In the second episode of A Landlady's Diary, Zara G. meets Henry, a carnivore from Colombia, and has her first introduction to the lifestyle and habits of a paying guest.

Take the Colombian boy, Henry, a strange one as far as his eating habits were concerned. Although come to think of it, he also had curious ways with bed making.

From time to time as a landlady, I have to go into a lodger’s room to put something in their room they have asked for. One such morning when I was pottering around doing things about the house, I remembered that Henry had asked for an extra blanket. I walked in and I could swear that I had heard him leave the house, to find a huge pile moulded in the shape of a human being carefully placed in the centre of the bed. I muttered an apology and reversed very speedily out of the room. When I called out to say could I give him the blanket, no reply. Upon investigation, it emerged that the human shaped mound was not Henry; it was the entire contents of his suitcase which had been arranged in a neat pile! I wonder what was going through his mind when he sculpted the heap. Most odd.

The very first morning he came to stay with me, he ventured into the local parade of shops and came home with two very large bags. At a rough guess, and as quite a seasoned cook who does own all sorts of measuring gadgets (but all remain unopened in their original packaging), one bag had at least 10 kilos of meat (I knew it was meat, because the bag had burst) and the other bag had probably the same amount of tomatoes. I also noticed that he had bought a bottle of sunflower oil.

I am very interested in everything pertaining to food as you will find out in time, so I was rather curious and interested to find out what he was preparing when I heard him moving around in the kitchen.

What I witnessed was something I had not seen before. He chopped perhaps half the meat and the same quantity of tomatoes, poured what seem to be cups full of oil, fried all of this for a short time. I waited for more to happen, but when nothing else happened, I asked what next. He turned the gas off. Got himself a plate and dished out most of it and sat and ate it. I looked aghast at the damage he was doing to his arteries.

Soon after he had finished he asked if I had a toothpick. I happen to have some, gave him one and he proceeded quite unashamedly to excavate the slivers of meat that had got stuck between his very tightly compacted teeth in his over crowded mouth.

Next morning for breakfast, he took out the left-overs from the fridge and broke a very large chunk of bread, dunked it in the solidified shiny blobs of grease and meat and called it breakfast and off he went to somewhere like Tottenham Court Road to learn and improve his English.

This ritual was repeated practically daily and I never saw him eat anything else.

Perhaps he had chosen a wrong course. A few basic lessons in cooking a good healthy meal would not have gone amiss.

Who knows, the next one in could be a master chef — I have always hoped that one day I would be lucky enough to have student staying with me whose main passion is food. If that were to come true, what fun both the student and the landlady could have; it would make the whole experience of having all these language students lodging in my house an enriching one and something to be savoured.

I wait for the phone call from the school to tell me where and who the next student they hope to place in my home, hails from.


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