Find a Supper Club

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msmarmitelover's Discussions

Do you have to be young and trendy to visit a supper club or pop up?
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A journalist friend just asked me this. Of course not I said. I have guests of all different ages. There are probably some in the East of London which are more directed at young trendies but mostly I…Continue

Started this discussion. Last reply by Hari Covert Apr 10, 2012.

The Underground farmer's and craft market: discussion, suggestions, contacts,
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Hey ms marmite lover here,This is a place to discuss the market.Any queries, problems, suggestions can be posted here. People can also make contact with each other.One question: did having it at…Continue

Started this discussion. Last reply by Ali Cook May 17, 2011.

 

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The English can cook

10 amazing things to see, eat and drink in Grenada


grenadian women
colourful houses, grenada
grenada

Grenada, a tiny Caribbean island just north of Venezuela, is obsessed with politics. The radio of every car is tuned to the live broadcast from the Grenadian parliament. My drivers diligently followed the lengthy speeches with the intensity of a cricket fan. Thanks to this I now know exactly how much a kilowatt of electricity costs in Grenada and I now know that Grenada spends more on electricity than any other Caribbean island. They seem to be going through some kind of Thatcherite revolution, after privatising basic utilities, but creating private monopolies, they are opening them up to competition. After listening to Mr Simon Steele declaiming in parliament for two days straight on the energy situation, I ran into him at the bar at Whisper Cove. I got a selfie with him, warning him that the last politician I did that with had to resign a month later (the Icelandic Prime Minister who I met at a launch for 'skyr' yoghurt). He laughed, kissed me on the head and said:
'I have no dodgy dealings with Mossack Fonsecca, I can assure you.'
I know there are two political parties in Grenada: the NDC (National Democratic Congress) and the NNP (New National Party) and that their parliament is based upon the British system. The Queen has not visited Grenada for 30 years. 
During my two weeks in Grenada I spent a large proportion of time being driven around by baritone-voiced, knowledgeable drivers. One of them, Mr Edwin Frank, had a particularly rich tone, similar to Trevor McDonald (who is half Grenadian). Mr Edwin, it turned out, was a former TV celebrity in Grenada. He used to present programmes on the radio (notably during the American invasion) and then became the lottery announcer on TV. When he drove me to meet interviewees, they were starstruck. Not by me, I should quickly add, but by Mr Edwin. 
'I know you. I know your voice!'
Then there was Mr Cosmo, who told me the names of all ten 'green figs' - the Caribbean name for bananas. He's a part-time farmer. Cosmo had a particular driving style, consisting of tooting on his horn every two minutes and yelling 'yeah mon' to every passerby. He knew everybody, all 100,000 people on the island. 
I spent an evening driving to see the turtles with Mandoo, actually former British navy sailor Simon Seales, who gave me an interesting talk on the history of Grenada.
Lastly there was Mr Roger, my first Caribbean conspiracy theorist. Mr Roger believed that the 2010 earthquake in Haiti was fake
'All of the islands in the Caribbean are linked, on the same tectonic plate. If there is an earthquake on one, we can feel it here in Grenada. With Haiti, there were no tremors in Grenada.'
Roger didn't like me much or maybe he just didn't like white people. He often turned up hours late without apology. A pity, because he was also interesting to talk to. He recalled as a boy the left wing revolutionary coup that occurred in 1979 and lasted until 1983, when America invaded Grenada (the only time Thatcher and Reagan fell out).
Grenada is an uberously fertile country; the interior is rainforest, the beaches are white, the sea is turquoise. As soon as you arrive at the airport, you can smell spices on the breeze, warm wafts of nutmeg and cinnamon. Fruit grows abundantly; orange mangoes litter the roads, papayas droop from trees, breadfruit hang improbably, given their size, from branches. The colours of the countryside reflect the colours of the flag: green, orange and gold.
So, what is there to do in Grenada? Here is my listicle of recommendations...


1. Turtles on Levera beach


baby turtle grenada

This shocking but extraordinary experience is the modern equivalent to meeting a dinosaur. Every two years the leatherback turtle returns to the beach where they were born. During the intervening time, they swim for hundreds of miles, travelling the world. 
No distracting light is allowed on the beach, only a red torch, and tourists are advised to wear dark clothing. We walked for miles along the shore. Then I saw, in the dim glow, researchers crouching down over a hole. As I approached, I could see dozens of white eggs, the size of tennis balls, piled up in the burrow. The researchers were counting the eggs. I walked around a large dark rock, when I realised that I was standing next to a massive turtle, 2 metres long, 1.5 metres wide. 
During the egg laying, the turtle is in a trance, oblivious to the people around her. Encouraged by the researchers, I stroked her shell. Her eyes glistened, sticky tears seem to roll down her long neck. Once she has finished, the turtle hides the eggs. You stand well away as the turtle covers the eggs with her back flippers, flicking sand in the air. This continues for some time. Finally the mother turtle heaves her weight to compress down the sand. The beach is full of these hidden egg nests. Further along in the dark, one can make out another turtle emerging from the dark waves. Eventually our turtle shuffles down the beach to the sea. As we walk back, our guide sees a baby turtle and picks it up, it wriggles in her hand. The odds of an egg surviving to adulthood are miniscule. At least we can get this one into the sea.
Book to see this with Mandoo tours (April to June). You can also volunteer to help.

