Bouncing around in the ‘Twitter sphere’ to check up on what’s being said about my delightful island of Mauritius, I noticed various comments from people planning holidays and honeymoons within the next few months. Most were simply brimming with excitement in anticipation of the visit, while others expressed their light-hearted jealousy of family and friends that had booked their trip of a lifetime . . . who could blame them?
However, a few had reached out in curiosity, hoping to learn about what Mauritius had in store other than the amazing beaches and delectable food. We’ve covered many topics in this blog including some that extol the cuisine of Mauritius, highlight the island’s rich history and even what to expect in terms of daylight hours throughout the year. What hasn’t been discussed is that which Mauritius has to offer visitors who enjoy leaving the sandy shores behind for a more adventurous or educational holiday. So, for all those looking to spice up their holiday to Mauritius with a few more outdoor photo opportunities as well as in their choice of dishes, here’s a rundown of a few of the island’s attractions.
If the island’s history tickles your fancy, then mosey on down to Mahébourg, located in the southeast, where you can glimpse the bell recovered from the shipwreck of Le San Geran that inspired the Mauritian romantic legend of Paul and Virginie, along with exhibits from Dutch, French and British colonial periods. Mahébourg itself is worth a visit to breathe in the sense of conflict over the island as you gaze out across the bay of Grand Port, where the famous naval battle of 1810 was fought.
Blue Bay is also found to the southeast of Mauritius and is the island’s only marine park. This is an ideal spot to snorkel or enjoy a glass bottom boat tour to view colourful fish and coral.
Of course, the famed flightless Dodo is no longer with us, but the pink pigeon still clings to existence; natural history enthusiasts would be remiss not to visit Casela Bird Park to see one of the world’s rarest birds. The park also houses more than 140 bird varieties, from five continents.
Undoubtedly, the wondrous coloured earths of Chamarel is a must see for visitors to Mauritius. This geological phenomenon was formed by volcanic activity and the subsequent cooling of rock layers at varied speed. A visit to the eponymous waterfall makes this journey a full and worthwhile daytrip.
With an abundance of walking and hiking trails, such as the two-hour ascent of Le Pouce – the thumb in English – or the Hindu pilgrimage route to Grand Bassin, you might be forgiven for wanting to open the throttle on your adventure by quad-biking or taking a jeep up the Moka mountains to the breath-taking nature park of Domaine Les Pailles. Drop in to the rum distillery and sample some of the island’s home-brewed tipples that are distilled from sugar taken from the nearby mill.
Be assured that these are only a select few attractions, with many, many more for you to pack in to your Mauritius vacation.
Bye for now
What a wonderful time of year is the month of May. Changes can be noticed everywhere, from the blossoming vivaciousness of plants and trees to the liveliness of people on the streets. Summer is on the sunny horizon and this season of warmth brings us endless hope emerging from the gloom of winter and the chill of spring.
Of course, that sense of summery cheerfulness remains the entitlement of those living well above and below equatorial regions. Sure, those of us that reside near to our planet’s longest girth line rarely experience cold such as the teeth-chattering temperatures suffered by family and friends in Europe, but we don’t get to delight in daylight extending late into the evening either.
That may be somewhat of an odd comparison to make, but when you have spent years in regions that boundary the equator you become not only accustomed to cultures, customs and cuisines – you also adapt to a very regular and unchanging daily solar schedule.
Mauritius, for example, at this time of year sees the setting sun disappear at around 5:40 pm in the evening, while in the UK that same vanishing act is creeping up to nearly 8:30 pm! By the time the northern hemisphere’s June 21st solstice heralds the arrival of summer, families all across Britain could well be enjoying barbecues without the need for swathes of artificial light up until 9:20 pm! Meanwhile, over in Mauritius – at the equivalent chronological time of 9:20 pm – it’s already been dark for over three hours!
Granted, in December and January the island of Mauritius is gifted an extra hour or so in the evening, which allows visitors additional time for their hunts around markets or an extended evening stroll.
Still, that extra hour is hardly comparable to the promise of coming through a winter in Europe where in its midst darkness can envelope the cityscape and countryside by 3:30 pm to balmy evenings that seemingly could last forever! What a positively pleasing transformation is that lee way to sunlight!
