#81 Sierra Leone: how to make a mousetrap from junk mail

thieving little bastard gnawed through a tupperware and ate my oatmeal

It’s pretty much impossible to live in New York City without occasionally doing battle with mice. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a well-maintained building, “doing battle” means calling the building staff, and getting them poison the living hell out of the mice. Easy.

But if you happen to be engaged to an animal-loving softie environmentalist, it’s not so easy. The first few times a mouse ripped into our bread or bananas or oatmeal, my (excessively?) warm-hearted fiancé yelled, “Noooo! You can’t kill our friend Mousey!”

OK, fine. “Our friend Mousey” is a dirty, food-thieving, disease-spreading vermin, but I won’t kill him. Yet.

To placate my (excessively?) gentle fiancé, I went to the hardware store, and bought some humane, non-lethal mousetraps. Fail. I then spent hours trying to plug every single hole in our walls and cabinets. Fail. I went to the store, bought a fleet of airtight canisters, and spent an evening moving all of our dry goods into them. Nope—the little rodent shithead still nibbled his way into our oatmeal. Time to bring out the poison for “our friend” Mousey.

Mousey, my friend! Want some oats and peanut butter? Just take a few steps this way...

And again, I got the puppy-dog eyes from my (excessively?) lovely fiancé: “Nooooooooo! Don’t poison Mousey!”

As I cleaned mouse pellets off our bookshelf—muttering vulgarities under my breath—I had one last, stupid idea, based loosely on a mousetrap design I saw online. I carefully balanced a piece of junk mail on the side of a shelf, and put a tall plastic garbage can underneath it. I loaded the garbage-can end of the junk mail with oats and peanut butter (Mousey’s favorite foods, apparently), so that Mousey would step onto the envelope… and hopefully land in the garbage can with a squeak and a thud. And just to make sure that Mousey wouldn’t be able to escape, I greased the sides of the garbage pail with corn oil.

eff you, Mousey

And guess what? It worked. We awoke to a bewildered, exhausted Mousey, trying unsuccessfully to scramble or leap his way out of the garbage can. We closed the trash can, marched over to the subway station, and put “our friend” Mousey on a 7 train to downtown Flushing. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a few oats, a Metrocard, a dollop of Skippy, some otherwise unwelcome junk mail from Chase Bank, and a greased trash can.

And none of this has anything to do with Sierra Leonean food. I was just so proud of my mouse-catching skills that I had to share.

groundnut (peanut) stew... Mousey woulda loved it, too bad he's in the wrong borough

In other news, Sierra Leonean and Guinean food are pretty damned tasty. And it turns out that in the great city of New York, Guinean and Sierra Leonean food are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week… but only if you’re willing to haul your ass up to a thoroughly unglamorous stretch of Webster Avenue, just underneath the Cross Bronx Expressway.

It’s arguably worth the trip, though, even if it means that you need to borrow Mousey’s Metrocard. B.B. African and American Restaurant is a classic New York West African spot, with no printed menu. You basically wander into the kitchen in the back of the restaurant, and make your selections from the steam table. In our typical style, we grinned goofily at the server behind the counter, professed our ignorance of West African cuisine, and asked for a pair of dishes loaded with a little bit of everything. She generously obliged, and served us two gigantic combo platters and two large bottles of water for a grand total of $20.

cassava leaf stew... so sad, Mousey woulda liked this one, too

When we visited, B.B. was serving only four dishes, three of which were variations on standard classics served in most West African restaurants: a groundnut (peanut) stew with unusually tender chunks of beef, a cassava-leaf stew (which, interestingly, tasted even peanuttier than the peanut stew; “our friend” Mousey would’ve loved it), and a deliciously slimy okra stew. The fourth dish—which I’d never encountered in other NYC African restaurants—was an interesting fish stew, made with firm pieces of baked fish and a surprisingly sweet, dark sauce that seemed to have a hint of molasses, tomato paste, and onion. All four dishes were solid; none were outstanding.

The restaurant, does, however, deserve some bonus points for serving the most interesting hot sauce I’ve eaten lately. The server plunked a mustard squeeze bottle on the table, filled with an odd orange mixture of mustard and hot peppers, halfway between French’s and a Cholula-style Mexican hot sauce. I didn’t love it, but it was an entertaining addition to the meal. And it was probably more interesting—and definitely far tastier—than a mousetrap made from junk mail.

have fun in Flushing, "my friend"!

B.B. African and American Restaurant on Urbanspoon

B.B. African and American Restaurant
1715 Webster Avenue, Bronx
Subway: 174th-175th Streets (B, D trains)


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