Saturday 11 April 2009

One a penny, two a penny

Well it is Easter, and with Easter - like Christmas - comes the traditional baking afternoon for simnel cake, hot cross buns and the like. It will be as that in this small patch of North Devon as it will in many other parts of the country. The kitchen will produce the delicious scents of spices drifting into the rooms all over the ground floor of the house and tease forth those childhood memories of my own mother doing exactly the same at this time of year. Smell is the strongest sense we possess for evoking memories – after eleven years, I can still take a sniff of a certain perfume and it instantly transports me back to the West Coast of the USA. That is beside the point, however, and has nothing whatsoever to do with activities in the realms of food.
Before I set about a bit of alchemy in the kitchen though I thought I would write about several food and drink items, the delights of which I found out about this morning.

Everyone has heard of bird’s nest soup, hundred-year eggs, black pudding and such culinary delights, but how about a new soft drink from India made from cow urine, mixed with herbs? What a delicious soft drink to serve with those heady summer picnics down by the river. Lashings and lashings of herbal cow pee, does not have quite the same evocative ring to it as ‘lashings and lashings of ginger beer’, but maybe my desire to live in the good old days of Enid Blyton stories is just getting the better of me. However, this drink is supposedly under development in India as a medicinal alternative to those dreadful Western soft drinks that are opposed by the Hindu nationalist organisation, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

And still on the subject of foods to delight your, perhaps, Easter chocolate-jaded palate, do any of you out there want to try out the cheese from Sardinia, which packs a punch when you eat it? I certainly don’t want to have a taste of casu marzu, and not because it is a type of pecorino cheese that probably smells worse than hot parmesan, but because of that added ingredient which packs the punch. Cheese flies lay their eggs in the cheese, the maggots of which then hatch to help the cheese ferment and give it that special flavour. You are advised to eat it before the maggots die but at the same time it has been known for them to jump out of the cheese whilst you are eating it – packing that left hook to the unsuspecting eye. Unfortunately, I do have to advise that if you are still interested in trying out this Sardinian sensation you will have to search the black market as it has been deemed unhygienic by the powers that be.

Not so unhygienic perhaps as the drink known as chichi, which is drunk in countries across South America. The key ingredient here can be maize or yucca. What is so unhygienic about that? Well it is cooked, chewed, spat back out and then fermented to make the drink. Oh lovely.

I think I shall stick to traditional Easter fare.

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