A few years back during the month of July, I brought a few friends on holiday to Spain, all of whom had never travelled outside of Mauritius. Arriving late at night encouraged us all to bed, with a view to making the most of our first day. Having slept on the plane, we awoke with first light to begin our holiday. The day’s activities soon brought us to lunch and once finished my repast I announced “Siesta!” My companions laughed and I could hear them planning their afternoon as I nodded off.
An hour later, I rejoined the gang as they drank wine and enjoyed the pool. This frivolity continued until nearly 6 pm when someone noticed the time and suggested dinner before it got dark. It was my turn to laugh and responded that there was plenty of time before ‘dark!’ By 7:30 pm there was a distinct air of confusion and when darkness still hadn’t arrived by 9 pm, my friends had begun to wonder if I was playing some kind of joke using their time-pieces and clocks in the house! Such is the fact that they had never experienced elongated sun lit evenings that it utterly confounded them all.
They soon became used to Spanish summer lifestyles – taking a nap in the afternoon and eating late at night – but I do know they were glad to return home and more routine hours of sun all year round.
I myself, do love the long summer evenings of beer gardens and barbecues . . . just eliminate the cold winters!
Bye for now.
Vexed by the meaning of certain words such as vexillology, for example? Fear not, for here at Mauritius Foods we not only endeavour to bring you information relevant to the incredible and colourful cuisine of Mauritius, but we’re also on hand to deal with any queries that may crop up on any topic regarding our Island.
Not long after Mauritius Independence Day (March 12th) this year, a visitor to our island nation, whom I met while enjoying a glass of Agricole rum, mentioned that he had a developing interest as a vexillologist. My immediate thoughts readied me for the lead into a joke of some kind that would end in a face plant and “I should have seen that coming” type of reaction.
However, as I soon learned this gentleman was genuine and swiftly enlightened me on his new-found hobby. “Flags,” he said as he wafted an imaginary pennant in the air. “Vexillology is the study of flags, how each one came about and what they symbolise,” he continued.
Having a passing interest in genealogy and family crests, my curiosity was instantly heightened and was fascinated to know if this flag fancier had researched the multi-coloured standard of Mauritius. “Ah, Les Quatre Bandes,” he crowed with a hint of Gallic flair before continuing with an explanation of each colour’s meaning.
His awareness of our flag’s name in French didn’t surprise me nor did his knowledge of what each colour represented given his admitted interest and presence on Mauritius during Independence Day celebrations.
For those that don’t know and are keen to learn, the flag of Mauritius comprises four horizontal bands of different colours, with red at the top and then blue, yellow and green, in descending order. Red is symbolic of the blood spilt through times of slavery and colonisation. Blue representing the Indian Ocean from which Mauritius was born is the colour blue, while yellow reflects independence and sunshine in which the Island now basks. Finally, the colour green evokes a sense of the Island’s verdant vegetation.
My friendly fan of flags must have recognised an expression of not being overly impressed as I congratulated him on his general knowledge because he lifted his glass and asked if I knew from where the flag’s colours originated. Confused, I clumsily blurted out that hadn’t he just described their origin. A brief smile crossed his face.
Gotcha! That’s what those smiles mean. You know the ones; one corner of the mouth raised ever so slightly, not quite a smirk, but not far off.
Suddenly he was Jack Palance and we had stepped into an episode of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! What ‘Jack’ then presented was truly fascinating and something I was not previously aware. “Ethiopia,” he announced, clearly enjoying the higher ground.
“Mauritius has African connections and along with many African countries that gained independence in the 50s and 60s, Mauritius adopted the colours — which have similar representations — of the Ethiopian flag in honour of the country being one of the oldest independent African states,” he declared. Impressed, I bought Jack a drink and we attempted to out-fact each other well into the evening!
Learning about your homeland from a visitor is humbling experience, but also a reminder to explore the history of your country a little more. I’m sure you’ll be surprised at what you might find about yours with a little research!
Goodbye for now!
What are typical Mauritian dishes?
Summer in Europe looms in expectation of cold, dull winter days giving way to long, dusky evenings that encourage the wearing of short-sleeved shirts and sitting in the local drinking establishment’s beer garden quaffing chilled wine or ice-cold cider.
For many others the prospect of summer invites the planning of holidays; and after a bitterly cold few months battling inclement weather and fending off sniffles and coughs, the idea of a fortnight in the sunny climes of a foreign land seems justly deserved!