2. Spices and the Spice Market

lunchtime at the nutmeg factory
nutmeg grenada
The spice market, grenada
cinnamon bark, grenada
nutmeg, grenada

Grenada is known as the Spice Island. Until hurricane Ivan devastated Grenada in 2004, 90% of the world's nutmeg was grown here. The hurricane ripped out 80% of the nutmeg trees. 
I visited the nutmeg factory in the small Northern town of Gouyave, which is worth visiting. A large wooden warehouse next to the ocean, you can buy nutmegs and nutmeg products (syrup, jam, necklaces, medicinal nutmeg oil for aches and pains). It smells like heaven. 
I'd also recommend the spice market in the main town of St George's. Dozens of stalls featuring a patchwork quilt of brightly coloured spices, mostly managed by wise women, often grating nutmeg into bowls, talking knowledgeably about the ingredients. They will explain the uses of sea moss, otherwise known as Irish Moss or Carageen, which makes a thick milky but vegan drink.  Here in Grenada, even what we regard as ordinary spices, such as ground ginger, the flavour is infinitely more alive, vivid and pungent. 

3. Underwater 


Grenada created one of the world's first 'underwater sculpture' parks. I snorkelled over the slightly eery sculptures: a group of people standing in a circle, bodies laying on the sea bed, a man at a desk, a goddess holding her hands towards the sky. The sculptures, which are now covered in barnacles and sea creatures, a constantly evolving form of art, were created by two Grenadian artists, James deCaires Taylor and Troy Lewis.  There is also great snorkelling at La Sagesse, a beautiful wild beach, with beach front huts and rooms. Off the main island, diving and snorkelling is possible on the two tiny sister islands to Grenada: Petite Martinique and Carriacou. 
Book to see this with Savvy Sailing Charters.

4. The food 

Brian of bb's crabback, grenada
fried breadfruit, bbs crabback, grenada

Caribbean food is an interesting island melange, based on the foodways that slaves brought with them from Africa, shipboard cuisine, colonial food and local Carib ingredients. 
The national dish of Grenada is called 'oildown', a slow stew with breadfruit cooked in coconut milk and turmeric, fish, conch and meat such as pigtail added. It's usually cooked on holidays, sometimes on the beach. The slowest cooking vegetables and meat are added first, along with the coconut, then other meats, carrots, callaloo and finally, dumplings, are added in layers. It takes several hours to cook through then all the layers are separated into bowls so that people can get a little of each ingredient. I'd like to attempt a vegetarian version of this dish. 
Starchy food such as plantain, breadfruit, yams, sweet potatoes are known as provisions or 'ground provisions', a term probably stemming from the naval word for shipboard stores. During slavery, some poor patches of allotment were loaned to slaves to grow extra vegetables. Often ground provisions were all that would grow.
Grenada has at least ten kinds of banana, known in the Caribbean as 'green figs'. Some are used as vegetables, others as fruit, some raw, others should be cooked.
Here is a rough list that Mr Cosmo gave me:
  • Gros Michel, similar to the sweet ripe Cavendish bananas we are used to.
  • Lacatan (a red fig)
  • Rock fig (the sweetest)
  • Bluggoe plantain (for cooking)
  • Silk fig (2 types)
  • Throdon John (Cacabul), red and yellow 
  • Manicou fig (2 types), 
  • Mataboro
  • Moko
  • Trinidad
Here is a list of the incredible range of Caribbean fruit, many of which I'd never heard of or eaten before this trip, for instance, cashew apple, wax apple, bread nuts (similar to chestnuts), soursop, Gospo (a kind of bitter orange) fruit... 
The Caribbean breakfast is another delight: savoury doughnuts called 'fried bakes' stuffed with saltfish or herring souse, fresh coconut water from the shell, platters of exotic fruit, a variety of  nutmeg and cinnamon spiced porridges (corn, rice, wheat and oat). 
My purpose on this trip was to report on the annual Chocolate Festival and the fruit of the cacao pod, the fine artisanal chocolate and the chocolate tea should be sampled. 
Restaurants I tried and can recommend include: 
  • BBS crabback: for me the most characterically Grenadian of all the restaurants. Stunning cocktails and fruit juices (I had gospo juice). The signature dish is the creole crab back stuffed with crab meat and a cheese and wine sauce. They do goat curry, conch salad (a kind of shellfish) and on Friday's, the national dish 'Oildown'. 
  • Dodgy Dock restaurant. I had an unusual fusion dish: callaloo cannelloni which was excellent.They also have 'street food Wednesdays' where you can buy fried fish and aloo pie ( a spicy Indian potato samosa).
  • La Sagesse restaurant: famous for their fresh caught fish, beautiful location on wild beach. 
  • Laluna hotel: high end Italian food and a great wine list (sometimes you need a break from rum and beer).
There are also a couple of Cuban style home restaurants, which unfortunately I didn't get a chance to try  as I only found out about them on my last day. Next time.
I didn't do this but Fish Fridays, a street festival at the small northern town of Gouyave, held every Friday evening, is a celebration of fish cuisine, with food stalls and live music. Spanking fresh fish is available everywhere. 
manicured fishmonger, grenada

