Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Breakfast at the Koulouba

When we pulled up to the Patisserie Koulouba on Saturday morning, it seemed that all the parking places were already taken by cars, trucks, and motos. But the parking guy energetically waved me into a space a little further down in front of another business. Assuming he knew what he was doing, we turned in, got out, and left the vehicle in his care. For 100 FCFA (about 25 cents), he would keep an eye on our truck all day if necessary.

Running the gauntlet of vendors selling everything from vegetables, tourist items, and timepieces to CDs, DVDs, and phone cards, we entered one of our favourite downtown pit stops. The Patisserie Koulouba is a Lebanese owned café / bakery where we like to buy bread, cakes for special occasions, pastries to snack on, or whatever else they have to offer. After all, there are no Zehrs or Tom Thumbs here in Ouaga, so we have to find alternatives to these well-known North American food stores.

However, our favourite thing to do here is have breakfast. Sitting down at a slightly rickety table reminiscent of an outdoor café in Europe, yet within reach of one of several air conditioners in the place, we greet several of the servers who now know us by sight. One of them comes to take our order. They don’t bother to bring us menus anymore because we nearly always order the same thing: one café au lait with two cups (there’s enough coffee for one cup each), a orange juice, and two ham & cheese & onion omelets (they’re normally just ham & cheese, but we like onions on it too, so they humour us).

Looking around, I see the place is nearly filled with a mixture of Africans and westerners, and even a few orientals. The westerners and orientals are either tourists or people who live and work here. The tourists are easy to spot, especially the men. They wear shorts. In Burkina, only young boys or athletes wear shorts, not normal men. But the tourists don’t know that, so we won’t hold it against them. The Africans wear everything from traditional outfits to western shirts and pants. Muslim men tend to wear long, flowing robes. Many of them greet each other upon arriving and spend a few minutes exchanging news. Those who do not have anyone at their table to talk to are talking to someone on their cell phone.

While we’re waiting, a young man who shines shoes comes in. Mine are horribly dusty and dirty from the activities of the week, so I motion him over. He takes my shoes and leaves me with a pair of sandals to keep my feet off the floor. When my shoes come back a few minutes later, they are spotless and shiny. A real deal for 25 cents!

Now our food arrives. The café au lait comes first. The coffee is in a small stainless steel carafe. It’s dark, filled with fine sludge from the finely ground beans, and tastes terrible, even with sugar and milk in it. But it brings back fond memories of earlier days, and has the necessary caffeine to bring us fully awake, so we drink it anyway. The milk comes in a separate container, and it’s boiling hot.

Then comes the orange juice, freshly squeezed that morning. At $2/glass, it’s a little expensive, but there’s nothing like it’s cold, refreshing taste to quench your thirst after a few mouthfuls of omelet and coffee.

Finally come les pièces de résistance: the omelets along with slices of baguette bread. Time to dig in. Boy, it’s good to be back in Burkina!

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