At Mauritius Foods we also understand there are many with constraints, such as family, finances or time, and the dream of a break to simply soak up the sun and devour local delicacies has to remain just that . . . a dream. Sadly, we can’t influence the weather, but what we can do — with a few recipes we’ve included below — is offer up a taste of Mauritius cuisine and hope that all your hard work and sacrifice will, one day, allow you to visit the island and experience these dishes cooked in their homeland.
In a recent Telegraph article, Shelina Permalloo — whose family hail from Mauritius and who won UK MasterChef 2012 — was asked to sum up Mauritius cuisine in a dish, but rather than give one she presented three. While interesting and informative, the article did not supply actual recipes for the three dishes mentioned, so as a follow on to the piece we have provided recipes for you to enjoy based on the wonderful Ms Permalloo’s suggestions.
Chicken Birani — Mauritius recipe
Serves 7 – 8 persons
7 or 8 chicken thighs and legs separated
1 cup plain yoghurt
Birani spice – 3 tblsps
1 large tomato
2 green chilies
Cumin powder – 1 tblsp
1 onion chopped and fried
2 red onions
6 salted potatoes – cut in half
Ghee – 2 tblsps
Garlic paste – 2 tblsps
Ginger paste – 2 tblsps
2 cups of water
Cumin seeds – 3 tblsps
Cinnamon – 2
Cardamom – 4
Cloves – 4
Hot water – 5 tblsps
1/3 teaspoon powdered yellow food coloring
1 tablespoon saffron threads
1 can of green peas drained (or 1 cup of frozen peas will work fine)
Pinch of salt x 2
4 cups uncooked Basmati rice (soaked for 1 hr)
While cooking the salted potatoes until half done, add the Saffron to the hot water and after 3 minutes add the yellow food colouring. Blend the garlic, ginger, mint, coriander, tomato, fresh onions and chillies before combining the mixture in a pot with the yoghurt, 2 tablespoons of cumin seeds, 1 cinnamon, half of the fried onions, 3 cardamoms, 2 cloves, biryani spices and cumin.
Give the mixture a good stir and then add the chicken, ghee and water with saffron. Again, stir to coat the chicken and mix in the peas, onions, salt and pepper. To this, pour in an amount of water that does not cover the ingredients, usually 1 cup is enough.
Cook the basmati rice for half the recommended time and then add half the quantity to the meat inside the pot with a few peas and onions. Top the rice with the remaining rice, onions and peas in addition to the coloured water and any ghee that is left. Cover the pot and cook over a medium heat for half an hour or until the water has evaporated. Your Mauritian birani is ready to serve.
I will be at the Chester Food and Drink Festival this weekend at Chester racecourse if you would like to come and sample some of our Dodo Chilli Sauce?
Adding a touch of spice can turn ordinary into extraordinary
Our lives are utterly dependant on food, and while we are encouraged to be more health conscious or even adventurous in our food choices, it’s difficult to escape the desire for a meal that’s both simple and comforting — our ‘go to recipes,’ for want of a better expression.
Possibly, these desires for certain recipes are throwbacks to meals our parents provided for us and ones that generally bring back fond memories of sitting around the table devouring decent, home-cooked deliciousness!
These are also some of the first dishes that most of us would have learned to prepare by ourselves, adding another generation to time honoured traditions handed down from mother to daughter and father to son. Call me nostalgic, but a wonderful feeling of pride washed over me the first time my child took an interest in a dish I was preparing and I had the opportunity to say, “Your grandmother would always tell me to add Spring onions to rice, noodle or mashed potatoes.” Other pearls of wisdom would follow ensuring our family’s simple kitchen craft will continue.
The type of family-favourites, of course, depends on where you are in the world. Pull up a chair at a dinner table in the UK during the week and you could well be delving into a serving of pork sausages, mixed vegetables and mash topped with gravy. Anywhere in Asia, a plate of steamed fish with rice and vegetables may be on offer, while in the US your hosts might present you with a healthy portion of meatloaf. Granted, the dishes mentioned above are plain heaven to the kids returning home after a day at school or after six-months in a new job away from home, but you’d have to agree they also can become bland.
Here at Mauritius Foods, we considered the dilemma of health consciousness and adventure versus time management and comfort eating. Fortunately, for all concerned the answer is in a jar of Dodo Chilli Sauce, we reckon!