5. The beaches

crab catcher, la sagesse, grenada
la sagesse beach, grenada

Grenada is a tropical island cliché in that the beaches contain white, fine sand. The Grand Anse beach is 2.5 miles long, forming a graceful crescent to the south of the island. No beaches are private. As you drive up to the north of the island, you can see fisherman pulling in nets, turtles bobbing up and down in the sea, birds perching on boats. The birds tell you where the fish are. The beach at La Sagesse is isolated and beautiful, within a nature reserve. 

6. The rainforest

cocoa plantation, grenada
The volcanic interior of Grenada bursts with abounding fern, teal and jade foliage. I was there in the wet season and the humidity of the lower reaches gives way to refreshing higher grounds in the Grand Etang National Park. The fertile hills are dotted with multicoloured rainbow houses, lime green, orange, burnt umber, turquoise, mustard, aubergine purple, fuchsia, marine and pearl blue, salmon and terracotta. Some houses are corrugated tin huts, others wooden shacks teetering on stilts. The ground floor is used to hang out washing, protected from the rain and the house proper starts on the first floor, where Grenadians are relaxing (called 'liming') on mock colonial verandas. Some of the houses are constructed with lime, eggshell and molasses. The interior boasts waterfalls and streams, resembling an untouched prehistoric landscape. I had a go at river tubing, where you are carried through rapids while sprawled within a giant rubber tube. 

7. Sailing

view of St Georges, grenada
roger's barefoot beach bar, hog island, grenada
The sailing in the Caribbean is some of the best in the world. I have longed to learn to sail for decades. Grenada has various sailing schools where it is possible to take a Competent Crew qualification and skippering courses although oddly there is no actual legal requirement to pass an exam to sail! If you fancy hanging out with boat people and hearing their adventures, you could do worse than spending a few days at Whisper Cove. The last four days I spent in Grenada, I rented a boat, but without a skipper license, I could only stay on the boat while moored at Whisper Cove Marina. This atmospheric marina is run by French Canadians where there is a restaurant serving brunch on Sundays. A dinghy ride away is Hog Island where they have Sunday fish dinners as well as a ramshackle beach bar called Roger's Barefoot Beach Bar. The Sunday I spent there, I witnessed a touching ceremony where old sailing friends, tanned and weathered, held a scattering of the ashes at sea for a deceased mate. 
One of my most relaxing moments on the island was when I took the 'sunset cruise' with 'Savvy' a beautiful wooden 18th century sloop, sipping Rum Punch as we drifted in the balmy winds around the island. The owner, Danny, is from Grenada, has the greenest eyes. 
'All boat people from here have green eyes,' he declared.
'Do you have gills too?' I joked.
Building sloops is a communal activity in Grenada, but the boat builders have a mix of Scottish, Creole and African blood.

8. Rum

rum expert Lisette Davis
rumboat retreat, grenada
rum punch, grenada
The Caribbean is known for rum, an alcohol produced by fermenting sugar cane. I did a tasting and quick history with rum expert Lisette Davis at Rumboat Retreat. She explained that rum was discovered by the slaves who cut the sugar cane, a lethal activity, for the blades of this grass are like knives. The slaves were given the dark molasses run-off and soon recognised that by leaving this discarded ingredient in the sun, it fermented into a delicious simple wine. The masters, originally the French (the British came later), used their knowledge of distilling cognac, to make rum.  
We tasted a selection:
  • The local island fire water, Rivers, an overproofed rum (70%) which has a strong ethanol smell and is made from hand cut pure sugar cane syrup. Best used with a mixer!
  • Clarkes Court (69%), a Grenadian British style rum made from molasses 
  • Trois Rivières, a 'rhon agricole' (55%) from Martinique, made from pure cane juice not molasses; sweeter and drier.
  • Montebello (42%), from Guadeloupe, is aged amber nectar
  • Plantation (41.2%), an aged white rum which doesn't need mixers, can be sipped.
  • 10XO by Westerhall in Grenada is a 10 year old rum, has coconut, caramel flavours and is peaty like whisky.
  • Dom Q a 12 year old aged rum from Puerto Rico comes in a pretty decanter rather like a perfume bottle. This is a sipping rum.
  • Chairman's Reserve  a spiced rum from St. Lucia, a neighbouring island. Spiced rum is popular with women. Notes of orange peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla. I loved this one.  

