I’ve been feeling very Mexico lately – no reason really. I haven’t been south of the border in ages and I have no plans to go in the near future. But I’ve been dreaming about it, so I decided to feature a few photos from Mexico for this week’s Wanderfood Wednesday (and TravelPhoto Thursday, and Photo Friday!), to indulge my camera’s appetite more than anything. Enjoy some eye candy from Mexico!
So, if you’re like most people, you hear Darjeeling and you think tea. As well you should! Darjeeling is best known for the tea, and also known for the best tea. The finest tea, in fact, whose flavor is not replicated anywhere else in the world.
Darjeeling tea plants cover the slopes of this Himalayan region of West Bengal. I managed a glimpse of the tea pickers with my iphone from the car as we rounded a bend – as you can see the tea plants cling to the hillsides….so do the roads, and apparently, so do the tea pickers!
Here are the goods freshly picked:
Here is the tea being measured for prefect brewing:
And here are the cups poured for tasting:
A visit to a plantation factory in the region is probably not worth all the hype. You’d have to visit early in the morning to see the activity of sorting, and without a guide you’ll have no clue what goes on in each of the machines. Fortunately for our guide, we did happen to catch a few workers loading a conveyor with fresh leaves for drying:
And that was just one load…..of many:
But tea isn’t the only thing you’ll find to taste in Darjeeling. They also grow plenty of other good stuff, namely, spices (including saffron), nuts, and berries.
These food vendors are perfectly situated along the long walk up the hill to get to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the Darjeeling Zoo, well worth the effort even on the hottest of days.
Yes, those peanuts and berries were wonderfully familiar…and delicious! But what really got my attention was this roadside snack mix I saw being served up in rolled paper cones (like above), and being gobbled up by local kids on their walk home from school.
Basically, you get a scoop of this stuff, to which you can add an optional mix of fresh chopped onions, peppers and cilantro. Then, to seal the deal, fresh lime juice is squeezed all over it! I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was – kind of breakfast cereal flakes with the crunchy texture and flavor of corn chips. But when you add the lime juice (a must!), and the fresh onion/cilantro mix (I know, I know, last thing you want to eat from a street vendor in India – but I didn’t get sick, I promise!), you’ve got yourself a perfect taste of Mexico right in the heart of the Himalayas. For this Californian, a taste of home was more than welcome, and such a delightful break from Indian. Only thing missing was guacamole!
So there you have a taste of what there is to taste in Darjeeling. I can’t stop thinking about this snack mix, it’s delightfully addictive, and I’m craving it now! Almost to the point of begging anyone who might be headed to Darjeeling to bring me back a sack of it. Or better yet, if anyone knows how those flakes are actually made and what goes into them, please share a recipe!
Had I been in front of rather than behind the camera that day, I might have looked something like this Himalayan Bear (as observed at the Darjeeling Zoo):
This post was prepared especially for sharing on Wanderfood Wednesday – be sure to follow the link to find other wanderful foodies and blogs about food!
The fall season is evident everywhere in Japan, so here I’ve picked three elements and three places to experience them.
FOOD – Tokyo
For the Japanese, food presentation is as important as quality and taste, and everything looks so incredibly good! Here are some tasty pictures from the food halls in the basement floors of Tokyo Department stores, where presentation is everything, and everything is presented in the seasonal theme: AUTUMN.
FESTIVALS – Kurashiki
This festival just seemed to spring up out spontaneously out of nowhere, and the whole town poured out to participate.
FOLIAGE – Nikko
Where else but Nikko National Park to capture the colorful changing of leaves in Japan? I imagine this place is beautiful any time of year, but to catch the fall foliage was an incredible treat for my senses!
As I was preparing and packing for my trip to Nepal, I came across a BBC headline “Nepal hit by severe goat shortage”. Already loaded up with my own bags and camera gear, and a 50 lb. bag of donated North Face gear which I agreed to transport to Nepal, I joked that I would not be forking out another airline baggage fee to bring a goat with me, especially considering the fate awaiting the beast.
I am arriving in Nepal during the 15 day festival of Dashain. (one moment please while I resource some local experts, wikipedia, and some other blogs). Basically, Dashain is a blend of Hindu worship to the goddess Durga and animistic harvest traditions, ultimately translating into the ritualistic sacrifice of animals, particularly goats.