After exhaustive research and hours of experimenting — euphemisms for time spent test-tasting yummy food — we came up with a few ideas to boost the bland and maybe even add to your family’s cooking customs!
Delicious Dodo Salmon
Divine Dodo Chicken Burgers
I will be at the Chester Food and Drink Festival next weekend at Chester racecourse if you would like to come and sample some Dodo Chilli Sauce for yourself?
A few helpful tips on using chilli with your ingredients
Having travelled and lived in countries whose people swear by spicy dishes and who eat chillies for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I had become quite partial to feasting on fiery foods. But these delicious culinary adventures were always prepared by friends or were purchased from the plethora of restaurants, stalls and carts that are found along most pedestrian routes in Asia and that cater to every price and taste range.
Similar to the sensation of biting into a strong chilli, it slowly began to register and then take hold that, while I was always very appreciative of the food served, I had made no effort to learn nor had I shown any interest in how these extraordinary meals were made . . . and the shame of this disregard indeed burned.
Soon, I took every opportunity to politely plod around after friends, while they prepared Thai and Indian curries, spicy soups and other family favourites in order to learn their cooking methods. Once confident that I had absorbed the basics, it was time for a test run. However, embarrassing myself or my cooking coaches was not going to be on the menu, so my first attempt at a spicy dish would only have one chef and one critic. My specialist chosen subject would be a Thai green curry with chicken and the intention was to make it hot!
It is a relatively straightforward recipe that requires the blending of green curry paste with coconut cream in a heated pan. Once the paste is dissolved into the cream, chicken pieces, eggplants and chopped chillies are added (of course other vegetables can be added such as cauliflower and carrots). The mixture simmers until the chicken is cooked and is later served with steamed rice topped with a fried egg.
A straightforward process it maybe, but I had overlooked one important element . . . washing my hands after I had chopped and added the chillies.
While the curry simmered, I decided to reward my efforts with a glass of wine; pleased with my progress thus far. The kitchen was hot and after decanting my Rioja, I casually wiped perspiration from beneath my eyes, my forehead and the back of my neck with my fingers.
At first, the creeping burning sensation was confusing; why was I suddenly experiencing this stinging heat and what had I come in contact with to cause this sudden explosion of pain upon my skin? Theories of spider bites, caustic chemicals and pesticides all raced through my thoughts as I also racked my flaming brain for an antidote! Water! It was the natural solution so I dashed to the shower and doused myself! Immediate relief was accompanied by an epiphany – chillies! The pain matched that of the uncomfortable heat suffered around your mouth when indulging in a chilli laden meal. Lesson learned.
Later, I also learned that ancient tribes in South America used to burn piles of chillies and allow prevailing winds to sweep the spicy smoke towards their enemies, which would cause agonising confusion in the opposing ranks before an assault – the original chemical warfare!
From one who knows, use chillies wisely. Try not to use too many – you can always add more once the dish is served. Finally, for all that is sacred in your life, wash any implements that come in contact with chillies and never, please, ever forget to wash your hands!
An Independently Wealthy Republic of Nations
If ever there is a reason to celebrate, then the Independence of Mauritius is truly one that should encourage worldwide enthusiasm!
Many a nation has suffered, endured and eventually shouldered off the yoke of imperial or colonial power having had their homeland invaded by another nation (or nations) seeking to enrich their own coffers. Mauritius, however, is somewhat different in never having an indigenous population, but having been settled by a series of powers that in turn brought their own people or forced natives from other lands to inhabit the island to work the land.
From the stories of Portuguese, Dutch, French and English to Indian, African and Chinese people that have come to call Mauritius their home, also comes the tale of a nation that has emerged from international power struggles and the subsequent integration of different nationalities that now fly one single flag.
While it is known that the French Navy under the distant command of Napoleon achieved its only major victory against the British during the Napoleonic Wars in defence of Grand Port, it wasn’t long after that disastrous encounter that the British wrestled control of the island from the French and renamed it Mauritius in 1810.
From that time until 1968, Mauritius remained under British rule, but during that control many concessions were allowed and changes made, including the abolition of slavery, which eventually paved the path towards an independent republic.
