The other day we picked up a packet containing six macatias coco from a supermarket. The package was undoubtedly very attractive: the transparent plastic was covered all over with a white sprinkling resembling the dried poudre coco (that is available separately), with suitable labelling and some colour to enhance the lure. We definitely looked forward to enjoying our macatias with our tea, dunking them and taking dripping mouthfuls and savouring them as we used to do in … the good old days.
Alas, the pleasure was mitigated. In fact, what we had in our hands was a smaller version of a brioche of very light consistency, so the macatias were yellowish inside, and in the centre there was an amount of poudre coco that simply fell out as the bun was opened up. We didn’t even have time to do a proper dunking!
No need to say that my mind went back to the macatias that we delighted in when we were kids. For that matter even up to a few years ago there used to be a vendor coming on motorcycle and calling out ‘macatias coco! macatias coco!’ These were the home made macatias, and the mere thought of them triggers the salivary reflex in my mouth as I write these lines in honour of a much valued memory of my own childhood, and that of my son and his generation – the last perhaps to have enjoyed the popular and genuine macatias.
They were truly different. They were a lovely brown, and the dough was made of white flour slightly sweetened. The consistency was firm, and since they were meant mainly as a snack for school going children, each macatia was of a smaller size that would easily fit into a child’s small palm. They were kept warm by the vendor, and as he took them out and handed over to the buyer, there was a subtle, nicely sweetish aroma that came up; I think it was partly vanilla flavoured as well.
Of course one didn’t wait to bite into the bun, and as the centre was reached, there was the delight awaiting: the chips of fresh coco rape were stuck to the brown sugar (careful: I am talking of sucre roux!) that had melted and spread into the surrounding pulp. And it was sheer pleasure to chew and munch. Later, as adults, we would dunk our share in hot tea, even as we watched the kids enjoying their mouthfuls without the dunking in tea.
Times have changed, that’s inevitable. Resorting to mass made, commercial goods is almost the order of the day, and really, if you don’t know how to make macatias coco – or similar other delights – and, additionally, you have not had the benefit of enjoying the original macatias or macatias coco, you would assume that what you are eating from off the shelf is what macatias is all about, unfortunately. Truly has it been said that old is gold, and the modern commercially available present macatias would contain some artificial additives and preservatives, which was never the case with the home made ones. These were prepared in smaller quantities and probably mostly all sold off, because everyday the vendor would bring a patently fresh lot.
As I think of what all people would be buying for their Christmas – and New Year – celebrations as regards food items, I cannot help observing that a lot of these are processed, and therefore contain artificial ingredients. Not only are they potentially harmful to health in the long term, they definitely impact on the taste of the content as well. But there we are, that’s our modern world, with over seven billion mouths to feed, and given the pace of life which now whizzes past, and everyone having so many commitments, not to speak of the claim on one’s time of social media, we are faced with having to make compromises and take …commercial short cuts in our daily lives.
But there are certain things we can avoid, and we can certainly avoid excesses of consumption that increase the risks from the commercial products. We can have a kitchen garden that can provide some fresh herbs, salads, bredes, and a few vegetables like carrots, beetroot, cabbage for example. They would be grown without or with a minimum of chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers. We cannot completely offset all the risks to our health, but we would certainly reduce them considerably. Some people make their own bread, or rotis and parathas, and that also helps.
Let us not say we do not have time to do some of these simple things for ourselves and our families: if we want to do them, we will definitely find the time. It’s not about time management – it’s about what quality of life one wants.
I’m sorry, but I am not going for the packaged macatias coco ever again. Maybe some vendor will surface someday in my remaining lifetime, and if this happens I will rush to the street before he disappears and call out marchand, marchand! I know there’s a slim chance for this to happen, but hope lives eternal in man’s heart doesn’t it? So, on this Christmas occasion, I pray for hope for a beautiful and peaceful new world to come, with parents and children finding more time for each other, and especially after the call at the Paris Summit on climate change, some reversion to more ‘naturalness’ in our lives. Not forgetting home made macatias peddled, who knows, by a new breed of macatia coco vendors…
Merry Christmas to all my Christian friends and to all my compatriots too!
* Published in print edition on 25 December 2015