Theobroma cacao

Theobroma cacao

The local “market” in St. George’s is little more than a Potemkin Village movie set for tourists. We wanted to stock up on raw cacao nibs for the trip (about 10 kilos…more or less 20 lbs.) but the old ladies—with their headscarves and hoop earrings and little woven baskets—at the market wanted 5 EC$ for a tiny little handful. Ridiculous (we are serious cacao consumers, not cruise ship dilettantes looking for souvenirs.)

Kris found a real source of cacao when he was walking across the island…a warehouse in the mountains where they buy, grade, roast and sell the nibs in large quantities, for more realistic prices. Unprocessed cacao nibs were EC$5.00 per pound. We are well-stocked, now. And, as a bonus, walking home with his sack of nibs over his shoulder, he went past a neglected cacao farm, and picked one of the fruit for me to draw. The pulp around the nibs is sweet and also edible, though you have to suck on many of them to get any satisfaction (the pulp’s thin).

By Luisovalles (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Luisovalles (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
What to do with cacao nibs? Roast them (we toss them in a small wok and stir them around over the stove till they start to smell like chocolate) and then shell and crush them to use instead of nuts in baked goods or salads. Crunchy, bitter, and unmistakeably chocolate.

Boil roasted nibs with something (like milk) and then strain to get “chocolate-flavoured anything”. Pound them with honey or condensed milk into a coarse paste (Kris does this, eats it with a spoon. The Barbarian. I’m just jealous because I can’t have condensed milk.)

I grind them up and use like I would any ground spice, in curries or sauces (e.g. the Mexican classic, mole Poblano), with chillies, plantains, chicken…

Or you can try making a basic chocolate at home…there are lots of recipes and ideas on the internet. I quickly found this one (but don’t have cocoa butter, to try it out) and it seems like a good place to start.

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models and mail art

model for a bed

I use plasticine a lot to make models or mock-ups for drawing…especially strange, three-point perspective drawings. It’s cheating, sort of—not because I am drawing from clay models, but because I then pass them off as drawings of the real things—but it sure beats looking at other people’s pictures on the internet., and there’s the added creativity of shaping stuff with my hands.

There’s a painting I want to do that involves a bed, and since I haven’t got a proper-looking bed to draw (our single-layer mattress sits on a low wooden platform, just 6 inches off the floor) I made one out of plasticine. It’s about the size of a pack of playing cards. Will do my sketches using this.

I did a few drawings of the bed, and then added a pair of oars to it. Just playing with the form. Nice way to calm down an overactive mind and smoothen the thought wrinkles from between my eyebrows. It may well become the subject for some other drawing. And so it goes…

rowing to dreamland

Also made a mail art postcard for a friend in Germany today. A scrap of Indonesian sarong on one side, the beautiful old-fashioned wrapper of a bar of Spanish chocolate on the other.

chocolate postcard

Someone gave me a box of chocolates…

A friend gave me a box of Guylian chocolate seashells yesterday. They’re sitting on top of three bags of ice in the cooler. I’ve been trying to do some painting, but I keep putting the brush down, going out to the kitchen, walking in a circle (can’t remember what I came out for), heading back in. Over and over. I think maybe the chocolate seashells are sending me little ESP messages. If I’m not careful, I’ll eat the whole 15-piece box in one sitting.

I feel like the poor kids in this vimeo.

Back to painting. Or trying to paint.