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Temenaks in Tenerife (Day 3: Whistling for Cookies; La Gomera)

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Finally, I have found some time to continue telling you the wonderful saga of our adventures in the sunny Canary Islands on Mastication Monologues!  If you haven’t been following my blog, day 1 was non-stop action while day 2 was more laid back.  Today’s post has more of a cultural focus compared to the previous posts, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less interesting.

As mentioned in the day 2 post, day 3 would be the day we would travel across the channel to the west of our hotel to the second smallest island of the Canary Island chain:  La Gomera.  The island’s name origin is unclear, but some believe it comes from the native Guanche word “Ghomara” meaning “boss” or “notable”.  The Romans called the island Junonia, but the first full map of the island appeared in 1372.  Long story short, it still remains a mysterious and ancient island compared to the island of Tenerife where tourism reigns supreme.  We started by meeting up with our tour group via a very busy transfer in a sea of German and Dutch tourists.  Why those particular nationalities?  We learned that Angel Merkel, the Prime Minister of Germany, has chosen the sleepy island as her holiday getaway spot.  Thus, her countrymen and women were naturally to follow and admire the hiking and natural beauty.   When we arrived at the port of Los Cristianos, we boarded the ferry and crossed the crystal blue waters on an hour long journey.  We landed at San Sebastian de la Gomera which is the main port of the island.  Further interesting history to come toward the end of the post.  We started our tour of the island by climbing north into the forested mountains to Los Roques which was a series of ancient volcanic plugs or explosions of cooled magma that are contained within the rock of the Earth’s crust.  There have also been indigenous Guanche sacrificial shrines found on the top of these formations, but further climbing has been prohibited after a German film crew looted the site.  We then moved to Garajonay National Park whose name is derived from the Guanche lovers Gara and Jonay or the indigenous version of Juliet and Romeo, respectively.  However, instead of the Italian version of the Bloods and the Crips, the Guanche version had Mt. Teide erupting as a sign of the gods disapproval, and the forbidden lovers from two different Guanche tribes committing suicide on the top of a mountain on the island.  Talk about drama.

My Gara

Mt. Teide on Tenerife across the bay.

However, their tragic story aside, the national park is home to a subtropical forest that was similar to what existed in Europe before massive human expansion.  The forests have been traced back to at least 9,500 years ago, and their ancient beauty were a sight to behold.  From the moss-covered, gnarled trees to the tiny mountain roads, we were taken aback by Garajonay’s treasures and our bus driver’s ability to somehow allow another bus pass us on a road made for two cars.

How do you get out of this situation?

As we further explored the park, we toured a recreated traditional Canarian village complete with a house and a hut serving one of the iconic Canarian foods: gofio The name comes from the indigenous language of the island of Gran Canaria in the same chain, but on Tenerife it is known as ahoren.  The Berbers of North Africa, who are likely the ancestors of the Guanche people, call it “arkul“.  Whatever you call it, it is a flour made from ground and toasted grains and cereals such as wheat and maize.  It can also be found in Dominican and Puerto Rican cooking.  It can be made into an oatmeal of sorts, candy, or in this case, cookies. I went for a chocolate cookie and a cinnamon cookie.  Janice wasn’t a fan, but I personally liked them.

Chocolate gofio goodness

They were like harder, crumbly sugar cookies minus the overt sweetness which was replaced with a light cocoa flavor or plenty of savory cinnamon notes.  Cookies in tow, we went to a lunch where was nothing of note aside from some typical Canarian food like mojo verde, but we saw a demonstration of the indigenous language of el silbo or “the whistle”.  The native Guanche people likely brought this language based on whistling as a way to communicate up to 4 miles/7 km away between the mountaintops of the islands (for an example, click here).  This language was on the brink of extinction until campaigns saved it, and it is now a mandatory class in schools on the island.  However, Spanish remains the dominant form of communication across the Canary Islands.  In this demonstration, the “speakers” were able to communicate phrases by mimicking the tonal patters of Spanish via whistling, and they were even able to locate hidden items in the room from our fellow diners and return them back to the original owners.  Following lunch, we continued to tour the island and went to an aloe farm in one of the valleys close to San Sebastian which was also next to a banana plantation, two of the Canary Islands’ main products.  We learned from our guide Alex that only true aloe very has yellow flowers growing out of it; aloe vera tends to turn purple when low on water; and it can be harvested via cutting and leaving the leaves to soak overnight.  I also tried unsweetened aloe water straight from the plant, and it tasted strangely musty yet acidic.  It’s not replacing lemonade as a cool Summer drink that’s for certain.

