Friday 11 May 2012

Beef. Still expensive at half the price...

I have been a bit crook over the last ten days or so. Actually, at one point I thought I was dying and then I began to worry why it was taking so long. Had I been in possession of a bathtub, it would have been a most convenient repository for my festering body, all Marcia having to do being sluicing me down with a bucket of water every now and then. I shan’t go into gruesome detail save to say it was awful. In Africa we must all carry the germs, bacteria and parasites endemic to the region but a normal, healthy individual’s immune system beats these back into a benign state of equilibrium. If one does get the upper hand, however, weakening the body, the rest of the opportunistic little bastards dive in to give their host a good kicking so what may have started out as a bout of malaria quickly degenerates into Typhoid, Dysentery and Bronchitis, the muscular spasm occasioned by a hacking cough eliciting unpleasant and uncontrollable explosive venting at the other end.

I was so ill, I could eat no food whatsoever for four days without quickly transferring it from the very temporary home that was my ravaged stomach into the bucket which by then had become my constant companion. I could not even bear the smell of scotch, let alone get one down my neck and have not touched a drop since so some good has come from all my suffering. I can’t see alcoholics getting such treatment on the NHS, though, unless they were admitted for something else and were infected by the food and hygiene standards.

Still, I am on my feet now (I am lighter on my feet by several kilos as well) and, unusually sober, can start considering the birthday party Marcia wants to throw for me on Saturday. Marcia has been planning this for a while but whenever she asked me anything at all about my preferences while I was in extremis, I hardly encouraged her. Who would I like to invite? No-one. What did I want to eat? I gagged at the thought. Did I want a cake? Marcia, please go away and die a thousand deaths…

With only a day to go it is really too late for me to invite anyone but I know that Nice Paul will come and Dominic will be here so that’ll do me. Marcia, though, has invited loads of people so the place will be humming. With a lot of mouths to feed Marcia and I decided that we needed plenty of Picanha (top sirloin cap) and Lombo (tenderloin). We decided that 20kgs of Picanha and 14 of Lombo would be about right. The Lombo we would barbecue whole, some of the Picanhas we could roast and slice thinly, others we would cut thick so they stand on their edges and grill Brazilian style with plenty of rock salt on the edges before searing the sides quickly and then butterfly cutting the slices open. We would also have plenty of sauce chasseur, sweet potatoes, grilled plantain, salads, coleslaw, beans in palm oil, funge, quisaca (a spinach made of pounded manioc leaves and peanuts), lobster salad, crabs etc. No one will leave hungry, that’s for sure.

Picanha (Top Sirloin Cap or Coulotte)
Lombo (Teenderloin)
I will be honest with you, I have no feel for the price of things nowadays. Beyond that which interests me, I haven’t a clue. I know how much fags and whisky are but a litre of milk? No idea. So I was more than a little stunned when I saw the invoice for the meat. US850 (£531). Gulp. How can meat be so bloody expensive? And these were wholesale rates from Marcia’s supplier. We sell meat in the shop so I trotted down there and looked in the freezer. Sure enough, we were selling, albeit smaller cuts, at much more than the wholesale price per kilo, and we could not sell it fast enough. Gosh.

Last year, an international survey declared Luanda the most expensive city in the world. Clearly, then, this was an example. I wondered what the same quantity and type of meat would cost in UK, so I went on line and had a look. I was in for another shock. Had I bought that meat in UK from Smithfields, the bill would have come to $1472 (£920). Crickey! That’s only a hundred quid short of being double the price in Angola! How is that possible? UK has excellent worldwide communications and easy access to world markets, a huge and efficient transport and distribution infrastructure and loads of competitive retailers so how come Angola, with all its problems, can sell imported meat cheaper, nearly half the price they do in UK? I wonder what the wholesale price would have been in Brazil or Argentina…

By the way, I realise I do know the price of one other commodity, fuel. Petrol is 60 US cents a litre, about 37p. Diesel is 40 cents (25p a litre). SL cigarettes are $1 (62p), imported fags double that and whisky (Grants, White Horse, Famous Grouse) $12 (£7.50). Carlsberg beer is $1.25 (78p) for a 33cl bottle. These are retail prices. Wholesale you can knock a third off.