9. The gardens

clove plant grenada
laura spice and herb garden, grenada
Grenada has a climate and soil where you can pretty much stick anything in the ground and it'll grow. Their stand at the Chelsea Flower Show has won gold for 12 years in a row. I went to see several gardens: the kitchen garden at Mount Cinnamon hotel where Chadon Beni (a long saw toothed coriander leaf) fought it out with papaya trees and old time sage. Many of the things they use at the restaurant are grown in their garden. 
Laura herb and spice garden, a government run educational garden, in the interior, is worth visiting to see spices, herbs and fruits growing on trees and bushes. For some of us, including me, it will be the first time you have ever seen clove, nutmeg, vanilla, pineapples, all spice, in their botanical form. There is a short tour. 
farmer Mr Leroy John, Grenada
grenada bus stop and pineapple,
female cocoa farmer, grenada

10. The people and their music

The people are, for the most part, friendly with gentle courtly manners. 'Take your time' is repeatedly uttered, rather like an American might say 'you are welcome'. They also appear to be, to a man, to a woman, preternaturally talented at music. Live music is a constant - calypso, reggae or popular hits. I spent a fantastic night dancing to live music at The Brewery bar, where I also sipped chocolate beer. I even did something called 'winding' with the horrible Roger. I've had Roger's groin ground into my arse to the beat of calypso and he still didn't like me! 
yoga next the sea, grenada, true blue bay resort

How to make chocolate: tree to bar in Grenada


cacao pods, Grenada
cacao farmers at Crayfish Bay farm, grenada

Cacao pods come in three main varieties: Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario, the latter a hybrid of the first two.  Recent gene tests suggest there are at least ten types, however. 
Cacao trees originated in South America but are now grown in Africa, the Caribbean, South East Asia, Central America and Northern Australia but all within 20 degrees of the Equator. Their favourite kind of terrain is hot and sweaty.
Grenada (pronounced Grenaida, not Grenahda, which is in Spain), a small volcanic island to the south of the Caribbean, almost off the coast of Venezuela, has some of the very best quality cacao pods. Why? The type: Trinitario and Criollo. The soil: volcanically fertile, rather like in Sicily. The weather: a steady, damp warmth.

Using a long hoe to chop down cacao pods, crayfish bay farm, grenada

Farming

Cocoa farmers earn very little. Across the world, child labour and starvation wages are used to produce your yummy chocolate bar. Many cocoa farmers have never even tasted the chocolate that their cacao beans go towards making as they simply can't afford it.
Although chocolate is becoming increasingly popular, cocoa bean yields are under threat due to climate change and farmers ageing out of the system.
In Grenada, just as in the UK, most farmers are above retirement age. Their children don't want to take it on - the work is hard and the wages are low.
The money earning bit, the added value, is when you make chocolate from the beans. Compact and less expensive machines have recently made this possible on a small scale. As a result, there are now three chocolate companies in Grenada.
  • The Grenada Chocolate Company. Started by British entrepreneur Mott Green, who unexpectedly died when electrocuted at his factory. It's taken them a while to get back on their feet but, with the help of a new American factory manager, they are back to producing very fine chocolate a few metres away from where it is grown. You can buy their chocolate at Rococo Chocolate branches. Rococo's owner Chantal Coady OBE has been supporting The Grenada Chocolate company since 2002 and donating cocoa from Grococo farm on Grenada since 2007.
  • Diamond Chocolate Factory. Makes Jouvay bars. (The ginger and nutmeg bars are particularly divine.) Their entire factory looks like something from the Kitchen Aid era, gorgeous rounded cream and chrome machines with 1950s design. It's a pretty factory.
  • Crayfish Bay chocolate. New to the bean to bar manufacturing but, despite their cobbled together equipment (they are using a kind of barbeque to roast the beans), they are already producing fantastic quality chocolate bars. They also sell to Pump St Bakery. 
Magdalena Fielden, Mexican owner of the True Blue Bay Resort, has started an annual Chocolate Festival with her British husband to promote the high quality cacao from Grenada. Cacao is now the biggest cash crop on the Spice island, since the devastating hurricane Ivan of 2004 destroyed 90% of their former most important export, the fruit of nutmeg trees.