This is hard to stomach for a vegetarian as myself. Our drive from the Kathmandu airport passed several roadside goat gatherings, where they are amassed and roped and living out their last few days before taking their turn at the makeshift guillotine for goats. I can’t imagine what goes through their minds, if anything, as they watch their goat brothers being slit and skinned and stretched and hung, blood everywhere. I would probably be freaking out. But the goats, they seem at peace with it all. Or just stupid. I prefer to think the former, because it takes in incredibly wise and evolved soul to transcend the impending mass slaughter that these earthly humans perform on them. Tell me again who is the more evolved species, in a spiritual sense? I often wonder…
Any other time of year would find Nepal an easy place to be a vegetarian. I can always fill my belly with the traditional staple meal of Daal Baat (rice and lentils). But Dashain marks the time when families gather and meals are all part of the celebration – so families will serve the very best meat they have available, and that varies somewhat depending on the caste and wealth status. For most Nepali families, this is a goat. There are some who sacrifice a chicken, while a very few of only the very wealthiest families will slaughter a water buffalo (I’m not certain how that creature is all that different than the sacred cow, but they’ll kill, cook and eat it while the cows and bulls are left to roam free on the streets).
I observe, and I question; and when necessary I put the lens between me and what I am watching to lessen the impact on my conscience. Such was the case when we wandered past a courtyard where a young boy sat dangling his little legs off a wall as he watched his father and uncle prepping the goats. The heads of the goats sat nearby in puddles of blood, their eyes facing away, as their bodies were pulled from a tub and scraped of hair. (Just telling it like it is, folks).
I learned that not all goats are sacrificed – only the castrated males (BBC didn’t mention this). So nearby, just around the corner in fact, a couple of female goats hung out by some motorcycles and nibbled posters off walls. They weren’t the least bit concerned with the puddles and rivers of blood trickling past, it was ladies night out for all they cared.
Then dinner. Apparently the Ama Ghar Orphanage where we were invited to dinner was amongst higher status – water buffalo was served and shared with everyone from a high ranking Nepali police official to the 8 or 9 kids we brought from the Loving Arms Orphanage to the guests from America whose knees crackled as they sat awkwardly and struggled with scooping food in their right hands.
The dining room floor was only so big, so we ate in shifts of 15 at a time. I lost track of how many kids there were around, and how quickly they ate and ran off together to various other rooms to play as one big giant family.
Family. [Allow me a digression. My husband and I made a conscious choice to have only one child. But that does not make us a small family. In fact, I am an auntie, a great auntie, and an auntie to children all over the world. Come to think of it, I first became an auntie when I was only 4 months old. Here in Kathmandu, I have been introduced to a family of Nepali orphaned children as “Auntie Kymri”. I have always adored being called “Auntie Kymri” by my sister’s children, who are now grown adults, and who still affectionately call me Auntie, probably because they get a kick out of watching me become overwhelmed with nostalgic pride. Now I have this big beautiful family of children at the Loving Arms Mission who call me Auntie, and I am overwhelmed with pride, not for nostalgia, but for what is to come for this world, and the hope and inspiration these children have to share. The youngest, at just over 2 years, little “Babu”, called me “Auntie New” the first afternoon until my name had been repeated to him enough to learn. (Which he did much faster than many adults do!). To be the auntie of these amazing children who have endured a childhood that no child should ever have to live through, well, I am utterly humbled, and honored, to be their auntie. All the more family to be proud of!]
So what does this all have to do with goats? Nothing really, except their fate. You see, my nieces and nephews all share their home at Loving Arms Mission, where parents Kent and Shovah raise 12 kids in one home, and Nadine and Rajindra raise another 10 or so in their home. (Their stories are another article unto itself, and film in fact, stay tuned!). Because neither sets of parents were too keen on the idea of getting a goat and slaughtering it with all the kids, they began a tradition several years ago.
Kent came up with the idea of a piñata. A goat piñata. Every week of Dashain, Nadine gathers materials (cardboard boxes, tubes, paper) and builds a goat, filling it’s middle with treats and sweets.
When the day of celebration and sacrifice arrives, the family and friends gather in the garden and the piñata is hung from a basketball hoop for all the kids take their hand at slaughtering the beast. Blindfolded, the kids make strikes, as Kent raises and lowers the goat’s “noose” until the beast is dismembered limb by limb and blood pours in chocolates and candies.
Eventually, Auntie Happy came in for the kill!
On the road outside, an endless stream of goats makes their way through the village to meet their gods, their heads held high, crowned in pink tikka. Happy Dashain.