As a Ugandan, I am no stranger to the fascination (or addiction, in my case) with the Rolex. Nope, not the ostentatious time telling device brand. A Rolex; a divine culinary combination of a chapati and an omelette.
Let me put it this way — I believe the Rolex should replace the Crested Crane on our National Flag. The Rolex might also be that one thing that might be the answer to World Peace, if everyone in the world could have a taste of it. The Rolex is an anti-depressant (I’ve never seen a person eat a rolex with a frown on their face.) That said, allow me to introduce you to Patrick.
Patrick set up his ‘Rolex’ stall in the neighborhood towards the end of 2007. Since then, numerous stalls have sprung up around his, but for some reason, I’ve never traded my loyalty card to his stall. Over the last seven years, his reputation has grown and hardly will you find anyone from this side of town who does not know who Patrick is. A charming young man, very fluent in the English language that on more occasions than one, we have engaged in some rather intellectual conversations centered around our dear country’s politics. One day, I actually found him reading a copy of ‘Things Fall Apart’ by the late, but great, Chinua Achebe. And since my rolex order has never changed for the last seven years, our conversation is restricted to salutations, and he proceeds to make my rolex.
He pulls out his little blue plastic tumpeco cup, beaten from many years of great service, and cracks one egg open. Then another. He picks up a tomato, succulent and red like one that originated from King Solomon’s very orchard. He carefully dices it into the cup, supplementing it with a handful of strands of freshly sliced cabbage that he stores in a small clear polythene bag next to the tray of eggs. (I constantly made my dislike for onions clear to him because he kept accidentally adding them into my omlette the first week I ordered from him.)
He pinches a dash of salt, throws it into the cup and waits five seconds before reaching for his metallic tablespoon that has whipped up over a thousand savory omelettes in his humble, but fulfilling, career. He momentarily diverts his attention from the blue cup and its contents and turns to his stove. He pours some water onto the hot flat pan that sits atop it and it loudly hisses back, as if in agony. He then uses his spoon to scoop a measurement of vegetable cooking oil, which he then pours on to the pan, and turns back to the blue cup.
He gently whisks the contents in the cup, exercising meticulousness to ensure that all the ingredients combine appropriately to make the final product one to relish. Nearby, the hot oil begins to sizzle, signaling its readiness for the grand waltz.
He holds the blue cup a few inches above the surface of the pan and overturns it to pour the colorful mixture on to the hot oily surface and with a soft, but guttural cry, the oil and the omelette begin their dance. After only a few seconds, he pulls out his knife, which has since lost its handle and swipes it under the mixture to ensure that it is wholly solidified and in one bold move, turns it over so that the top can get its equal share of the action. Now, the once liquid mixture has integrated into one stunning flat golden omelettte.
He then pulls out two chapatis from his hot box and lays them on his work surface. He slowly and carefully transfers the omlette from the pan on to one of the chapatis and reaches for his knife for the final stretch.
He reaches for the tomato and cuts it into five even slices which he spreads along the bottom arc of the omlette, along with a handful of shredded cabbage, and salts. He then reaches for the second chapatti and places it on top of the omlette and other chapatti and then begins to roll it into one long delicious conduit of flavor, zest and tangy decadence.
He flashes his fine piece of work a smile and wipes his sweaty brow (I’ve been told it’s the dust and sweat that give roadside Rolexes that distinct flavor- who am I to complain?), proud of what his hands have once again been able to perfectly craft, before packing it into a clear polythene bag. I pay him what I owe for the Rolex and thank him.
“No, thank you,” he responds, his bright smile still spread across his content face, and then he turns to attend to another eager customer.
He might not know, but that short fifteen minute encounter usually makes my entire day.
To Patrick, and every other rolex guy out there who strives to keep the Ugandan spirit alight with this unique delicacy; thank you.