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A ROYAL FEAST
A ROYAL FEAST.—ON THE BANKS OF THE OVENGA.—PREPARATIONS.—THE BILL OF FARE.—A TASTE OF ELEPHANT
AND A MOUTHFUL OF MONKEY.
 A ROYAL feast is to be given to me: a real feast, where the King is going to show me what are the splendors of his kitchen
department. That feast is to take place in the equatorial regions of Western Africa, on the banks of the Ovenga River.
King Obindji is to give the repast. My friend King Quengueza and myself will be the guests at the feast, and it promises
to be a great affair.
For some time past hunters have gone into the forest to kill and trap game, fishermen have been catching fish, and the
women have been watching their plantain-trees and their cassada plantations, while the boys have been scouring the
forest to look after wild fruits.
A good deal of pottery has been manufactured, so that they may have plenty of cooking-pots. Earthen jars have also been
made in great numbers, so that vessels for palm wine may be abundant. The women have also worked steadily in making
mats, so that many might be spread on the ground. Several boloko have been made. What a strange kind of arm-chair those
bolokos are! King Obindji delights to rest upon one. A large shade has been built, so that Quengueza and myself will
 plenty of room. Oralas are abundant, and meat has been smoked in abundance during these last few days.
At last the day of the feast has come. There is a great stir in the village. The hunters have all returned, the men have
also come back from their fishing excursion, and for the last few days a great quantity of palm wine has been collected.
Bakalai chiefs have come from all the surrounding country, with a great number of their wives and of their people; they
are all scattered about over the little olakas round the village. After the feast a grand palaver is to come off, and
the affairs of the country will be discussed. Friend Quengueza seems to be the King of the Kings, for they all show him
great marks of respect.
Toward noon the tables are set. Do not think for a moment that I mean real tables; I mean the mats are laid on the
ground. Under our shade several mats are put, and many are scattered under the trees round. Quengueza and I are to eat
under the shade, the other chiefs under the trees.
The drums begin to beat, wild songs are sung, and there is a great stir. The wives of the King have all turned cooks,
and are all busy; the village seems to be in a blaze of smoke, for every thing is cooking, and soon the repast is to be
All sorts of pleasant odors are coming out of these pots: what curious dishes some of them will be!
The drums are beating furiously again and again. Twenty of the King's wives have come out, each bringing a dish with
her, which they deposit on the mats.
Then Obindji came to Quengueza and to me, and bade us come and sit before what was presented to us,
 and tasted of every dish to show us that no food was poisoned, for such is the custom of the country.
What a curious bill of fare! I must give it to you, and I will try to remember it all.
First, there was a huge pot containing an enormous piece of an elephant, which had been boiling since the day before, so
that the meat might be tender. Another dish was the boiled smoked foot of an elephant, which had been specially cooked
for me, this being considered by many the best piece.
Then came a large piece of boiled crocodile, the broth of which was recommended to us, lemon juice and Cayenne pepper
having been bountifully mixed with it to give it a flavor. Then came a charming monkey, which had been roasted entire on
a blazing fire of charcoal. The little fellow seemed to be nothing but a ball of fat, and looked wonderfully like a
roasted baby. It was cooked to perfection, and really had a fine flavor.
Then a huge leg of a wild boar made its appearance, the flavor of which was very high, and it must have been killed days
before; but these people like their game high; in fact, it is often decomposed when eaten.
Then came the boiled tongue of the Bos brachicheros, the wild buffalo. Another dish was boiled buffalo ribs. This
latter had been cooked with the ndika, a kind of paste made from the seed of the wild mango fruit; this was put close to
me, Quengueza never touching the buffalo meat, some of his ancestors having long ago given birth to a buffalo (at least
so he said), and his clan, the Abouya, never taste buffalo.
Then came a dish of smoked mongon (otter); another of antelope, called kambi, and a beautiful little
ga-  zelle, called ncheri. These meats had all been smoked a long time. In the centre there were two huge baskets of
plantains, which were to be used as bread.
