After Food, Coffee!
It probably never came out clearly, (we hardly ever get around to food pics, *ahem*)
that food is an actual driving force behind our exploration of the world. Remember our quest to find Flower Hmong flower rice, or our chocolate fling? Food clues us in to places and to the people who live there: Recent Mexican markets flaunted plump chili peppers of every size and shape, and every juicy form of taco you’ll ever want to eat
Other markets we’ve visited have been sparse, dusty affairs where they pack a pinch of desperation in your bag of peanuts….. At best, local cooking is local produce plus artistry of flavor – a melting pot of elements inherent to the land: All hues of green, sweet shriveled figs, pillowy mushrooms, scrawny chickens, fiery whisky and millions more
to inspect a teeming heap of ants eggs without flinching, and especially, to deeply respect the relentless hard physical labor that goes into producing many of the world’s favorite products. Take coffee for instance: I knew about the process – growing, picking, drying, hulling, roasting…. But to see coffee being picked in sprawling communal forests
and to exchange smiles with the weather-beaten men and women, flopped on their bulging burlap bags of beans, on the same corner of unpaved lane every sundown, waiting for the pick-up trucks to bounce them and their hard-earned harvest home, gave us a new appreciation of the magic brew. So did the many back-lot “curators”
we struck up conversations with on our trip through coffee country in Mexico and Guatemala. One of their stories finally cleared up a longstanding mystification: How was coffee even invented? I mean, coffee cherries are hard and bitter, a far cry from the deliciousness we love….
Well, according to legend, “back in the year 600 a shepherd named Kaldi was out with his mountain goats. Kaldi awoke from a nap because his goats were nervous, jumped nonstop and seemed to be dying of laughter. In short, they seemed crazy goats. He found out that the party began when the goats ate a shiny red fruit from the bushes. He cut a branch of those “cherries” and brought it to a wise monk at the monastery. After hearing Kaldi’s story, the monk decided to cook the fleshy berries. But the result was so bitter that he contemptuously threw the branch on the fire. The pleasant smell of the roasted seeds suddenly rising from the embers made them realize the animals truly were on to something good. So it was the wise monk and the humble shepherd Kaldi who discovered that by roasting the red seeds they could cook up an aromatic and stimulating brew”. And the world hasn’t stopped drinking coffee since!