Pulling the cacao beans from the rinds, Crayfish bay farm,Grenada
Open cacao fruit, crayfish bay farm, grenada

Tree to Bean

The actual trees are beautiful, with large oval reddish-brown and green leaves. The pods grow directly from the trunk, improbably hanging from thin stalks. When unripe they are purple or green, turning orange and red as they ripen. The pods start out as tiny white flowers, which are pollinated by sandflies.
Cacao beans are harvested throughout the year but the main crop is in the spring before the rainy season, which starts in June. The pods don't just fall from the tree, they are chopped off with a long Dutch hoe. The trees are interplanted with other trees, papaya, nutmeg, bananas, coconuts and small bushes such as pineapple plants, and the forests are checked every few days for ripe pods, those that are orange or gold.
Each pod contains 30 to 40 white beans. A kilo of beans makes 24 x 50g bars (1200g chocolate).
I worked as a cacao farmer for a couple of hours at the Crayfish Bay farm run by a couple, Lylette, a Grenadian woman married to an Englishman named Kim Russell or, as he prefers to be known, Captain Chaos. He is missing a toe and most of his teeth. You know about the toe because he rarely wears shoes. Kim gave us a great talk on slavery - along the lines of 'slavery didn't stop because the white man suddenly became a nice person, it stopped because it was no longer profitable'.
This is hard, hot work. Once cut down, the pods are gathered into piles. Using a cutlass the cacao pods are cut in half, the thick skin discarded into another pile, and the creamy sticky beans gathered into buckets. The cacao fruit itself is delicious, rather like a custard apple. The pile of cacao rinds is left to rot, attracting more sandflies, necessary for cross fertilisation.
Kim's farm is more like a cooperative. He profit shares with his workers, who take 90% of what their crops make. The day I went, he made us a delicious lunch of homemade bread, callalou soup (a Caribbean spinach) and a rice salad. You can rent rooms there if you want a farm visit.
captain chaos, Kim Russell, farmer of crayfish bay farm, grenada
I don't think I could be a cacao farmer. It turns out that sandflies adore me, and I ended up covered with hundreds of small itchy bites despite wearing repellent and long sleeves. These tiny midges are called 'no-see-ums' because - yes, that's right - you can't see them. For the first 24 hours, you don't feel too bad... then the itching starts in earnest. I've still got the scars. Locals told me that if you live there, you develop an immunity.
cacao beans drying at Belmont Estate, Grenada

Bean to Bar

Beans can be sold 'wet' or 'dry'. If they are sold wet, the factory ferments and dries the beans. Wet weight beans are white and weigh more than the dried brown beans and are therefore sold at a lower rate per kilo.
The sweat room where the cacao beans ferment, crayfish bay farm, Grenada
Fermentation 
The wet beans are kept in a bin covered with banana leaves or sackcloth to ferment for up to 48 hours.
Then the beans are turned every day for 4 to 7 days to ensure that the fermentation temperature is evenly distributed. Careful handling of this part of the process is essential for the end flavour.
cacao beans being dried by bare feet, Belmont Estate, Grenada
Drying
At the Belmont Estate in Grenada, we saw the beans spread out in the sun to dry. This usually takes 4 to 14 days. Traditionally, young women in cotton dresses dance while shuffling their bare feet through the beans to ensure even drying. Nowadays this is mostly done with rakes.
Diamond chocolate factory, Grenada, where cacao beans are drying in the sun
Sorting and selecting
Cacao beans are sorted into different sizes, ones with blemishes are removed. The size of the bean is important to determine the length of time for roasting.
Roasting
The beans are roasted. Like coffee, this is an important part of the process when it comes to the end result, the taste of the chocolate. A low, slow roast is sweeter, less bitter.
Winnowing
After crushing, the thin shell separates from the beans and air is used to separate the shell from the pieces of the beans called nibs. Nothing is wasted; the shells can be used as mulch and some beans are retained in nib form. I personally love a large pinch of cocao nibs to get over a mid-afternoon energy dip.
Grinding
The beans are ground up. I saw this at the Diamond chocolate factory in Grenada. It goes in as crushed up beans and comes out as a fine paste, cocoa liquor.
Refining
Grinding the cocoa liquor until the particles are tiny, leaving a smooth mouth feel.
Mixing with sugar
This is when the sugar is added.
Conching
Mixing thoroughly while heating and aerating to create a smooth chocolate. This also reduces the acidity in the cacao bean.
Flavouring or adding 'inclusions'
Prior to tempering, flavourings, lecithin, milk or extra cocoa butter is added.
A pressed cocoa cake, Diamond chocolate factory, Grenada
Pressing
In factories that wish to produce the extra cocoa butter rather than buy it in to add to chocolate bars, a machine presses the chocolate into 'cakes' and extracts the cocoa butter. The liquor is separated into approximately two halves: 1) dry chocolate cakes, which are made into cocoa powder; 2) cocoa butter, some of which is used in cosmetics and some of which is added back to the refined and conched chocolate. A cocoa bean contains 45% cocoa and 55% cocoa butter.
Cocoa butter 'cakes' , Diamond chocolate factory, Grenada
Tempering
A process of removing crystals from the chocolate by heating a portion of the chocolate to a certain temperature, then adding unheated chocolate. Tempering is important to create the characteristic snap and gloss of good chocolate and to render it more heat resistant.
Moulding
The liquor is poured into moulds and shaken until the liquid spreads all over the mould evenly, at the same time getting rid of air bubbles. These moulds can take the form of a chocolate bar.
The Grenada Chocolate Company bars
How much chocolate and cocoa butter is there in a Cadbury's bar?
Cadbury's contains 23% cocoa solids, which is not terrible. But ordinary, mass produced chocolate bars use 'bulk chocolate', not high quality stuff, and are filled out with vegetable fat rather than cocoa butter.
Why do Hershey bars taste awful?
They only contain 11% cocoa solids. They use more sugar than Cadbury's and, most importantly, the Americans originally used sour milk in Hershey bars. (As a hot country, it was harder for them to obtain and preserve fresh milk over the vast distances.) The Americans got used to it. Mind you, the Europeans think our chocolate is shit too. They wanted to ban it in fact. #Brexit
What do they mean when they say a percentage, say 70% of cocoa, is in a chocolate bar?
It means that 70% of the bar is cocoa solids and 29% is sugar. The other 1% is vanilla and flavourings. N.B.: the 70% of cocoa solids may have different ratios of dry cocoa to cocoa butter.
Is chocolate really healthy?
Yes, it is. Though not the cheap stuff from the local sweet shop, only the expensive dark artisanal chocolate. That helps reduce appetite, raises magnesium levels, boosts serotonin, makes you look younger.
If I spread chocolate all over my face and body on the outside, is that a good thing?
I've done it. I had a 'chocolate spa' in which I was painted from head to foot with dark chocolate, then wrapped in cling film, then foil and left to bake for 20 minutes while a soothing soft voiced Grenadian woman massaged my temples. Then I washed it off in the adjacent shower and was subsequently rubbed all over with cocoa butter and peppermint oil. I smelled like an After Eight. I felt soft and fragrant and according to others, instantly looked ten years younger. Recommended.
What does Fair Trade mean? Is it fair?
Fair Trade ensures that farmers get a fixed price for their crop throughout the season. There have been times in Grenada where it's virtually not worth picking the cacao pods due to the low price of the crop. Farmers should get a higher price for their crop but membership of Fair Trade is too expensive for some. Small scale cooperative schemes such as those at Crayfish Bay farm and The Grenada Chocolate Factory get rid of the middle man and motivate workers. Buy Grenadian chocolate!
Cacao beans ready for export, Grenada


