I thought that La Casa De Las Conchas (House Of The Shells), a 15-th century gothic building in the centre of Salamanca, would make a nice entry for travelwithintent’s Look Up Look Down weekly photo challenge.
When I posted my seminal collection of questionable food industry ads last week, I hadn’t yet come across this little gem:
Any educated guesses as to what that white de-limbed specimen in the back might be will be most gratefully received. A cat crossed with a bleached zebra is where I got to.
All that’s missing for a bit of glamour is a headless chicken strutting across the red carpet…
Please, Belgians, please, I’m begging you, stick to making ads about chocolate.
[If you (dis)like this, here is a link to my previous post Food Industry Ads: – It’s A Parallel Universe!]
Even if you happen to turn up on a dank day, Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor still emanates the kind of majestic splendour you’d expect from the heart of an historic Spanish town 🙂
For a more contemporary view of Salamanca, click here.
It is a common misconception that culture and civilisation in Spain arrived with the Romans. This isn’t so. Artifacts predating the Roman era are abundant on the Iberian Peninsula. One example are the ubiquitous granite statues depicting cattle, boars, sheep and bears that litter the Castile and Leon region. What we don’t know for certain, however, is who made them, for what purpose, and when exactly.
On our trip to Salamanca last month, my friend Noelia, a self-professed history nut, took me on a little detour to show me the “The Bulls of Guisando”, located next to a lonely country road in the middle of nowhere, half-way between Toledo and Salamanca.
It is believed that a people called the Vettones, who were settled in this area in the 3rd Century BC, made these bulls, as well as thousands more animal statues, many of which survive to this day.
However, much of what has been written about these silent witnesses of an extinct culture is pure conjecture. In fact, the origins and meaning of the Bulls of Guisando are every bit as nebulous as those of the giant stone statues populating the Easter Islands.
The hills surrounding Toledo are studded by posh country houses called “cigarrales”. For hundreds of years, these tranquil abodes have been serving as an escape for the Toledanian elite during the summer months, when temperatures in the city climb to a brain-baking 45ºC.
The cigarrales are still in private hands today and not freely accessible to the general public, but I got lucky on Sunday! One of the cigarrales, the largest and oldest of them, El Cigarral Del Angel Custodio, happens to belong to one of Maria’s clients, and she smuggled me in 🙂
This cigarral dates back to the eleventh century, when Spain was ruled by the Moors, and the Arab influence is evident in the design and lay-out of its extensive gardens.
Oh, the gardens… so stunningly beautiful with all the roses in bloom… anyway, that’s the whole point of this post. And without further a do, care to take a tour?
And delicious it was, too 🙂
The Cigarral De Angel Custodio is available for hire as a wedding venue, and on that particular day, they had laid on a little matinee fiesta for all the couples who’d got married there over the years. If you want to see more pictures of this place, here’s their website.
You may think that, after trawling food industry websites for many years to earn my crust, by now I’d be desensitised to how these folks conduct their advertising, much like a seasoned undertaker, who has long since stopped flinching at the sight of the mangled corpses that pass through his premises. After all, it’s business-to-business communication replete with technical details aimed at food technologists rather than at the end consumer. However, since I’m also a consumer of food, I can’t completely switch off that part of my brain, and I thought it might be fun to share a few precious examples with you…
I bet you’ve always wanted one of these:
Oh, what could be more heavenly than the smell of freshly baked bread or the buttery doughiness of croissants still warm from the oven… And isn’t comforting to know that there’s somebody behind the scenes, who worries about all this stuff:
Ignorance is bliss, as they say. We definitely DON’T want to know the secret. EVER! Regarding the “friendly labelling”, there’s an explanatory rant coming up. Hold on to your seats. And your queasy stomachs.
But before we get to that, let me ask you this: what makes marshmallow so delectably fluffy and chewy at the same time? Sugar mixed with beaten egg whites in optimum proportions, right? Trouble is, them eggs is expensive – we desperately need something… erm… “innovative” to please our cost-conscious clientele. Ingredients supplier
Wacko Wacker has just the ticket:
What the heck is a “Clean Label”, I hear you ponder…? Does it involve some hapless trainee scouring the ketchup splodges off the front of the bottle with a soft toothbrush before he puts it on the shelf…? Not quite. The “clean label trend”, as it’s known to industry insiders, is a topic that could probably fill the British Library twice over. I shall attempt to illustrate briefly.
The whole shenanigans started nearly two decades ago, when it slowly dawned on the industry that consumers didn’t find terms like “dioctyl sodium sulphosuccinate” and “butylated hydroxyanisole” on food packages all that appetising.
Essentially, the mission was (and still is!) to replace anything that sounds remotely like a “chemical” with something that Martha Stewart would keep in her pantry.
Sometimes, ingredient substitutions are required to produce a sparkling clean label, but a lot of the time, it’s simply a word game. I mean, why call something “hydrolysed starch” when “potato starch” will do nicely? Or is it “Monosodium glutamate” (MSG) that’s scaring the punters off your products in droves? No worries, just switch to “yeast extract”, which is virtually identical and does the same job.
“E-numbers”, in particular, are known for striking fear into European consumers’ hearts. They’ve been suspected of giving kids autism and poor ol’ granny pancreatic cancer, not to mention throttling the life out of strutting Frenchmen’s sperm… the list of their E-vil doings is endless. Thing is, most E-numbers are, in fact, harmless substances, and so manufactures have simply reverted to calling them by their first names, like vitamin C (instead of E300) and calcium (aka E170). Label space on food packages is at a premium and E-numbers provided a convenient short hand, but the mood has turned, and if, as a food manufacturer, you’re still bent on sticking to them, you may as well be slapping the radiation warning sign on your chocolate biscuit packets for all the good it’ll do your sales.
As for colourings and flavourings, a great big slew of them can just be referred to as “natural”, no need to give an E-number or a long-winded chemical name. The label will be clean, and everybody will be happy. Luckily, the average shopper doesn’t realise that you can make strawberry flavouring out of wood chips and still call it “natural” without breaking any laws. Nobody needs to know that the flavours don’t come from actual fruits.
You may be left with the impression that the food industry views you, the consumer, very much like this:
But at least they’ve a sense of humour about it…
Needs no further explanation 🙂
…the curiosities on offer in my local butcher’s.
I bought some rather boring chicken thighs with the intention of making a giant curry, in case anyone’s wondering.
In case you’ve missed them, here are two more typical local offerings: