Results tagged “barnaby”

Eggs that can't be beaten

ghana
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Smbarnabystreetegg0001.jpgLast night Barnaby stayed up quite late touring the bars of Takoradi, so when he got up this morning he was ready for a hearty breakfast.  And when he went out into the street he realized that he wasn't going to have much trouble finding one - every street corner was filled with little stalls, and every other stall was run by a friendly lady selling some kind of delicious-looking food.

So it didn't take long to find what he was looking for: street egg.  A big herby peppery omelette cooked fresh right in front of him - then stuffed into a big wodge of sweet doughy bread and cooked some more.  Yum.  Just the thing to get you ready for a hot day in the market - especially when you wash it down with a great big mug of hot condensed milk and sugar (or as it's known round here, "coffee").

And as he chewed thoughtfully (for him) on his egg sandwich, he thought back to some of his favourite parts of the journey.  Smtakoradicorner0001.JPGChermoula sardines in Morocco, deep-fried fataya in Senegal, rice galettes in Mali, porc au four in Burkina Faso ... and last night's goat kebabs and spicy octopus, of course ... they'd all been delicious, and they'd all been made and eaten on the street. 

Perhaps this was no coincidence?  The only disappointing food he'd had on the whole trip had been in restaurants and hotels.  Street food must be where it's at, he decided.  And went up the road for some keliweli and spicy yam chips.

Better lait than never

burkina faso
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Smbarnabyyoghurt0001.jpgBarnaby's met so many cheese-makers on this trip that he's starting to consider himself a bit of an expert.  So since our cheddar-making experiments in Morocco he's been a bit disappointed by the lack of dairy products.  He met the occasional Fulani cattle-herder in Senegal and Mali, and admired their milk and butter, but that's been about it.

So once he got to Burkina Faso he was quite excited to see just how much people like yoghurt.  Apparently you can't even open a telecentre here without a stock of high quality yoghurt to go with your fax machine and mobile phone cards.  Smtelecentreyaourt0001.jpgPeople will happily have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or just for a snack in between with a nice fresh baguette.  Perfect!

Then he noticed their slightly disturbing tendency to pair it with offal.  He's never been a big fan of offalSmoffalmenu0001.jpgBut in Ouagadougou, he pulled himself together and gave it a try: a classic baguette, yoghurt and liver combo.  Delicious!  Meaty, juicy and rich, with all the dairy goodness he'd been waiting for.  He might wait a bit before moving on to the brain, heart and kidney versions, though.

Wine from the treetops

burkina faso
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Smbarnabyronier0001.JPGToday Barnaby thought he'd get Anna something nice for her birthday.  He'd noticed that she hadn't been getting her usual booze ration recently, what with spending so much time in Muslim countries.  He didn't have any money to buy any, but recently he'd heard the villagers here in Tengrela (in Burkina Faso) talking about a special kind of wine they get from the trees.

This seemed unlikely, but in the early morning he climbed up a ronier palm tree to have a look - and found a big calabash full of juice.  It didn't look much like wine, but when he had a taste he realised it was already fermenting and just a bit alcoholic, although very fresh-tasting - a bit like fresh coconut juice.  Delicious!

Smbarnabypalmwine0001.JPGSo he settled down with a bottle to wait for her to finish cooking (Awa was teaching her how to make pea beignets and peanut sweet potatoes - yum).  But after a couple of hours waiting, he was really quite thirsty, and thought he should just check the palm wine was still OK.

And a good thing he did!  It had been fermenting all day, and was much stronger now.  She probably wouldn't like the strong taste, he thought - much safer just to drink it. 


Barnaby gets the hump

morocco
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Smbarnabycamelkebabs0001.JPG

Barnaby's not speaking to us. He's making a silent protest against our decision to eat camel brochettes today. (They were delicious, especially the chunks of hump fat.)

Normally he's quite keen to try new things. But back in Merzouga on the edge of the desert he met Leila, who carried him gracefully through the dunes. He rather liked Leila.

Smbarnabycamel0001.jpg

So when he saw huge hunks of camel meat hanging up outside the butchers' shops here in the Western Sahara, he was less than impressed.

Poor Barnaby. Maybe we'll try to cheer him up tonight with some local oysters. As far as we know he's never befriended any bivalves.

(Find out more about the popularity camel meat here.)

Pistils at dawn

morocco
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Smbarnabysaffron0001.jpgToday Barnaby got up before dawn, for the first time ever.  He'd heard there was 'vegetable gold' growing up in the mountains around Taliouine here in Morocco.  But all he could find were tiny green leaves growing in tiny square plots of earth.

Then Barnaby noticed a beautiful purple flower.  He thought it was lovely.

Some women who were up at dawn too told him to pick the flowers, carefully pull out the bright red three-pronged pistils, dry them and use them as a spice in his tagines and couscous dishes.  Great, thought Barnaby; he'd found the vegetable gold!

But then he found out you need to pick 150 flowers to make just 1g of spice.  And picking pistils out of crocuses with paws isn't easy.  No wonder saffron's the most expensive product in the world!

Where the warka women work

morocco
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Smbarnabywarka0001.jpgEver since he got to Morocco, Barnaby has been searching for warka.  He'd already learnt about yufka in Turkey and filo in Greece.  So he was excited to hear that in Morocco they also love incredibly thin pastry - but have a totally different way of making it!

But could he find it?  It kept turning up in food like the famous pastilla pie, and the little briwat pastries he saw all over the place.  But nobody seemed to sell it on its own, let alone actually make it themselves - so where did it come from?

Well, today he found out.  Hidden away in their homes down little alleyways in medinas all over the country, there are women like Khadija, sitting at big round hotplates, making warka to sell to restaurants and patisseries.

But rather than rolling the dough out like their Turkish cousins, they take handfuls of sloppy, sticky dough and smear it directly onto the hot metal.  Ouch! thought Barnaby - especially when he tried it himself.  It's not easy, particularly if your hands are furry.  Best leave it to the warka women ...

Black and green and red all over

morocco
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Smbarnabyoliveshower0001.jpgToday Barnaby was sitting under a tree in Morocco, minding his own business, when what should hit him but a shower of olives!  

Way back in May in Turkey, he'd seen little flower buds on the olive trees.  By the time he got to Greece the flowers were out.  Then in Italy he saw actual olives, although they were way too small and hard to eat.  Even in Spain in September, they looked ripe but weren't quite ready.  Finally, he thought - they're falling off!

Smbarnabyblackolives0001.JPGBut when he took a closer look he realised they weren't.  There were wrinkly black ones, shiny fat purple ones, and hard green ones - all coming from the same tree.  And in fact, there were ladders.  With people up them, pulling the olives off the branches by hand.  He thought maybe they were picking them too soon, but when he asked, they told him that it's best this way - they wanted all three colours to cure and to make tasty olive oil with.

And when he tasted one, he found out they're still too bitter to eat!  He's just going to have to wait until they're cured.

I can't believe it's butter

morocco
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Smbarnabysmen0001.jpgToday Barnaby went up into the High Atlas mountains - way up into the hills, past the Todra Gorge and everything.  He found his way to the village of Aït Hani, where he met some very knowledgeable women, Rabha and Hadda, who taught him all sorts of interesting things about vegetables and couscous and lots lots more.

But the most exciting part was when he came across an old earthenware pot.  By the smell, he could tell it was cheese - and quite strong, old cheese at that.  It reminded him a bit of his adventures back in Munster, in fact.

So he was quite taken aback when the women assured him that it wasn't cheese at all: it was butter.  No ordinary butter, though - this was the famous aged rancid butter they call smen.  It's kneaded (sometimes with herbs and spices), cooked (although not always), salted and then kept for years until it gets just the right taste.  They gave him some with some couscous to try, and he thought it was very interesting.

Four hours later, he still thought it was quite interesting, although he also still thought it tasted quite like he'd been sick in the back of his mouth.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy

france
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Smbarnabycitronpresse10001.jpgToday Barnaby spent the morning browsing the market in Samoëns.  The fruit and vegetables were lovely, as was the enormous array of cured sausages, but he spent most of his time admiring the cheese: Beaufort, Abondance, Tomme, and in particular the Reblochon which reminded him of the wonderful time he had all those months ago in Munster.

Anyway, all that cheese can give a bear a thirst, so he stopped for a refreshing drink.  Trying to look like a local, he casually asked for a citron pressé - he'd never tried one before but has picked up enough French to know this means "lemon in a hurry" - or something like that.

Smbarnabycitronpresse20001.jpgImagine his dismay when they brought him a glass of pure, sour lemon juice.  Yuk!

But once we'd explained that you're supposed to add your own sugar and water, he gave it a try - and its zingy fresh taste cheered him up immediately.

Until he asked for the bill and they charged him €3.60, that is.  Cheeky.

Having an offal day

italy
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Smbarnabysandwich0001.JPGToday Barnaby went for lunch at the Nerbone food stand in the covered market in Florence.  He thought he should order something typically Florentine, so he ordered what he saw lots of the market traders were having - a lampredotto sandwich.

He wasn't actually sure what lampredotto was, but expected it would be something nice.  Sounds a bit like lamb, he thought.  He likes lamb.  Or maybe risotto.  He likes risotto too.

Smbarnabyhorror0001.JPGBut then he took a look inside ...

Roll out the barrels

greece
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Smbarnabyfeta.jpgToday Barnaby met Andonis Nikolopoulos, a feta cheese maker in Floka, a village near ancient Olympia in Greece. 

Having already learnt about Munster in France, sheep's and goat's cheeses in Poland, and bladdered cheeses in Romania, Barnaby thought he probably knew pretty much all there is to know about cheese.  This is not the first time that Barnaby has been completely wrong.

He was quite surprised when Andonis explained to him how real feta is made by adding live yoghurt (not just rennet) to the sheep's milk.  He was even more surprised when he heard that the cheese ferments in tightly sealed wooden barrels - apparently it gives off so much gas that the barrels nearly explode when you open them!

He also realised that he didn't really know what good traditional feta tastes like - rich, creamy, tangy and salty all at the same time.  He wondered about trying to make his own feta, in fact - but now that feta has protected appellation status, apparently it's not supposed to be made by bears.  He was quite disappointed, but we suspect he'll have forgotten about it in the morning.

Spoons away

greece
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Smbarnabysubmarine0001.JPGSo this bear walks into a bar, right, and asks for a submarine.  And the barman says:

"Certainly, Barnaby.  Vanilla or mastic?"

Barnaby had heard of the mysterious "submarine", or υποβρύχιο ("eepovrihio"), way back in Romania.  It's a centuries-old recipe, steeped in history and social ritual (apparently) - but basically a chilled version of candy floss.  Take a spoonful of fondant, dip it in a glass of iced water, and then put it in your mouth.  And repeat.

But he hadn't actually seen one, or got a chance to try it, until he got to Greece.  Once he'd arrived in Thessaloniki, he was excited to find that the ouzerís (just like a Hungarian wine bar is a borozó, a Greek ouzo bar is an ouzerí) still serve them!  So he could sit at a table on the pavement with the old men, watching the world pass by while sucking sweet sticky stuff off a spoon.  Bear heaven.

From tree to treacle

turkey
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Smbarnabycarobtree0001.jpgToday Barnaby got rather over-excited when he came across a carob tree growing among the castle ruins in the little village of Kaleköy on Turkey's Mediterranean coast.

Ever since Barnaby first tasted the deeply fruity and complex treacle-y molasses called pekmez (at Zeliş Farmhouse), he has been a bit obsessed by it.  (He gets like that sometimes).  He has sampled it in grape, mulberry, apple, sugar beet and fig varieties (all delicious), but his clear favourite is the carob kind.  So when he found carob growing wild all over the place in Kaleköy, he couldn't help but investigate...

Crazy, crazy honey

turkey
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Smbarnabyrhododendron0001.jpgBeing an avid amateur classicist, as well as a honey-loving bear prone to the odd spot of light substance abuse, one of Barnaby's favourite stories is the episode from Xenophon's Anabasis in which thousands of retreating Greek soldiers are rendered helpless by the narcotic effects of the local honey.

Imagine his excitement on arriving in the Kaçkar mountains in north-eastern Turkey and being told by the local Hemşin people that it all happened right here! 

Show me the honey, he thought.

Sadly it turned out to be the wrong time of year for honey.  Or perhaps not so sadly - it turns out that the honey in question is known as deli balı or "crazy honey", and is made from a particular species of rhododendron long known for its strange and potentially dangerous effects.

So Barnaby had to make do with admiring (and sniffing) the flowers.  But he did sleep very well last night.

Doing a twirl in the harem

turkey
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Smottomancupboard0001.JPGToday Barnaby explored an old Ottoman mansion in Safranbolu.  He was very interested in the strict divide between the public selamlık and private haremlik sides of the house. 

He learnt that this was due to the culture of women having to stay at home and out of sight of men outside their family (which he has noticed still persists today in some particularly conservative parts of Turkey). 

This meant that when male visitors came to the house, they were entertained by the family's menfolk in the public selamlık, while the womenfolk stayed hidden behind closed doors in the domestic haremlik.

However, this system had one potentially disastrous flaw:  Turkish men not generally being renowned for their domestic flair in the kitchen department, all the cooking happened on the harem side of the house, leaving the men and their guests in danger of growing hungry.  How could the food cross the border without people seeing each other?

The ingenious solution was this rotating cupboard.  Food was placed inside from the harem side, spun round and collected by the men on the other side, without the women having to expose an inch of themselves to the guests. 

Curious as to which side he would feel most comfortable on, Barnaby spent the day spinning between them both.  Click here (or the picture) to open the cupboard and watch him twirl.

Goodbye from Barnaby

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Smbarnabyolaffront0001.JPG Well it's goodbye from Barnaby. 

While staying in the Carpathian mountains with Anca and Eduard, Barnaby found a soul-mate in their bear, Olaf.

Smbarnabyolafback0001.JPG Barnaby has decided to let us continue our journey without him, while he starts a new life in Romania with Olaf. 

We are very sorry to see him go, but understand he has beary needs we can't satisfy.  We wish them both well.

Getting bladdered in Bran

romania
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Smbarnabybrancheese0001b.jpgToday Barnaby went to visit the famous Bran castle in the Carpathian Mountains.  The castle was closed, so instead he found a nice local cheese farmer to talk to.

Nicu Solovastru has 300 sheep and 10 cows, which spend their summers grazing in the meadows high above the castle.  He is proud of the fact he uses 100% natural products and traditional methods.

Even the cheese moulds are natural: the smoked sheep's cheeses (caşcaval fumat), which Barnaby thought tasted not unlike Polish oscypek, are shaped in wooden moulds Nicu carves himself, and the cow's cheeses (brȃnza de burduf) are aged in either large sheepskin sacks or perfectly round calves' bladders.

Smbladderedcheese0001.JPGBarnaby wanted to buy a bladdered cheese but Anna and Matt prefered the smoked cheese so he had to settle for that.  Domnul Solovastru has kindly invited Barnaby to come back next summer to make cheese with him in the mountains, so that will be his chance to get properly bladdered.

Ready salted

romania
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Smbarnabysaltywell0001.JPGBarnaby was intrigued to find a natural well of salty water in Botiza, a village in the Maramureş region of Romania (where we stayed after we got stuck in the mud).  We watched as one after the other, villagers came to collect a bucket or two of salty water using the long sticks.

One man kindly invited Barnaby to his home and let him taste the water.  Ugh!  It was really salty.  It's used to preserve meat, cabbage, cucumbers and other things.  How convenient to have ready salted water on hand, thought Barnaby.

Testing the waters

romania
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Smbarnabyvaltoare0001.JPGToday Barnaby happened upon this whirlpool bath while exploring the village of Săpânta in the beautiful Maramureş region of Romania. 

At first he thought it must be some kind of jacuzzi for small people like him, and he would've jumped in were it not so very cold.

Later he discovered it is in fact a vâltoare - a cunning eco-washing machine, created by tapping off a stream from the river and channelling it into a large slatted basin. 

It's used by the women of the village to wash the rugs they have woven so as to fluff the tassles and tighten the weave.  Each rug has a little coloured thread at the edge to identify its creator.  The women of Săpânta are famous for their rugs, and have been using vâltoare to finish them off for decades, if not hundreds of years.

Being fluffy enough already, Barnaby opted to buy one of the lovely rugs rather than jump in the vâltoare with them.

Having a cracking time

romania
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Smbarnabyeggs0001.jpgThis weekend Barnaby was lucky enough to be staying with the Dindelegan family in Zalău, who celebrate both the Catholic and Orthodox Easters, due to a Greek Catholic connection.  This meant Barnaby got to eat delicious roast baby lamb and other yummy things expertly cooked by Ileana Dindelegan. 

But not before taking part in the Romanian custom of egg cracking...  Brightly coloured boiled eggs, traditionally red round here although painted with intricate patterns in other regions, are employed in a competitive round-the-table contest not unlike the British schoolyard game of conkers - if your egg stays intact, you win.  Barnaby turned out to be a champion egg cracker.
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