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Food may just be the best way to woo Indian tourists to South Africa

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Panaji: From conjuring a South African version of Jain vegetarian cuisine to a 13-day circuit tracking the immortal legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, South African tourism promoters appear to be pulling out all stops to cater to Indian travelers.

picture from- www.boldsky.com
picture from- www.boldsky.com

Speaking on the sidelines of a training session for Indian tour operators and travel agents on selling South Africa as a multidimensional tourism destination, South African Tourism’s India country head Hanneli Slabber said that India currently ranks number seven as far as arrivals to the nation are concerned.

And food, Slabber said, may just be the best way to improve footfalls by making the destination gastronomically enticing to food-loving Indians.

“We have the second biggest population of Indian-origin people outside of India. We are the second biggest exporters of fresh fruit and vegetables in the world. So why do you think they can’t eat here? People were coming in with their own chefs and their own food and we were like whoa!” Slabber said, before realization dawned on the country’s tourism mandarins that unless South Africa adapted its food to the Indian palette, “we can look at the same (arrival) stats for the next ten years”.

“What we did was that we went to the chefs and said we need to re-look at how we train them because obviously, our vegetarian food is not hitting the Indian vegetarians. We retrained 5,000 chefs in Indian vegetarian, vegan and Jain food. It became such a big thing in South Africa that South African chefs then came up with a Jain cookbook that you can download from our website,” she said.

As a result of the thrust, Jain food in South Africa has blossomed to such a degree that Slabber claimed that even Micthelin chefs were now dishing out French Jain food.

“So it has opened up a new door for us. There is a part of the Jain vegetarian community that likes the idea that they can get non-Indian versions of Jain (food). We also have over 300 Indian restaurants, which is the reason why we put it all together,” she said.

Currently, Britons top the list of tourist arrivals in South Africa with half a million footfalls, followed by the Germans and Americans. India, with 126,000 tourists, currently ranks seventh.

“We get a lot of families and a lot of singles groups (from India) before getting married and same sex groups,” she said, profiling the tourist arrival trends from India.

Slabber also said that apart from adventure and leisure tourism, the Mahatma Gandhi circuit established in South Africa last year was also drawing a lot of enthusiasm from tourists across nationalities.

“The circuit is a 13-day experience. It’s everything from his house in Durban, his house in Jo’burg – literally the whole history. You know he was a stretcher bearer during the Zulu war. Every single point where he touched South African lives is on that map,” Slabber said.

She said that Gandhi, who spent 21 years in South Africa before his arrival in India, had a lot of resonance in South Africa so much so that school going children refer to the Mahatma as one of their own and not an Indian.

“Gandhi is an integral part of South African politics and children learn about Gandhi in school so if you ask an average 10-year-old who Gandhi is he would not be able to tell you that Gandhi actually returned back to India. They learn that part of history that involves Gandhi and his role is big in South African history. But South African kids consider him as ours,” Slabber said.

(IANS)

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Chocolate Ingredient Cacao Dates Back To 5,400 yrs Ago

A growing interest in cacao flavors, indicates a return to a time when chocolate wasn't just an ingredient buried in a candy bar.

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A worker holds dried cacao seeds at a plantation in Cano Rico, Venezuela. VOA

New research strengthens the case that people used the chocolate ingredient cacao in South America 5,400 years ago, underscoring the seed’s radical transformation into today’s Twix bars and M&M candies.

Tests indicate traces of cacao on artifacts from an archaeological site in Ecuador, according to a study published Monday. That’s about 1,500 years older than cacao’s known domestication in Central America.

“It’s the earliest site now with domesticated cacao,” said Cameron McNeil of Lehman College in New York, who was not involved in the research.

The ancient South American civilization likely didn’t use cacao to make chocolate since there’s no established history of indigenous populations in the region using it that way, researchers led by the University of British Columbia in Canada said.

Cacao,chocolate
-A cacao pod hangs from a tree at the Agropampatar chocolate farm co-op in El Clavo, Venezuela. VOA

But the tests indicate the civilization used the cacao seed, not just the fruity pulp. The seeds are the part of the cacao pod used to make chocolate.

Indigenous populations in the upper Amazon region today use cacao for fermented drinks and juices, and it’s probably how it was used thousands of years ago as well, researchers said.

Scientists mostly agree that cacao was first domesticated in South America instead of Central America as previously believed. The study in Nature Ecology & Evolution provides fresh evidence.

Three types of tests were conducted using artifacts from the Santa Ana-La Florida site in Ecuador. One tested for the presence of theobromine, a key compound in cacao; another tested for preserved particles that help archeologists identify ancient plant use; a third used DNA testing to identify cacao.

Chocolate
A light almond cream candy carries the initials for Russell Stover Candies in Kansas City, Kansas. VOA

Residue from one ceramic artifact estimated to be 5,310 to 5,440 years old tested positive for cacao by all three methods. Others tested positive for cacao traces as well, but were not as old.

How cacao’s use spread between South America and Central America is not clear. But by the time Spanish explorers arrived in Central America in the late 1400s, they found people were using it to make hot and cold chocolate drinks with spices, often with a foamy top.

“For most of the modern period, it was a beverage,” said Marcy Norton, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World.”

The chocolate drinks in Central America often contained maize and differ from the hot chocolate sold in the U.S. They did not contain milk, Norton said, and when they were sweetened, it was with honey.

 

cocoa, chocolate
A worker holds cocoa beans at SAF CACAO, a export firm in San-Pedro, Ivory Coast, Jan. 29, 2016. VOA

By the 1580s, cacao was being regularly imported into Spain and spread to other European countries with milk being added along the way. It wasn’t until the 1800s that manufacturing advances in the Netherlands transformed chocolate into a solid product, Norton said.

Michael Laiskonis, who teaches chocolate classes the Institute of Culinary Education, said he’s seeing a growing interest in cacao flavors, indicating a return to a time when chocolate wasn’t just an ingredient buried in a candy bar.

Also Read: Consuming Cacao May Improve Vitamin D Intake, Says Study

He said he tries to incorporate chocolate’s past into his classes, including a 1644 recipe that combines Mayan and Aztec versions of drinks with European influences.

“It’s something that’s always been transforming,” he said. (VOA)