TLDR?

Check out my handy infographic at the top. 

Food and drink in Kent, England

the Corner House restaurant, Kent

Margate beach, Kent
English asparagus, Kent

I get an email:
'Would you like to come down to see the asparagus farm in Kent on April Fools' Day?'
'Yes please.'
Grabbing my tickets at Kings Cross St Pancras I ran, puffing for the train. You could only get on the first six carriages up the other end of the platform.
Once I'd settled in my seat, I realised I had no idea where to get off. I DM'd the PR. 'You get off at Minster.' Cool. I relaxed.
A few minutes later: 'But you have to change at Ashford International'. I got this message one minute before we arrived at Ashford International.
I disembark and ask a train guard how I can get a train to Minster.
 'On platform 5 here. It's the next train'.
I wait. Sitting down. Minutes pass. I start to wonder why the train hasn't arrived.
I find the guard. 'Oh it's been and gone.'
'What? How can I not have seen it?'
I'm seriously doubting my own sanity. A train arrived in front of me and somehow I didn't notice.
The next one is an hour away. Or you can get on a train to Canterbury. By now I'm sending hysterical tweets to the PR:
From @msmarmitelover: 'Lost. Mess.'
I get on the train to Canterbury.
I get a tweet saying, 'Don't get on the train to Canterbury'.
I reply: 'I'm on the train to Canterbury'.
'Get off at Canterbury then wait for another hour to get to Minster.'
By now I'm stressed, tired. I'm losing it, I think.
Eventually I get to The Corner House restaurant in Minster, where I've missed lunch.
We drive to farmer Matthew Spanton's farm, and he shows us the sorting house where the asparagus is washed, sorted, snipped, measured, sorted for size, grade and crookedness. If it's too bent supermarkets won't take it. The machine is impressive but there are no asparagus on the conveyor belt.
asparagus in Kent, Mathew Spanton Farm.