So, rather than an indigenous population being overpowered and then struggling to regain control of their homeland from their oppressors, those peoples that landed to work or were awarded their freedom began to invest themselves in a beautiful island and did strive to make it their own. This is something wonderfully unique to Mauritius, and while many will suggest that many problems socially and culturally still exist, rejoicing in how far the island has come with regard to such a blend of different cultures since being discovered 500 years ago is an absolute must!
The Indian population of Mauritius is majority, with approximately 70 percent and is evident especially in the Island’s cuisine from the popular dholl puri (vegetable and curry filled pancakes), roti chaud and rougaille. Celebrations on March 12th also have a heavy Indian influence with many famous Indian celebrities taking part in the festivities, but did you know that the date chosen to mark independence is also of significance to Indian history, in particular. It was in fact the date that Ghandibegan his Dandi March or Salt Satyagraha in 1930.
Of course, now Mauritius is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, but a visit during this celebratory time would help the curious traveller to understand more of its embattled past and the joyous nature of a people who have taken control of their fate to make their home one of the most desired and exotic locations around the globe!
Picture courtesy of the Daily Mail
The Island’s cuisine is making waves across the globe
Growing up, you may recall your parents or teachers offering advice on potential future choices, whether it involved education, relationships or careers. Critical and forceful as these conversations may have been, they would invariably close with a light at the end of the tunnel to be trudged . . . follow this path and “the world is your oyster!”
This idiom held one meaning for many of us, which was that hard work and time would open a world of wealth and happiness even if you begin with nothing. Much like an oyster that starts with nothing, but with effort and over time it produces a beautiful treasure in the form of a pearl.
Travelling is one of those desired choices many of us foster from young adulthood. And thanks to many hours spent in the office, saving for that sunny day abroad rather than a rainy day at home and improved infrastructures, many of us have realised the opportunity to visit countries throughout the world and return with experiences and memories to treasure and share. Integral to a majority of our travelling memories are the experiences we have with the cuisines of those countries we visit; how the colours, smells and tastes that embed themselves in our reminiscence and influence our attitude towards the place and its people.
Fortunately, information about those destinations and cultures we would dearly like to experience, but have not or may not ever have the chance to enjoy is abundant through the World Wide Web and international media. Mauritius is a perfect example of an island country, highly popular and publicised as a tourist destination because of its scenic beauty and remoteness, but its indigenous cuisine seemed like that oyster pearl — always accumulating and appreciating, its wealth unopened to the world.
The explosion of information regarding food from around the globe has been astounding over the past decade and this has helped Mauritius cuisine become a firm favourite among travellers, chefs and food critics alike.
Winner of Britain’s MasterChef 2012, Shelina Permalloo, is of Mauritian heritage and it was her knowledge of the Island’s spices that helped her achieve the accolade.
According to an article featured in the Daily Telegraph, “she [Permalloo] has been going back to the island regularly for years to visit family – and to develop her repertoire of recipes inspired by the cooking of its cultural mélange.”
Food expert for the popular US publication, The Huffington Post, Divya Gugnani wrote an article titled “Have Food, Will Travel: Top 5 New Culinary Destinations,” in which she describes Mauritius cuisine. “Many [Mauritian] dishes are prepared with the diligent technique of the French combined with spicy flavors of the islands; such as gateau piment, a deep fried split pea paste flavored with chili.” If you need more evidence of media appreciation for Mauritius, a simple internet search will provide a plethora of plaudits for Mauritian cuisine and recommending the Island as a place to sate any desire for good food!
So, the idiom is true after all. The food of Mauritius has laboured as a hidden treasure, but we can all be grateful that the world now understands its beauty and value.
How technology has influenced knowledge of Mauritian dishes
Our world has become such a small place. Incredible advances in technology have bridged oceans and borders providing almost everyone with the prospect of travelling to a destination in hours where decades before it would have taken days, and communicating in seconds when not so long ago it may have taken hours.
Today, a flight to Mauritius from, say, London will take around 11 hours, compared to 150 years ago when a sea journey would have lasted more than three months! Imagine arriving on this beautiful island in the Indian Ocean during the 19th Century and coming in contact with the population and food types found then. Writing a description and possibly including a black and white drawing to help illustrate these unique finds to the intended recipient would take a few days — at least — followed by another 100-day sea journey to return the correspondence back to Europe.
Altogether, it would take well over six months of travel to receive information about the destination! Of course, now we can journey to Mauritius, go for an incredible meal, meet a few native Mauritians, take 50 beautiful colour photographs with descriptions of it all and have this information appreciated by people half way across the world — all within just 24 hours!
