Thursday, October 25, 2007

about food

One of the pleasures of living where we do and how we do is that we enjoy a wide variety of foods. The seasons are opposite that of the US to a large extent and we have more growing seasons depending on the crop. At the moment, strawberries, watermelon, and mangos are just coming on and I bought some lovely sweet corn at the other day at the market. These are treats when you consider that soon the states will be into the full swing of a blustery winter. I get to eat fresh strawberries, for awhile anyway... its too hot to keep strawberries growing for long.

I also can buy a different variety of spices and herbs. Folks here amaze me with their ability to know what is edible and everything seems to be edible. Not just the guava, but the guava leaves. Not just the seeds for cumin but also the leaves. Rather a clever use of plants. They also eat durians which I don't know how they discovered they were edible.

There have been some real let downs in the spice department. Moving here, knowing I'm moving to "the spice islands" I expected a lot more. They have to import many spices anymore. When the Dutch East Indies Company was up and going strong (like in the 16 & 1700s), they had plantations of spices throughout the islands that we exported all over the world. They grew so many cloves that they started using them in cigarrettes. But slowly the growing moved towards India and mainland Asia where people used them in their foods. Now the clove cigarrette is all anyone wants to smoke and so they have to import cloves, they don't grow enough of them here. Cumin is still available but I can't find star annis, coriander or cardamom. And this surprises me. But traditionally those are more Indian spices that island spices. Except for heat, the food here can be surprisingly boring.

Coffee is the same story. There were scores of coffee plantations and the beans were highly prized. Now the best beans are bought by Starbucks and are actually imported back here for sale. They have to have good coffee beans around here somewhere but for some reason I've yet to find them. This is a major let down. The other let down was the discovery that traditionally coffee is mixed with cornmeal! I mean really, that doesn't even sound good! I haven't had the pleasure of trying any yet. Its an idea that is dying out I guess but some people swear by it.
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