Tag Archives: food

A Latin(o) Australia

I have become a chocolate snob. A warm buttery waft of cocoa tempts me round the corner of the Northbridge Piazza. San Churro, the chocolateria promises all sort of good things in chocolate on its menu, but I’ve not ventured in as yet. You see, I’ve sampled the real thing – homemade Latin-American-style hot chocolate brewed from such brands as Rexim and Blooker.  I’ve sampled the flavours of Colombia, Venezuela and Nicaragua in Willie’s cacao blocks sold at Kakulas. These heady concoctions are but my first taste of latino Western Australia. Conclusion 1: Cocoa is truly is the nectar of the gods.

I came to Australia expecting to see England with a few kangaroos and koalas on the side. It amazes me to find so much of South America here instead. Further down James Street, strains of Spanish music spill out of Guzman y Gomez, a Mexican taqueria. The supermarkets sell El Paso taco-making kits and the local coffee shop has bean-filled burritos. Conclusion 2: they really like Mexican food here.

Then there are the dances – I can now tell a merengue from a salsa (no, these are not names for food) and a bachata from a champeta (some things are better left unexplored). A local bar offers salsa on Thursday nights, but if you’ve been reading my blog, you know that the less said about dancing the better. The rhythms are irresistible though, and some nights I draw the blinds and try the steps with YouTube lessons. Maybe someday….Conclusion 3: Dreamer.

I’m truly impressed and touched by the warmth of Latin hospitality and the friendship extended by people from various corners of the Spanish speaking world living in Western Australia – Colombia and Peru, Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and Argentina. Here are homes where I have learnt to cook arepas with Harina P.A.N. (corn meal) and eat changua, while listening tongue-tied to Spanish chatter. The clear tones of Argentina are easy to follow, but I struggle to decipher the fluid accents of Chile. Here are countries where to be “Indian” means something else. Yes…I’m Indian. No, from India – yes, we do look South American. Or perhaps it’s the South Americans who look Indian? No? My apologies.

There is a sense of family and fellowship that reminds me, achingly, of people back home. There is an openness that I think of as purely Australian. There is a love of soccer that only a South American can understand. Why don’t they play cricket? Just joking, of course.

The Day of the Little Candles: An Advent celebration or Latin living in Perth?

The Day of the Little Candles: An Advent celebration or Latin living in Perth?

A few days ago, I lit candles to celebrate the Advent season in the style of Colombia’s Dia de Las Velitas. As I watch the tealights flicker to the tune of “El Burrito de Belen,” I celebrate the cultural pluralism of nation to which I belong and the multiculturalism of the land I live in. I came here expecting to see a half-forgotten corner of England. Who would have thought I’d find a Latin Australia instead?


Love is Blue

I don’t mean that in a negative sense. I wonder if whoever wrote the song ever saw the Southern Ocean? For, to see the sea at Esperance is to fall in love with blue. This is unlike any blue I’ve ever seen. Not the indigo-wash blue of Jodhpur’s houses, not the vivid blue of Perth’s beaches, but a deep sparkling blue that makes me think of sapphires and velvet, diamonds and midnight. So begins my visit to Esperance.

Blue View: Waves roll up from the Southern Ocean off Esperance

I’m hungry – a four-hour car drive from Kalgoorlie does wonders for your appetite, even if you are only the passenger. However, my friend knows where to find McDonalds. Yes, the golden arches have found a home down on Australia’s southern coast. My friend orders the lamb burger, and I opt for the fish. This is a bad choice. Lamb looks much better in a burger. If only I could eat red meat.

Later, as we drive down the road to the beaches, I spot my first emu in the wild. Only a silhouette, but still…! Do people eat emu meat?

We’re freezing – at least, I know I am. But the full moon over the bay is too good a photo op to miss. It’s not an easy shot though. Moon over the quay, moonlight on the waves. Click. Perfect. I could write advertising copy for Nikon.

