Archive for May 2010

A Different Kind of Conch

May 31, 2010

This isn’t about the kind of conch (pronounced “konk”) we find all around The Bahamas. This is not about that staple of island life (and a staple that’s so popular—but not necessarily so prevalent these days—that it may well need some common sense seasonal protection to bring it back to a state of plentifulness, but that’s another story!). No, this is not about the beautiful pink-lipped mild conch that lives in the grassy sea banks of The Bahamas and tastes great in conch salad, fritters, or pounded thin, battered and fried into cracked conch (can you tell it’s around lunchtime as I type this?) …

This is about conch as a verb.  Something I just discovered thanks to The Art of Eating Magazine.

This amazing independent print magazine (that celebrates all the best in food and wine with in-depth articles about the people, places, traditions, growers, and artisans who produce the freshest and most flavorful fare) introduced me to the term “conch” as it applies to the the fine art of making chocolate ….

Yes. Chocolate! And not just any chocolate. Some of the finest chocolate produced anywhere: Taza Chocolate (where a debate on whether to conch or not conch the chocolate is appropos and just a normal part of chocolate-making lingo!).

What I learned reading the Art of Eating article in Salon.com (click here) is that in chocolate-making “conching” refers to a process by which chocolate’s texture can be smoothed. The original conching machine (developed in 1874) was used to give creamy smoothness to the gritty raw chocolate beans, tempering it for taste and texture. The original chocolate conching machine was shaped like a seashell, and the name still refers to the chocolate mixture smoothing process that happens in the final stages of any chocolate making.

In the true artistry of chocolate purists who craft from bean to bar, Taza Chocolate is unique because they do not conch. They roast, winnow, grind, temper, and mold their chocolate by hand. And they use only authentic Oaxacan stone mills (instead of steel machine mills) to grind their organic cacao beans on a slightly imperfect surface, which allows small small particles of unrefined cacao to pop with intense uncompromised flavor in the finished chocolate, and to give their bars a distinct granular texture.

Chocolate. I love it all. Conched or not conched. And I’m so happy to know that Taza Chocolate exists, and to learn that something sea-inspired is a part of chocolate making history.

And as is the case with all the good things I blog about here, I’m not selling anything—I’m just having fun sharing some of the inspiring stuff that makes life a little more full of wonder and joy—and handcrafted all organic-ingredient chocolate is right up there near the top of that Sweet Life list.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go in search of my copy of one of my most favorite all-time movies: Chocolat! (I’m wondering if there’s a conching machine or grinder anywhere in the background that I didn’t notice before … and even if there isn’t, I just love Johnny Depp in this, don’t you?!)

Indulge! (And share a note about your favorite chocolate-lovin’ treats!)

The Royal Poinciana Annual Red Dress Ball

May 31, 2010

I just adore this time of year on Grand Bahama Island. Everywhere you turn there are bright bursts of flame red flowers atop wide canopied treetops dotting the landscape — so regally red and naturally elegant — it’s the annual blossoming of the Royal Poinciana trees, and it’s spectacular, even amidst a landscape known for its lush and dazzling tropical flora!

Passion-red petals abound at every turn …

… fancy-dressed arbors everywhere …

This splendid annual show starts somewhere around the middle of May and continues for a good month or more. It’s at its peak right now.

This gorgeous annual Royal Poinciana Red Dress Ball — free and open for all to enjoy — is a May/June extravaganza that twirls the landscape with delight as nature shows off some of its more flamboyant stuff.

Just makes the garden of your heart dance, doesn’t it?! Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy …

Bahamas Bush Medicine: Cerasee

May 18, 2010

I’m feeling a little tickle in my throat today. A little dryness. A slight cough now and then. I hope I’m not coming down with a cold. Vitamin C on a regular basis is a traditional way of keeping your resistance up, but here in The Bahamas, you can walk right into your garden and find something that will make you feel better in no time: Cerasee.

Can you see the cerasee growing like a vine in this tangle of green in the picture above?  It’s the one with the yellow flower and the five-fingered leaves. Taking some of the cerasee leaves, stems, flowers, (and even seeds!) and pouring boiling hot water over it and letting it steep to make a tea infusion is said to be one of the best cure-alls for whatever ails you. It’s known as a blood purifier, blood sugar stabilizer, skin soother, immune system enhancer, and just all round tonic for keeping you strong and helping you “live long”, as they say in the islands!  The wise elders in The Bahamas recommend a cup a week to keep you going. It is a nasty tasting medicine — I have trouble imagining how anyone drank enough of it in the first place to realize it had therapeutic properties — but it is a long standing, sworn-by, tried-and-true remedy recommended by countless 80 and 90-somethings in The Bahamas. I’ve given up on putting honey in it to kill the taste. It doesn’t really help. You’ve just gotta down the bitter brew.  It doesn’t taste like Paradise, but cerasee’s body-boosting abilities do make it a true heavenly gift if you like living well. I’ve thought myself too busy to brew up a batch these past few weeks, and you see what happens?!! Okay, I’m going to take Mary Poppins’ advice and maybe add just a spoonful of sugar …  augghhh … To your health!

Clothespin Art

May 14, 2010

altered old-fashioned slotted wooden clothespin decorated with ARTchix images, ornamentals, some paint, and marker

other side of the clothespin

Having fun … making art!

Art Challenge Fun: Playing with Complementary Colors

May 10, 2010

It’s fun to play with color. I created this collage playing mostly with shades of deep blues and various orange-reds as part of this week’s ARTchix Studio challenge about exploring the fullness of the color wheel …

… this pinwheel is a simplified version of the full color spectrum, but it nicely illustrates the pop and zing you get in your artwork when you pair up colors that are opposite each other on the wheel to command maximum attention … like yellow and purple …

… orange and blue …

… or pink and green (or red and green!)

Color wheels can be sweet and simple with primary colors like the pinwheel, or hugely detailed with all the multi-shaded variations of color that printers, designers, and artists use …

… either way, it’s a wonderful visual reminder of how contrast gives you the most impact and why some pairings automatically appeal more to the eye than others. And when playing with color—whether in art, graphic design, fashion, food, or decor—it’s all eye-candy!  Play away — it makes you feel like a kid again with a new box of crayons!

“Create Art. Share Happiness.” — ARTchix Studio


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