Q travel: with BAR­RIE MAHONEY

‘Twit­ters from the At­lantic’

Q Magazine - - Q Feature -

Bar­rie Mahoney was a head teacher and school in­spec­tor in the UK, as well as a re­porter in Spain, be­fore mov­ing to the Ca­nary Is­lands to launch and edit a new English lan­guage news­pa­per. He en­joys life in the sun as a colum­nist and au­thor, and con­tin­ues to write a se­ries of pop­u­lar nov­els and books for ex­pats.

Choco­late, Av­o­cado Eggs and the Ca­nary Is­lands The Span­ish love their choco­late. Pas­tries are dipped into it, bis­cuits are coated with it, chur­ros are drowned in it and any­thing else is sprin­kled with it. Choco­late is ev­ery­where in Spain, which is not sur­pris­ing, be­cause it was the Span­ish who dis­cov­ered and gave birth to mod­ern choco­late. It was Span­ish ex­plor­ers who brought choco­late to Europe more than 500 years ago with the ad­di­tion of sugar to a bit­ter co­coa drink trans­form­ing it into the choco­late de­light that we know to­day. In­deed, it was Christo­pher Colum­bus who may be cred­ited for be­ing the first Euro­pean ex­plorer to en­counter choco­late. It is said that Colum­bus in­ter­cepted a trad­ing ship loaded with co­coa beans dur­ing one of his voy­ages, but think­ing they were al­monds he ig­nored the pre­cious load.

The next step in the jour­ney of choco­late was left to the ex­plorer, Hernán Cortés, who may be cred­ited for be­ing the first Euro­pean to bring choco­late to Europe. Cortés was mis­taken for a God, and in­vited to a gen­er­ous Aztec feast where he was given their prized, spicy drink of warm choco­late. Cortés was no fool, and the cap­i­tal­ist that he was led him to re­alise its value to both him­self and the Span­ish Crown.

The knowl­edge of how to turn co­coa beans into a de­li­cious frothy drink was more a mys­tery that was jeal­ously guarded by the Aztecs. It was left to Cis­ter­cian monks to get hold of and adapt the recipe that would pro­duce choco­late for the Span­ish no­bil­ity. They man­aged to keep their se­cret away from the rest of Europe for more than a cen­tury af­ter its dis­cov­ery.

Over the years, the recipe was mod­i­fied to suit the Euro­pean pal­ette, which came in the form of cut­ting out the fiery hot pep­pers that the Aztecs tra­di­tion­ally used, re­plac­ing it with sugar cane from the Ca­nary Is­lands to cre­ate the sweet choco­late that even­tu­ally be­came a world­wide sen­sa­tion. It was decades later that a Bri­tish com­pany, founded by Joseph Fry, cre­ated the first ever choco­late bar that de­liv­ered choco­late and ex­cess calo­ries to the masses.

Re­cent shock­ing sta­tis­tics scream­ing from some of the head­lines this week ac­cused Brits of eat­ing more choco­late than any­one else in the world. Ap­par­ently, Brits munched their way through 8.4kg of choco­late each dur­ing 2017. Many com­men­ta­tors are sug­gest­ing that the in­crease in choco­late con­sump­tion is due to Brexit, with nasty ru­mours float­ing around that the price of choco­late bars will sud­denly wildly in­crease fol­low­ing Brexit. Some Brex­iters are wickedly claim­ing that it is the fault of Re­main­ers, who are so de­pressed about sev­er­ing their links with the choco­late mak­ers of Europe, that they are putting away as much as they pos­si­bly can be­fore Brexit takes place. In re­sponse, Re­main­ers are claim­ing that in­creased con­sump­tion is due to Brex­iters who are so ner­vous about the im­pli­ca­tions of Brexit, that they are anx­iously eat­ing their way through the na­tion’s choco­late bars be­fore it is too late. It is also said that they have a long­ing for Euro­pean choco­late, which they wish to keep se­cret.

Sadly, it seems that since the takeover of Cad­burys by an Amer­i­can com­pany, Bri­tish choco­late just doesn’t sat­isfy Bri­tish taste buds any more. Some of the blame for in­creased choco­late con­sump­tion is also be­ing passed onto the cur­rent trend for al­co­hol flavoured Easter Eggs, which ap­par­ently are go­ing down a treat. Per­son­ally, I am not too sure about gin and tonic flavoured eggs, but I am sure that read­ers will tell me how won­der­ful they are very shortly.

De­spite these in­ter­est­ing sta­tis­tics, I was sur­prised to see Spain not head­ing to­wards the top of the choco­holics list. For many Span­ish, there is noth­ing more de­li­cious to start the day than a steam­ing bowl of hot choco­late in which to dip a plate­ful of de­li­cious chur­ros, which is fried choux pas­try (a lit­tle like a donut that has been stretched out of all recog­ni­tion). It is a highly fat­ten­ing, but de­li­cious com­bi­na­tion, I am told.

Per­son­ally, I am very keen to get my hands on one of the new ve­gan av­o­cado choco­late bars that went on sale in Europe re­cently. The av­o­cado used in these choco­late bars is 100 per cent nat­u­ral freeze-dried av­o­cado, and I am re­li­ably in­formed that the de­li­cious blend of av­o­cado and or­ganic dark choco­late is a choco­late lover’s dream. In­ter­est­ingly, this prod­uct has been brought to the world by James Cadbury, who is the great, great, great grand­son of Cadbury’s founder. De­spite this amaz­ing news, I was very dis­ap­pointed not to have re­ceived an av­o­cado filled choco­late Easter egg this year, but I live in hope.

Web­sites: http://bar­riema­honey.com and http://theca­nary­is­lander.com or book, ‘Liv­ing in Spain and the Ca­nary Is­lands’ (ISBN: 9780995602724). Avail­able in paper­back, as well as Kin­dle edi­tions. Join him on Face­book: www.face­book.com/bar­rie.mahoney

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