Moonlight Bay: The full moon rises over Esperance Harbour

We’re exploring Cape Le Grand Natural Park and very grand it is too, in the French sense of the word. The weather is fine, and if we’ve missed the early morning kangaroos, we certainly haven’t missed the view. After much modest wriggling in the car, I manage to strip off stockings and walk down to the beach. I curl my toes into the satin-sheen sand. It’s softer than feathers.

My friend is taking photographs. We will have 500 shots before the trip’s end. It’s quiet. The beach is almost empty. The waves are shushing the noisy gulls. We’re so lucky to be here, to see this. What else would we be in Lucky Bay?

We spot kangaroos on the roadside on our way back. They are adorable. Ummm…people do eat kangaroo meat.

Between the Lines: Wave patterns in the sands of Lucky Bay

We are saddened. Over in the next bay a fisherman has drowned. I’m shocked and disheartened. The landscape that looked so beautiful is also desolate. It’s a reminder to respect nature. All this will still be here long after we’re gone. Suddenly, I feel quite insignificant.

We’re back on the road and headed home. I think I must be Spanish – or I might have been in a previous life. My friend, who is South American, is teaching me words for colours, numbers, and animals. Las vacas negras y las ovejas blancas en los campos. We cross fields of canola, bush-fire-burnt trees and sign posts for mine sites. Still can’t say all that in Spanish.

Life and Death: Burnt trees tower over newer growth

It is almost dark when we cross Kambalda – the home stretch, according to my companion. I’m tired but still enthusiastic. There’s this odd twitchiness around my mouth. A smile? Ah yes, now I know what this is. I’m happy.

Interested in the French version? Watch “L’amour est bleu” sung here.

For the many lovely photographs, I thank my friend, el géologo.

A Scent of Spice and Chocolate

I’m on a mission. My assignment is to discover two boxes of a German cocoa powder, brand name unknown. I’m looking for a shop that sells spices – not any shop, mind you. This store is the stuff of legend. One of the elderly parishioners at church speaks of its aromas with enthusiasm and (could it be?) reverence. “You can’t miss it,” he told me, “just on the other side of the station.”  In the three years since, I’ve discovered that I’m rather good at missing things – spice-laden stores included. Today, thanks to my Colombian friend, I have a name – Kakulas Brothers.

My destination is Northbridge’s Williams Street, between the station and the intersection with James Street. I’ve never been here by day before, and I make another discovery – the State Theatre. Could this be the beginning of nights at the opera? Afternoons of drama? But we’re looking for spices today, as all good Indians should – no, I forget, German cocoa powder!

Spice Paradise: Dieters beware!

My first glimpse of Kakulas’ treasures is through an open window, which serves as a coffee counter. Inside, Saturday shoppers are filling baskets to the brim. There’s coffee from Colombia, basmati rice, lentils, beans, all kinds of olives, dried fruits, nuts in shells, nuts out of their shells, and sacks and sacks of spices. Scrolls of cinnamon bark, the bright yellow of turmeric, rounds of jaggery (gur or cane sugar) – they have it all. They also have the unnamed German drinking chocolate.

Hugging my precious find, I do the rounds of the wooden boxes with dried fruit dipped in chocolate. There’s raspberry in white chocolate. Blueberry infused cranberries – or is the other way round? Dates in chocolates. But I’m drawn to the chocolate ginger. It’s expensive, so I take the smallest scoop possible. Seven round balls. My lucky number – perfect!

I emerge from the shop clutching my purchases, my heading reeling slightly with Dutch brand names – or perhaps I’m a bit intoxicated with all the wonderful sights and smells. The shop, I realize, is nothing much to look at. It’s a typical shop around a corner – there are many like it on Mumbai’s Colaba Causeway. But if heaven is a place that smells like spices, that combines the shabbiness of Mumbai’s Sahakari Bhandar with the aroma of my mother’s kitchen, then this is heaven. I pop a chocolate-ginger ball into my mouth. What bliss. I know I’m going to go to hell for this. I reach into my bag for another chocolate.