We then walk to the middle of a field where the farmer uncovers a mound and points to three barely discernible shoots.
'I'm afraid it's been cold the last couple of days and the asparagus isn't ready.'
We gaze at the shoots. I take pictures. The farmer holds a knife next to the asparagus:
'When the asparagus reaches to the top of the knife, we can pick it.'
Chef Matt Sworder of The Corner House takes a small bunch of asparagus from the farmer who apologises, 'that's all I had', and sets up a mini-kitchen on the back of a truck, including a camping gas hob, some rapeseed oil, some green hop beer, butter and a little salt. He cooks asparagus like I do, griddling with a little oil or butter and then adding some liquid to steam it.
asparagus, beer, rapeseed oil
Although the market for asparagus is growing, still people are afraid to cook it. They think you need special pans. Often they over-boil it and are disappointed. As asparagus is not that cheap, this failure puts them off.
Green asparagus is exactly the same as white asparagus, which the Austrians and Germans are obsessed with. White asparagus has been forced underground, deprived of the sunlight and chlorophyll that will make it green. It has perhaps a slightly milder taste.
Matt gives us a precious spear each, which we dip into mayonnaise. It is delicious. Nothing like eating produce next to the field that it was grown in.
Next we drive to a rapeseed oil farm, Kentish Oils. I've visited a rapeseed farm previously. It's Britain's olive oil. We are shown the processing machine, the seeds and the 'cake' which is what is left after the oil is pressed out. The cake is sold as animal feed. I taste some, it's pretty good. I start to think about the seed. How come one never sees rapeseeds for sale? You know, like poppy seeds or sunflower seeds or hemp or linseed? I grab a handful and eat them. Not bad. Not great but there's probably tons of vitamins in them.
rape seed, Kentish Oils, kent
We have a go at bottling our own oil then do a tasting of different rapeseed oils. The lemon flavoured one is particularly good. Then I feel my stomach cramp. The toilet is right next to the tasting room. I sit on the loo and I can hear the people doing their tasting. Me I've got the shits all of a sudden. Plop plop plop. The noise resounds. I'm sure they can hear me. I turn the tap on to try and disguise it. They probably think I pee like an elephant. After an unfeasibly long period in the toilet, I emerge back into the tasting room. I'm not completely ready but it's all getting embarrassing. But nobody says anything. This is Britain after all.
We get back into the van and my stomach starts to seize up. We are driving along Kentish lanes.
'How long will it take to get to the next place?' I squirm.
'About fifteen minutes,' the driver replies.
I throw dignity to the wind and squeak: 'I hope I can keep it in until then.'
'I can stop next to a field,' offers the driver.
'I've got a tissue,' says a blogger.
'I've left my phone back at the rapeseed oil place,' gasps another. We have to turn back.
I google rapeseed on my phone. It's highly toxic.
I've taken to praying to the god of poo. It works, my stomach calms itself.
Our next stop is the Ramsgate Brewery run by a droll fellow called Eddie Gadd who used to be an engineer and helped dig the Channel tunnel.
He says: 'I'm going to tell you how to brew beer.' 
And he does.
Left to Right: malted barley, crystal malt barley, roasted barley, hops. Ramsgate brewery, Kent
Kent is famous for hops 'East Kent Goldings' which is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). But hops are fairly recent in the history of beer, an innovation brought over from Holland 500 years ago. They add bitterness and  shelflife: preserving the beer beyond a few days. Now beer lasted a matter of weeks rather than days. This is when production grew larger and men took over brewing as a profession. Prior to that, making beer was a woman's job (wasn't everything?). Women would place a broomstick sticking out from their door to signify 'fresh beer for sale'. Hence the expression 'small beer'. We still see this tradition in pub signs hanging perpendicularly from the outside.
the Cornerhouse restaurant, Minster, Kent
That evening I eat a fine local meal at the Corner House, which uses, where possible, Kent produce. We have Kentish beer, Kentish wine, asparagus, flavoured rapeseed oil, cheeses from Kent. I spend a comfortable night in the B & B upstairs.
Oast house Kent
Even Kent's architecture is influenced by beer, with occasional Oast houses, where hops were dried, still to be seen. I spoke to one woman who lives in an Oast house dating from the 1840s, converted to a house in the 1970s.
'When it's windy the cowl at the top of the chimney spins around', she told me, 'and it sounds like a ghost lives here.'
Thanet in Kent, the garden of England, is an island. There is a river that surrounds it, which has been silted up. Before you had to ask the boatman to take you across. I walk around the village of Minster, the 'capital' of the island of Thanet, with the owner of The Corner House restaurant. It's the kind of picture-perfect English village where everyone knows everyone. He says hello to virtually everybody we come across.
Minster Abbey, Kent
Minster abbey, Kent
We visit Minster Abbey, which is a rare Pre-Conquest building with Norman additions. The herring-bone style of brickwork is Saxon, and the original window slits, without glass, gave air and light. A Benedictine order of nuns live there. There are still about 20 orders of nuns in the UK. In English we tend to say 'nunnery' but actually monastery is technically accurate. It means an enclosed community, where the community comes in rather than the sister going out. So hospitality is important and you can still stay with the sisters, using the abbey as a retreat. The abbess Domneva was the original founder of this religious order, and was given Thanet as blood money by the Saxon King Ethelbert of Kent. Her daughter, St Mildred, was the second abbess.
Margate beach bubbles
Dreamland Roller disco, Margate
We drove to Margate and visited Dreamland, a retro seaside funfair with old fashioned rides. Margate is now a thriving and fashionable resort, with vintage shops selling fashion and furniture. The Sands hotel has been updated, you can eat on the balcony overlooking the sea front.
cafe, Margate, kent
The most thrilling part of my trip was visiting the Turner Contemporary gallery, named of course, after the artist, who frequently painted in Margate. The exterior was poorly designed, looking like a modern warehouse blocking a view of the sea but inside it was light and lovely. There was a stunning exhibion by Yinka Shonibari of Dutch batik wrapped books with the names of public figures printed in gold on the spine. A must-see.
turner contemporary, Yinka Shonebari

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Msmarmitelover's Blog

Public liability insurance for supper clubs and pop ups: new specially created policy from Simply Business

Posted on August 3, 2015 at 20:55 0 Comments

Eating in. It’s the new dining out. Or is it the other way round?

