Whilst wandering around Marrakesh we’d sometimes stumble across long tables awash with small spiky green & orange fruits which I’d never seen before. And it was only after a trip into the wonderful Atlas Mountains that I discovered their true identity, when I started to spot them upon on many a roadside cactus. These were indeed Prickly Pears or Cactus Fruit, which are consumed by locals throughout North Africa as a refreshing Summer fruit & reminded me distinctly of Watermelon, jam-packed with tiny seeds. There’s also a skill involved in eating these, as the fruits have a thick skin & are covered in tiny thorns. I started to understand why some nations are keen on a prepared version of the fruit.
The Cactus Fruit or Nopales are actually very common in Southern Mexico, where they are integral to traditional digestive medicines, fermented into a fizzy alcoholic drink called Colonche and also appear on the Mexican flag, symbolising the ancient city of Tenochtitlan. In addition, the fruit features in traditional Mexican cooking as demonstrated in my trusty Mexican ‘Family Favourites’ cookbook, which has excellent recipes for Nopalitos (a broth with cheese) & the egg-based Nopales con Huevos Revueltos. And if anyone knows where I can buy these in the UK, please get in touch. I wished I’d stocked up when I had the chance.
I’m currently reading the brilliant ‘Colour: Travels through the Paintbox‘ by Victoria Finlay, which features a chapter on the Nopales & Cochineals of Central America. I learnt that millions of Cochineal beetles were once bred on huge Prickly Pear plantations every year before being manually picked off the cacti, then dried out & extracted of an acid used to make the red dye. The Carmine industry once made a fortune for the Spanish Empire during their reign of the Americas, who also kept the source of their valuable colouring secret until it was revealed by a maverick French botanist, Thierry de Menonville during the 18th century. I loved this tale of colour espionage & it also reminded me of Pierre Poivre, another French botanist who became famous for stealing cloves from the Dutch & the world’s sole clove plantation. Fascinating stuff!
I really enjoyed spending a few lazy days in the company of DH Lawrence as he savours life in one of his favourite countries. It was a sunny delight to follow him on his trip to Hueyapa in the hills, experience his haggling for cherry pie heliotrope at the Sunday market & relax with Corasmin the dog on the veranda.
I loved to read about the local flavours of Tepache, a fermented drink of pineapple rind & brown sugar (which sounds like the Mexican equivalent to Keralan Toddy), Cherimoyas, the sweet green custard apple (which I’m dying to taste) & Mezcal which goes so well with our Mexican Chipotle Chilli Luxury Chocolate.
The author also provides a fascinating insight into the weird & wonderful dances of this ancient country – there’s the comical Deer dance, the germinating dance of the Sprouting Corn & the bizarre Snake dance of the Hopi Indians. The latter is especially intriguing, & people would trail for hundreds of miles to watch men moving to pounding rhythms whilst holding live rattlesnakes in their mouths. A fascinating adventure through old Mexico!
Although Alan Whicker in his prime was way before my time, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching old footage of him over the past few days. It must have been amazing to see him discovering all these strange, exotic places in a time when the world was so much more mysterious & closed. He made shows about the South Seas, Mexico & the Orient way before the masses were even thinking of travelling to these places – what a life! Here’s a clip of Mr Whicker learning all about Kathakali, the strange & beautiful dance-theatre from Kerala, India.
On the 16th June, many countries around the world celebrate Father’s Day, which also seems to be a very popular reason to buy our luxury chocolate bars! However, Father’s Day is celebrated very differently across the places connected to our luxury chocolate…
Father’s day continues to grown in popularity across India. Among Hindus, the day is often celebrated with a special religious ritual (puja) dedicated to fathers, either at home or at the local temple. Fathers have a very high status in India, next only to god.
Here, it’s a big family day where people give gifts and prepare & eat a large meal together. Although in Mexico City’s Bosque de Tlalpan, the day is celebrated by a festival & Carrera del Día del Padre, which is a 21km race!
People of the Kathmandu region celebrate their equivalent, Gorkana Aunsi around late August. The event, which literally means ‘looking at father’s face’, involves gifts, sons & daughters performing ceremonies of respect to their fathers & also visits to the temple, as it coincides with new moon day in the Hindu calendar.