsides.
In a hot climate of the caught crocodile it is necessary to keep on Kukan — as any carp in lower reaches of Volga — or in a bag which every half an hour plentifully water.
Crocodile skin is devoid of pores, the body does not breathe, and to tie the mouth — it means to block the crocodile's breath.
When we ate at Monsieur Lemaire's well-roasted crocodile kebabs, he warned us that if we wanted to take the crocodile meat with us, we should buy this meat only from friends. And then instead of a crocodile slipped lizard, which is also edible and also tasty, but the Europeans are not in demand.
Among the guests was a Frenchman-pharmacist, gray-haired, in gold glasses, with a characteristic mouth of the preacher. He listened to Lemaire and constantly put his phrases into the story — at first it turned out something like a duet, and then completely captured the attention of the table. And in one of breaks the pharmacist sharply curtailed conversation with crocodiles:
— You, Soviet, sell good equipment — big equipment: planes, for example. But why don't you sell small products? Records, for example. And if sell, bad, to three times lose, and plate "KRA-KRA-KRA", pop and spin. And where are your books, where Dostoevsky and Pushkin, where Leo Tolstoy? Where is the music of composer Borodin? — For some reason, the pharmacist named only Borodin among all Russian composers.— Why is your trade representative asleep? Perhaps, only writes paper in Moscow about how he well works. It works bad! I want to buy your goods, and they are not. Where are your Soviet goods that I want to buy? Huh? I want to spend money on them, don't you? You don't want them! Why don't you deliver your goods? — The pharmacist was right. In conclusion, he exclaimed pathetically, in the Russian manner: — In the papers buried! — and here, too, was right.
He bit into the skewer and, without letting Lemer open his mouth, continued:
— You have good cameras, I think they are called "Zenith". If "Zenit" will get a man without pants, then a month later he can pay for the camera, and pants to buy!
The hotel in which we live - "Cosmos" was once built by our specialists, it turned out a kind of blockage, worked by the method of "pull-pull, the longer the better", with an unsightly swimming pool and a restaurant, like a bad pier dining room with curved iron frames and huge glasses, through which the fierce tropical sun turned people into cracklings that serve as a good dressing for Ukrainian borscht, to fry — and hours it was impossible to withstand in such a restaurant. In the crevices were not slow to settle huge, the size of mice, Prussians and lizards: tears, bitter roar, not a hotel.
As if in punishment, all coming from the Soviet Union lodged then in "Space" — Oh and abuse stood! It was impossible to live in this hotel. The hotel burned. And then it was bought by the French, the famous firm "Pullman". The firm invested several hundred million francs in the hotel, converted the rooms and the restaurant, filled with modern furniture and air conditioning, led to the divine view of the pool and the territory — and the hotel came to life! The hotel began to generate revenue.
But I, in my opinion, is too far away from our meal, from the tender soft meat of a crocodile, from the talk that were interesting to all.
It was hot, shirt stuck to the body, the air was filled with the gray gloomy light of the sun is something not thought today to look out, the light was bleak, it was grey, and no other, the sweet singing of the small bird, which we have in Central Asia manami called voices they have a buttery, slippery and unusual. If you stand on a chair and look over the fence adjacent to our hut, you can see a yellow clay wall with a poster advertising the famous local beer "Primus", and behind the wall — the muddy-steel tape crocodile Congo river.
In the city — on this side, on the side of Kinshasa — there are no crocodiles, scared away ships, boats and ferries, and if you take a little upstream — swarming. And below the swarm teeming, but there is not to go even on a flat-bottomed boat — prevents a long dangerous range of rapids— if only by boat, but on the boat you can only go to the Caymans, to the alligators to go dangerous, alligators are large and harmful, attack not only people — attack cows, buffaloes and even clumsy hippos.
We talked on different topics, discussed the problems of the home talkative pharmacist, local life, and not only local.
The pharmacist at that time quite tuckered out and fell silent, and we returned to the crocodiles: all the same ended the hunt to Monsieur Le Maire?
In an hour, as Monsieur Lemaire confessed, they took thirty-five crocodiles. He'd never had a hunt like that in Guyana. How many years have passed since then, and the hunt did not happen again.
We sat then for a long time, probably three hours. We understood each other without words, there was no need for any translation, there were no secrets, riddles, omissions — we were all on the same ship sailing on the violent waters of the river, we were equal on this ship, and it brought us closer together. At parting, Monsieur Lemaire complained to us about the official complications — a year and a half ago, some rank sent him a bill for seven hundred thousand local francs. Lemer look what it is due. Was over the drink-chin decided to take the hotel a bribe drinks and Lemer did not want to give bribe, he decided not to give any bribes and sent the bill back to the order. There was conflict. Rank not inferior: quite a few times already pocketed the money transferred to the hotel via the Department of this order for the accommodation of several delegations, was awarded a small razezdnoy avtobusik that the property bought for own use. Bernard Lemaire in response only sighed, spread his hands to the sides: "I know that there is corruption, I know that there are extortion, but not to the same extent!"— and in the end went to swear to the rank.
Chin took retaliatory measures — went to Paris, paid a visit to the company "Pullman" and said everything he thinks about Bernard Lemaire. The game "Who will pull whom?". Monsieur Lemaire did not know the outcome of the game.
We met in the middle of the next day. Monsieur Lemaire looked as if his life had been irretrievably lost, everything he had lived had been thrown into the trash — and it was unclear why he lived, why — one eye twitched, watered, the other was motionless and clean, as if it were not a living eye at all, but a skillfully inserted glass fake. His mouth was tightly compressed, his lips turned white — do not say anything, bitter kind, Monsieur Le Maire, bitter and not hussar. And where did the past go? Hold on, Monsieur Lemaire, life is such that it is necessary to play all the games to the end and, of course, do everything not to return to the ashes of lost battles. What is gone is gone, and it is impossible to find the beginning of a new life in the past: from the ashes of nothing grows.
— What happened, Monsieur Lemaire?
The face of Monsieur Le Maire? s oddly skewed, darkened by resentment and misunderstanding of what is happening cheeks sucked under the neat arc of the cheekbones, Bernard tried to smile, but the smile did not work, he looked up at the top near old trees and muttered detachedly:
 Telex is here.
— So what?
— I'm being transferred to Cameroon.
— Where? To Cameroon? Why and by whom?
— Who... By whom? The CEO of the same hotel as this one. Only much smaller, maybe the size, maybe not much,— he added.— The hotel still smells of fresh paint.
— Why did this happen?
— Well, Yes! Isn't it clear, didn't I say anything yesterday? My good friend went to Paris. The results of the trip, as they say at diplomatic receptions, he did not discuss with me. Orders issued. What is the order? We are not an army, but we have in the army.
— So you're going to Cameroon?
 I'm coming! I'd like to go to Guyana, but... That's it — but! — Monsieur Le Maire raised her head even higher, he was now looking at the clouds.
 The Cameroon is Cameroon. But I will not go to Cameroon at once,— said Monsieur Lemaire quietly and sadly,— first I will go on two months ' vacation, visit my mother in Paris, then perhaps I will go to Guyana — Yes, to Guyana. Maybe I'll hunt crocodiles for the last time...

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Around the world magazine / October 1988

 Until next time, @r3benok 

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