Do not think this is the end of the bill of fare. The fishes are still to come, as well as other African dainties.
An enormous dish of manatee was next brought in, which was immediately followed by another dish of boiled mullet. Then
came some land and water turtles. I wondered why a boiled snake had not made its appearance, and also some roast gorilla
and chimpanzee, these to be surrounded by a few mice and rats. But these are entirely Bakalai dishes, no Commi eating
It was a sumptuous feast. Obindji was in his glory, and that drummers sang, "Who can give such a feast to the Ntangani
except Obindji? Obindji has a fetich"—they continued singing—"that makes the wild beasts come to him, the
fish come to him, the white man come to him!"
Quengueza was seated on one side and I on the other, and round us stood the twenty wives and Obindji's slaves, to wait
upon us. Quengueza, who is a great gourmand, took a glance at every dish before him and concluded that he would go into
the manatee first, then he would follow up with some fish, and then would pitch into the fat monkey, finishing up with
antelope; and he said to me, in his bland and kind manner, that if there was room left he would eat some ncheri
(gazelle), but he intended specially to go into the wild boar and the manatee to his heart's content. "Then," said he,
close to my ear, "you will give me a little glass of brandy."
 I thought I would taste a little of every thing, and bring my stomach to its utmost capacity. Though it was against
etiquette, for Obindji could not eat with Quengueza, I told him we had better invite friend Obindji. We called the good
fellow, and made him sit with us amid the abundant cheer round us, for all were as merry as they could be.
His Bakalai Majesty was quite proud to eat with a fork which I presented him.
Since Obindji was to eat with us, an addition to the bill of fare—a dish of boiled gorilla—came for his
especial benefit; also a dish made of part of a large snake cooked in leaves, the smell of which made Obindji's mouth
The people all round us were eating. The first mouthful I put into my mouth caused cheer after cheer to go up. "The
ntanga is eating! The ntanga is eating of the elephant!" For I thought I would begin with King Elephant.
It was a pretty tough piece of meat, I assure you; the grain was very coarse, and the meat was somewhat tasteless and
rather dry. The boiled elephant's foot was better, and I rather liked it. The elephant meat I did not like; it was
really too tough.
Obindji recommended to me a bit of crocodile, and the wife who had cooked it said she had been very careful that there
was plenty of Cayenne pepper and of lemon juice, and she was sure the broth was excellent. I must say I did not like the
idea of eating of the crocodile; but I wanted to know how it tasted. The flesh was very white—somewhat fishy, I
thought—and the grain of the meat coarse. I did not like either the broth
 or meat. The former was so terribly hot with Cayenne pepper that it tasted of nothing else. I was glad to get through
with the crocodile.
The monkey was perfectly delicious; I had not enjoyed any thing so much for a long time, despite his looking so much
like a roasted baby. I am sure no venison at home could have tasted better.
The wild boar was so terribly high that I backed out, but friend Quengueza thought it was exquisite; and when he had
finished eating it, he told Obindji's head-wife to keep what was left for him, as he intended to eat the whole of it. At
the same time he got up as if he wanted to stiffen himself for more food, and then sat down, saying that he was ready to
go on again.
Just for fun I offered to friend Quengueza a piece of the tongue of the buffalo and part of his boiled rib. The old
chief recoiled, for none of his clan (the Abouya), as I have said, can eat of this meat, for they have a legend that
once one of their clan gave birth to such an animal; and if they were to eat of it disease would creep upon them, they
would die, and their women would give birth again to such a monster. Quengueza told Obindji that the vessels that cooked
the buffalo must be broken, for fear that his wives might cook his food in them.
Every clan has some kind of animal they do not eat. Quengueza assured me that when a boy he saw a woman who had given
birth to a crocodile. I scarcely touched the buffalo meat; the otter I did not like. When I came to the antelope my
appetite had gone, to my great sorrow, for I am very fond of this dish. I finished up my dinner with a slice of
pine-apple. I doubt very much if a more curious dinner could be given anywhere.