Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Grenada + nutmeg: Inseparable

Quick, now: Name a use for nutmeg.

I'm willing to wager the vast majority of the people reading this post immediately answered, "Eggnog!"

And while the spice is indeed a vital topping for the Christmas beverage, it's used in lots of other things, too, from cookies to sausages. You'll even find nutmeg and its sister spice, mace--they're both made from the same fruit--in medicines and cosmetics.

You'll rarely find a place as passionate about nutmeg as the Caribbean island of Grenada. Islanders use the fruit's sweet-smelling shells to build garden paths. Women in markets sell strings of nutmeg to intrigued tourists. In fact, Grenadians are so fond of the pear-shaped fruit, they put it on their flag.

So what is it with Grenada and nutmeg?

The British introduced nutmeg trees to the island in 1782, and it turned out that Grenada has an ideal combination of soil and climate for cultivating them. They grew like mad and spread everywhere, becoming a significant part of the local economy.

But it wasn't all smooth sailing. Hurricane Janet in 1955 wiped out 75 percent of the island's nutmeg trees. Almost a half century later, Hurricane Ivan caused similar destruction. In both cases, islanders worked hard to revive the industry. Today, nutmeg trees are beginning to flourish once again.

When I was in Grenada recently, I visited an organic farm belonging to Maca Bana, a charming, family-run resort. The farm is a short drive from the resort, high on a hillside. Originally it was completely planted with nutmeg, but Maca Bana's owners have added lettuce and other vegetables for use in the resort's restaurant. In an unusual twist, the resort's guests are welcome to come to the farm and pick their own dinner ingredients, which they can cook up in their villa kitchen. They may also have the chance to meet Brian Godwin, the farmer who nurtures all this organic bounty and is more than happy to show it off for visitors.

Brian Godwin gives visitors a glimpse of nutmeg.

So if you ever go to Grenada, hit the beach, by all means. But to really get a "taste" for the islands, don't forget to hit the fields, too.

Photo credits:
Flag: Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".
Brian Godwin: Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet, copyright 2009.

Disclosure: I travelled to Grenada as a guest of the Grenada Board of Tourism.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cafe with a view in Melbourne

I discovered the St. Kilda Pier Kiosk cafe by accident. I'd strolled up the long pier in the beachfront Melbourne suburb of St. Kilda just to check out the view. And quite a view it is.

The fact that I could munch on a decent, inexpensive sandwich while absorbing the scenery was a bonus. To be completely honest, I don't even remember what kind of sandwich it was! It simply dealt efficiently with my hunger while I admired the sea.

The cafe is located in a cream puff of an Edwardian building dating back to 1904.

As well as sandwiches, it serves milkshakes, tea, pastries and other light snacks. But don't expect to enjoy your cheap meal and a summer sunset, too: the cafe closes at 5:30pm on weekdays and 6:00pm on weekends. (If sunsets are your thing, check out the somewhat fancier Little Blue restaurant in the same building, where dishes include classics like risotto and chicken Kiev.)

And here's the best part: behind the building, a long breakwater shelters a colony of little blue penguins. Ask the regulars sunbathing on the rocks to point them out to you. I took a million photos, but due to poor lighting and meagre skills, this was the best I could manage.

The cafe's food may not be memorable, but how many restaurants can boast their own penguin colony?

If you like reading about food and travel, check out similar posts on today's WanderFood Wednesday site!

Disclosure: I travelled to Melbourne courtesy of Tourism Australia.