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2013 Grateful 47

IMG_2399 (600x800)Living away from home, or choosing another country to be at home in, will at some stage beget the question – So, what do you miss most about XYZ?

Family, friends, the neighbour’s dog are all a given. But when it comes to ‘stuff’ – that varies hugely. In my early days in the USA, the black-market currency of choice comprised Tayto crisps and Major cigarettes. These were impossible to find and topped the shopping list of any visitor travelling Stateside to see a friend or relative who had emigrated, permanently or temporarily. Living in the UK, it was red lemonade – impossible to find outside the 26 counties.

Everyone who has lived away from home has had that one thing they miss more than anything else. When I go back to Ireland from Budapest, I have a standing order for winegums,  Cadbury’s mintcrisp chocolate, and Barry’s teabags. Not for me – for my mates. When I go to Malta, my list is shorter – Maltese sea salt and tins of artichokes in water. When visitors come from Ireland, they know to bring some Butler’s chocolates and a copy of Grazia magazine… and if they’re checking a bag, some Hellmann’s light mayonnaise and some Campbell’s condensed chicken soup are most welcome.

But it’s the mayonnaise that tops my list. This particular bottle travelled with me from Ireland, to Hawaii, and then back to Budapest. It has to be the most-travelled mayo out there and came within an ounce of being left out of the suitcase a couple of times, but this time, it won.

That hasn’t always been the case  though – which is why I rarely, if ever, travel with Ryanair any more. In Dublin, one November, my suitcase was tipping the 15kg limit and it was a choice between shoes or my mayo. I tried to slip the mayo into my hand luggage, but security caught me. In Hawaii, I was lugging home a bottle of wine, a present I’d received because of its label – Murphy-Goode. I was down to the wire weight-wise and the choice was between the wine or the mayo. The pragmatic DF wondered how I’d feel if I arrived home to find that the wine was actually horrible… and my trusty mayo was still sitting in her fridge. All I wanted was the bottle, so we drank the wine (or tried to!) … problem solved.

I have tried every brand of mayo on the market and Hellmann’s reigns supreme. I might only use it once a month, but the  comfort of knowing it’s in my fridge if I need it keeps me warm at night.

Mayonnaise was invented in France [1756; Duke de Richelieu’s chef] and popularised by the Americans [1905; the first ready-made mayonnaise was sold at Richard Hellmann’s New York deli; mind you, he’d just arrived from Germany so was hardly American yet]. Interestingly, in 1932 Hellmann’s was bought out by Best Foods. West of the Rockies, it’s sold as Best Foods, and east of the Rockies and in the rest of the world, it’s Hellmann’s. But the manufacturers (Best Foods) say the contents are one and the same. The public disagrees.

Its provenance is still disputed though. Hey, even I was living under the grand illusion (or delusion) that it was Irish to the egg. So, given that it was invented by a French chef and popularised by a German immigrant in the USA, why is it what I miss most about home? I have no idea. And it’s not important. That’s just the way it is.

I do know though, that this week, coming out of a very nasty dose of bronchitis and an intense full-on workshop in Malta, I’m ever so grateful that my mind is finally clear enough to be concerned with such trivialities and that there’s nothing more serious on my agenda right now than a minor obsession with the origins of mayonnaise.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52

There’s no substitute for chocolate

The fruit of the carob tree is being touted as a replacement for chocolate. ‘Carob is a wonderful substitute for chocolate. It tastes great with a chocolate-like flavor but without the health risks, additives, or contamination that comes with chocolate.’ So I went and found a carob tree – not just any old tree but one that is reputed to be over 1000 years old. And I found some of the ripe and ready brown fruit. And I tried it. And yes, it has a faint taste of chocolate but it is terribly, terribly, terribly sweet.  Despite the associated health benefits, and no matter how much it is dressed up and labelled as ‘good for me’, it will never, ever replace chocolate.

I used to work in the shadow of Cadbury’s chocolate factory in Coolock and on those rare occasions when Ireland had a sunny summer, the smell of the chocolate was a tad overwhelming. But that was as rare as a Irish suntan. When I was in  the States, and even now that I’m spending a lot of time in Budapest, the one thing guaranteed to raise my spirits and endear you to me for life, was/is a bar of Cadbury’s plain chocoate. Forget Lindt or the other fancy chocolatiers, a plain bar of Cadbury’s, preferably straight from the fridge, is one of the simplest pleasures in my life.

In my search for reasons why carob is supposedly so much healthier than chocolate, I found this interesting assertion: The seeds inside the pods were also traditionally used to weigh diamonds, which is where we get the word carat from. Who’d have known, eh? My life is now a little more complete. That said, the carob tree I saw in Xemxija in Malta is fairly amazing. The translation of the Maltese verse  with its new word – propably – is inspiring. To my mind, anything that can stand in one place for over 1000 years deserves a little credit – even if the fruit of its boughs is nicer to look at than to eat.