Whatever side of this very ‘now’ fence you’re on, if you’ve set up your own supper club, you’ll be familiar with the grey area your business sits in. The burning question is, where does your hobby end and a professional business begin? Nuanced as it is, getting insurance for your supper club can be tricky. The industry could do with catching up, and many insurers will be unfamiliar, and therefore uncomfortable with your…

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V is for Vegan is published today/ Vitamix giveaway

Posted on April 23, 2015 at 12:36 0 Comments

Two bits of good news for members of Find a Supper Club. 

First my 'game changing' vegan cookbook is published today. It's called…

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Secret Tea Parties in The Telegraph

Posted on January 23, 2015 at 10:54 0 Comments

Some of the recipes from my book MsMarmitelover's Secret Tea Party were in the Telegraph yesterday. I also spoke to Leah Hyslop giving tips and hints on an Alice in Wonderland (to mark the 150th anniversary) tea party.

How to throw an Alice in Wonderland tea…

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Competition to win a Cuisinart food processor from The House of Fraser

Posted on January 14, 2015 at 14:50 27 Comments

We know that members of Find a Supper Club are dedicated cooks and enthusiastic foodies. Getting the right kitchen equipment really helps with producing a fantastic meal. Two things that every kitchen needs is an electric mixer and a food processor.

House of Fraser have a selection of useful, stylish food processors in a range of prices. Check them out…

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Comment Wall (75 comments)

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At 20:19 on June 3, 2015, Not Safe Boiling Water said…
Hi Ms Marmite, I feel a bit stipid about my ID - is there any way of changing it? :-) Iain
At 15:58 on February 16, 2015, The Fat Carrot said…

Yey!!!

Thank you I am soooo pleased. :0)

At 6:26 on October 2, 2014, Agy Pasek said…
Thanks for your encou encouraging message!
At 9:41 on September 24, 2014, Hilary Adams said…
Hello and Thankyou for a fabulous event on Sunday my first supper club and definitely one of many now. The food was very tasty my favourite the soup and aubergine dish, the dessert wine was Devine thanks for sharing.you were a great host along with fantastic elfs that served. Meant too purchase your lovely book so must do that next time.thanks again for a relaxed Sunday
At 10:23 on September 21, 2014, Annie said…
Hi Kerstin, Am attending today with my friend Hilary and really looking forward to meeting you and to a potentially sun-drenched Sicilian afternoon plus edible flower lesson! Just left a message on your blog to ask you to email me your house number..i know road but forgot my diary where I wrote it down. Please could you either reply here if private email or email me at anneruthgreenwood@yahoo.co.uk with house name? Really sorry and thanks X
At 10:23 on March 1, 2014, Rose .G. Christaina said…

WelcomeTo Omni Mont-Royal Hotel Canadian Employment Offer Hotel Omni Mont-Royal
1050 Sher
brooke Street West
Montreal, H3A 2R6 CA.
Good day,
I am Rose from Canada, the manager of Omni canadian hotel, pls i want to inform you about the vacancies in our hotel, The management needs men and women, married and not married, who will work and live in Canada .The hotel will pay for his flight ticket and assist him to process his visa in his country, if you are interested contact us via E-mail: omni.montroyalinternationalhotel@yahoo.ca
And the Hotel informations will be sent to you immediately.
Thanks.
From the Hotel manager.
TEL.  (+1-77-264-785-65)OR (+1-51-64)-41-02-24)
E-MAIL : omni.montroyalinternationalhotel@yahoo.ca
NOTE... DO NOT REPLY BACK IN THIS SITE IF YOU ARE INTERESTED YOU HAVE TO CONTACT US BACK THROUGH THE EMAIL ABOVE FOR IMMEDIATE RESPONSE OK.

At 21:00 on January 16, 2014, Daniel Ransome said…

:-)

At 1:35 on January 13, 2014, msmarmitelover said…

Do message me privately and friend me if you like.

At 18:20 on October 19, 2013, fat gay vegan said…

Hi there! Just trying to get to grips with your lovely supper club portal! xx

At 15:45 on October 15, 2013, Judy McGuire said…

Entirely the result of airbrushing, sadly!

Look forward to seeing you, love from Mike too x

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