Since I am evidently in the mood, I nipped down the shop to check out the prices of some other staples. Bear in mind these are our shop prices so there is quite a mark up. Thai polished jasmine rice is $1.24 (78p) a kilo, bread is 30 cents (19p) a loaf, eggs are $4 (£2.50) per dozen, milk is $1.50 (93p) per litre, bottled mineral water is 83 cents (52p) per litre, 100% fruit juice litre $3.50 (£2.18), 250g coffee $3.50 (£2.18), sugar kilo $2 (£1.25), butter 250g $1.50 (93p), choc chip cookies 150g $1.50 (93p), tinned fruit salad 450g $2.50 (£1.56), flour kg $2.50 (£1.56), cooking oil litre $3 (£1.87) tinned tuna 185g $1.50 (93p). I have no idea how the grocery prices compare with UK and I can’t be buggered to look them up. I left UK over twenty years ago but I have a sneaking suspicion if I ever went back there I would be left slack jawed at the prices. Perhaps someone will post a comment and let me know how much a pint of decent bitter is.

Anyway, I no longer feel as aggrieved as I did when I first saw that meat invoice so I might actually enjoy eating it rather than choking on it while mentally working out how much each mouthful was costing me or, worse still, calculating just how much the scraps left on the plates would come to.

So tomorrow, I shall just be grateful I have made it to 53 and shall do my best to stack on all the kilos I just lost so if you turn up, keep your hands and feet away from my mouth and you should be OK.


  1. well I wondered where you have been very glad you survived !!!
    you have more lives than the proverbial cat, have you not

  2. Hi John, I guess you are right but I ought not to push my luck.

    I am dreadfully sorry about Mabel. It is only today that I am catching up and I was quite sad to read your post.

  3. I, too, wondered how you were doing. Am glad to see you pulled through. Hope your tummy is ready for a taste of all the items on your birthday menu!

    I have a few kilos of excess weight i'll be glad to give you--consider it my birthday gift, and if you don't like them, please don't return them to me!


  4. Oh, and i forgot in all that to wish you a very happy birthday!

  5. Yes, welcome back and happy birthday.

  6. Happy birthday! I misplaced my airline ticket, so I am sorry I cannot attend.

    I'm sorry about your bout with everything in Africa. Good luck, God bless.

    And your prices are about like ours. I'm wondering, though: why are eggs so expensive there?

  7. Good to see you back and getting better - enjoy your party!

    btw - those prices are extraordinary cheap when compared against Australian prices. If too many grey nomads in Australia read about them you may end up with a whole host of Aussie retirees migrating to Angola (purely for the fishing, of course!)

  8. Maybe this illness and the aversion it has (temporarily) caused to scotch might kick-start a new, alcohol free, healthy lifestyle?

    Nah. Pour a dram for me. Happy Birthday Tom!

    PS I have man-flu at the moment which is, of course, much much worse than typhoid. ;-)

  9. Btw - a pint of Marston's Pedigree will set you back anywhere between £1.50 to £2.50 depending on how clean the sawdust is on the floor.

  10. I second JohnD's comment about being cheaper than Aussie prices. When we were in Angola we used to complain about the price of everything. After we moved back to Australia we were in for a shock. The salary dropped a fair bit, mostly due to having to pay tax. The weekly trolley at the shops was still the same as Angola. We also had to pay rates, water bills etc... Petrol is 1.50 per litre. Made me glad we do not run cars on water though, it costs twice that for a 600ml bottle of water at a petrol station.

    About the only thing that was cheaper was the schooling. Our girls are in a public school. For the UK readers, that is a state or government school. In Luanda they were in a private school.

    We have not been able to get Picanha here because we did not know what the translation was. Now we know, it might be on the coals at home this weekend.

  11. And Tom, a packet of Sofia's choice of fags (40 in a pack) is $20.30.

    Grants - $33

    I wonder how much of that is Sin Tax and how much is charging what they can get away with.

  12. Not sure where Chris drinks but if there are pretty girls there your looking at £4 for a pint, slightly less for bitter. So despite the dreaded lurgy you were wise to jump ship when you did.

  13. SB - all the girls look pretty after a few pints of Pedigree.

  14. Christ on a rusty bike, you get a cold and it's all poop and tears. grow a pair man, for fuck's sake!

    The reason meat - and everything else - costs so much in the UK is because we don't want the poor littering the aisles in the shops. They have their own places to shop, where they can buy reconstituted connective tissue masquerading as some mouth-watering meal such as chicken nuggets!

    I find the cheapest way to get meat is to drive badly and alsways carry a chainsaw!

  15. Barbara Seifert23 May 2012 at 19:06

    Hi Tom, As promised - back again on our blog after a long time .... Brilliant article, the beef article. But I am shocked about what I read about your health..... U sure U only lost a few kilos??? My god - amazing how your survived this.
    Happy Birthday btw, though it's a bit too late I realize. Wish U all the best and GOOD HEALTH!!! And good luck for your construction site :-))


  16. I know you are busy
    but a small post would be gud!


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