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myMEGusta

Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

Archive for the month “April, 2017”

The World’s Remotest Island: Tristan de Cunha

Tristan de Cunha

Inhabited by just over 200 people (islanders as well as expatriates), this jewel of a volcanic island lies in the choppy South Atlantic 1750 miles (translation: 4 – 6 days by ship) from Cape Town, South Africa. And, just because you reach Tristan de Cunha doesn’t mean that you’ll actually get there; the seas are so rough that landing is often denied to casual visitors. The only way to travel by air is if your ship happens to have a helicopter.

It is visited several times a year by commercial vessels, e.g. boats to pick up the island’s specialty and financial bedrock, Tristan Rock Lobsters, as well as the occasional mail boat, cruise liner or yacht.

Tristan Rock Lobster

The economy is built on these “crayfish”, sustainably fished and shipped around the world. The Tristanians have harvested this bounty of the cold ocean responsibly since time immemorial, recognizing that what was once their main food staple (with potatoes) can continue to thrive only if they do so, with limits on what is caught commercially and even for family consumption.

Fishing Boats

Speaking with Constable Conrad (“Connie”) Glass on board Le Lyrial, a French cruise liner crossing from Ushuaia (Argentina) to Cape Town, myMEGusta learned about life on the island (“We respect each others’ differences. It’s a very small village but we are very independent people.”)

Having hitched a ride on the ship, Connie and his wife were en route to the Cape Town police academy for some advanced law enforcement classes. (“Crime” in Tristan is limited to occasional petty theft and DUI arrests.) He was thrilled to be on this yacht-style cruise ship with his wife, as journeys to/from Tristan de Cunha usually involve far less elegant accommodations (not to mention food bearing no resemblance to the Alain Ducasse designed menus on Le Lyrial).

We passengers were actually the lucky ones, as we had the benefit of meeting him, and hearing his talks about life on the island.

Connie shared his thoughts about favorite local preparations of the “crayfish”: Thermidor (with a mayonnaise/tomato sauce), in a chowder-like soup with potatoes, and in tarts with a different mayonnaise sauce.

Tristan’s other staple food is the potato, used in myriad ways, descended from some of the first potatoes that crossed the Atlantic from South America. There wasn’t a potato to be seen in the supermarket (more like a general store), because the islanders get them directly from the potato patch farmers. Because flour is an import (which can run out), Tristanian cooks have learned to use spuds creatively, for example in pie crusts. Perhaps in the crayfish tart?

Alas, myMEGusta didn’t get to taste anything.

Here are two links which readers may enjoy. Link from them amd you’ll find out more about the island and its really interesting history):

A very accurate description of Le Lyrial’s visit:

http://www.tristandc.com/news-2017-03-17-Le-Lyrial.php

More information about the lobsters and their processing:

http://www.tristandc.com/news-2017-02-28-schoolfactoryvisit.php

Tristan Rock Lobster for Sale in London

“The World’s Finest Lobster”

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Poutine – The comfort food of Northeastern Canada

Poutine

Everyone loves a perfect French fry, right? And a dollop of tasty cheese? Not to mention a drizzle of your favorite brown sauce (maybe Grandma’s at Thanksgiving)? Well, put them together, and you have poutine, the classic Quebecoise dish of French fries doused in cheese and gravy.

Of course, if the exercise starts with soggy French fries, dull cheese and bad gravy, it reverts to being something that can pass only as a comfort food for those who crave it for some non-gustatory purpose.

Poutine is ubiquitous in Canada, particularly in the Northeast, turning up in even fancy restaurants, the way a perfect specimen of a grilled cheese sandwich might turn up as a garnish with a plate of some esoteric tomato concoctions in an upscale joint in NYC. It was actually quite delish when myMEGusta tasted it in that context at one of those places in Toronto a few years ago.

Poutine with Lobster

The Poutinerie

Visiting a very posh banking district in London last year, we stumbled upon an outdoor food court type of place catering to yuppie workers stepping away from their computers for a quick lunch break. Among the stands for scotch eggs and other such “comfort foods” was La Poutinerie, and their fare looked tasty, indeed, including “original”, with rib meat, spicy and vegetarian versions.

Poutine potato chips

On the other end of the spectrum was Vancouver’s MegaBite Pizza, next to a McDonald’s, featuring this Canadian classic aside pizza and wings. No, we did not sample this one. There are even Poutine flavored potato chips.

Getting back to Northeastern Canada, a shipboard lunch companion and New Brunswick, Canada, native recently joked, as he poured some gravy over a bowl of French fries, “I am making my own poutine!” He went on to describe that his family’s poutine is an entirely different animal: cheese and gravy stuffed in to potatoes then deep fried, sounding almost like a croquette. Not the topic one expects to explore while dining on a French boat in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.

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