While our world has seemingly decreased in dimension, our minds — in most cases — have expanded with regard to ideas, information and cultures thanks in some part to social media. Facebook, Google + and Twitter, to name but a few, provide us with hourly opportunities to correspond with friends and family or present a montage of photographs depicting our activities.
A visit to Mauritius is one where all of this wonderful technology can be exploited to its fullest in order to capture and communicate the assortment of cultures that have remained true to their heritage, but over time have also come together in creating a diverse cuisine unique to the Island.
Indian, Chinese, French, Dutch, Portuguese and African peoples have made Mauritius their home over several centuries, while their diets have absorbed ideas from one another resulting in dishes that salute fusion cuisine with the highest regard to all the senses. A short trip back in time of about 20 years and, in general, knowledge of Mauritian food was limited to those who could afford to travel there and bring back a few Kodak moments to impress friends or the odd newspaper or magazine article to tempt the latent foodie in us all.
Now, the information super-highway is flooded with images and descriptions of gastronomic delights from across the globe including, and increasingly so, those from Mauritius. International media outlets and bloggers regularly feature Mauritius in its capacity as an extremely popular tourist destination, but now are frequently highlighting the Island as a destination specifically for a varied culinary experience.
Thanks to technology and our own inherent desire to feed our senses with anything exotic and new, the excitement and satisfaction of what Mauritius can offer should be high on the list of any foodie adventurer!
Spice up standard recipes with a good hot cooking sauce
HECTIC lifestyles are common sources of excuse when dishes we serve up for dinner smack of the tasteless and lacklustre. It doesn’t matter whether we are single, have a significant other or manage any size of family; invariably, all of us, at some point or another, are guilty of blaming a lack of time or energy due to our responsibilities when we sit down to a bowl of hastily prepared spaghetti Bolognese. We can taste the monotony, the aroma of dreariness is overpowering, while eyes from around the table peer into your culinary uninspired soul.
Of course, that’s when the clichéd remarks come flooding to the fore. You didn’t have time to go to the grocery store because you were late leaving work, traffic was terrible . . . the list is endless, while solutions to livening up meal times seem so very restricted. You could always hire someone to cook for you or find more interesting, easily prepared convenience food. The former is out of most peoples’ financial reach, while the latter doesn’t bear thinking about.
Surely, there must be a middle ground; one where sitting down to dinner doesn’t involve splashing out half your salary for delicious and nutritious home-cooked fare or depressingly, scouring the local supermarkets for the best frozen turkey dinner ‘with all the trimmings.’
Unfortunately, there is no magic answer, no quick fix, but having a few recipe ideas to hand and a few bottles of Mauritius Foods’ chilli sauce in the armoury, a simple chicken breast or that go to spaghetti Bolognese dish will soon be spoon fed a lease of new life!
Here’s an example. This Dodo Chilli Chicken recipe takes only 35-40 minutes to prepare (most of that is just marinating in the fridge – the chicken, not you). And while the poultry is preparing, you can make use of the time to get the next day’s meals ready!
1/2 cup Dodo Chilli Sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 crushed clove of garlic
Three chicken breasts, boneless, skinless (4-5 ounces each)
1. Combine Dodo Chilli Sauce, soy sauce and garlic in a bowl (keep half of this mixture separate) and then the chicken. Ensure the chicken is thoroughly coated before refrigerating and allow it to marinade for at least 30 minutes.
2. Add a tablespoon of oil to a frying pan and heat (medium-high). Take the chicken out from the marinade and brown on one side for about 2-3 minutes. Turn the chicken over and brown for a further two minutes. Cover with a pan lid before turning the heat to a low setting and let it finish cooking for about 6-8 minutes.
3. Place remaining Dodo Chilli Sauce and soy sauce mix in a saucepan and simmer over low heat until heated through (should take about 5 minutes). Pour over chicken and serve!
Granted, you probably don’t see a huge benefit from just reading this short blurb before putting a plan into action. However, think ahead. Rather than those forlorn faces and eyes reflecting the expectation of another gloomy gastronomic experience — they are lit up with anticipation at what culinary twist you’ve managed to conjure with a few scoops of a spicy natural sauce and a few extra minutes of your precious time.