Alex shucking them aloe leaves!

Finally, we traveled back to the port of San Sebastian to see Iglesia de La Asuncion where Columbus prayed in 1492 before reaching the New World in addition to the customs house where Columbus lived during his time on La Gomera and the Torre de la Conde.It was part of the oldest military fort in the Canary Islands having been built in 1450.  Although only one turret is still standing, you could imagine how imposing it would be when fully standing even though it seems it was inhabited by tiny people upon closer inspection.

Perfect sized door for her

We eventually made our way to the port, but we couldn’t help but admire the beautiful black sand beach and local aquatic fauna.  Thusly, we ended day three on la isla magica!

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A Doughnut by Any Other Name Would Taste as Sweet

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Hello to all out there in the food world coming back again for another helping of culinary wisdom from Mastication Monologues.  This month’s adventure I will be explaining the fundamental deliciousness of a breakfast place by me with an odd name serving up breakfast standards with unique twists.  The establishment in question is called Juicy-O which can be found at various places around the country, but the location I went to is at 6300 Kingery Highway , Suite 418, Willowbrook, IL.  This restaurant has been around for a couple of years now in the strip mall by my house, but the two times I have been in there have been quite interesting.

To begin, why exactly is this restaurant named, “Juicy O”?  I soon found out when I walked into the door with their walls that are covered in small picture frames containing comical pictures about the importance of  enjoying a good breakfast in a society that seems to be even more fast paced with each passing year.  It also gave off a vibe of being more along the lines of an old-fashioned diner that prides itself in its freshly squeezed O.J. (that’s orange juice= the Juicy O in question), I’m not talking about the other type that tries to run away in a white Bronco haha).  I digress, here is an example of their homely wisdom about the universality of breakfast and the integration of various cuisines:

E Pluribus Unum tasty breakfast

As we were seated quite promptly, we received our menus that were quite profuse in terms of variety and the bright colors that inflamed the senses as soon as you looked at the front of it

The Book of Deliciousness

I was immediately surprised that they served bubble teas given that the only time that I have had them was when I was in a restaurant that specialized in Asian cuisine, but I guess they were reaching out to all possible markets when designing the menu.  They got the Latino market as I naturally gravitated towards the Southwestern favorites since I always do crave something spicy/something with tortillas to eat.  However, whilst I was attempting to make my choice there was something that made me bow down to the greatness of this place.  The waitress proceeded to place a bowl of small donut holes covered in cinnamon sugar in front of us…for free!

Donuts of the Gods…complete with divine cinnamon sugar

This definitely blew the standard basket of bread out of the water at any Greek run restaurant, and my giddiness was confirmed as I took one succulent bite of these expertly and lightly fried donut spheres of excellence.  Before I could realize it we had destroyed the entire donut population like settlers decimating the buffalo on the Western plains.  We should have paced ourselves because the second bowl wasn’t free, but it focused my mind again which eventually settled on chilaquiles, which is eggs with chicken, tortilla chips, and salsa all mixed in a bowl.  Initially I was worried about my choice given the fact that earlier in my life I ordered enchiladas in a similar place which lets just say did not end muy bien.  However, the dish was surprisingly tasty since the tortilla chips were not too soggy, the eggs were not runny at all, and the spicy salsa did not cover the flavor of the other elements of the dish but rather brought them out to their full potential.

My second, more recent, visit was pretty much the same deal with the donuts, but I decided to get something a bit more traditional with a twist since I thrive on finding new foods to try or variations of universal favorites.  Thus, the Elvis French Toast caught my eye (price: $9) due to the fact that it had French toast, bananas, and peanut butter (three of my favorite foods in the world since I eat pb and banana sandwiches everyday), so I thought it would be a match made in heaven.  I also tried their famous, freshly squeezed orange juice which was tasty and tangy, but definitely not worth the $5 price tag it supposedly demanded.   Eventually the moment of truth arrived when I’d be face to face with a Rock and Roll legend in French toast form, and my mom also ordered Bananas Foster French toast due to her obsession with New Orleans cuisine.

At first glance, my Elvis french toast looked like his ’68 return special when he was rejuvenated through the use of black leather and sweet sideburns kind of like this:

The Resemblance is Uncanny to…

The King of French Toast

Sadly, this dish was as bland as his characters in his many movies, and it just left me bloated/disappointed at the end of it all (R.I.P.).  The syrup did add a hint of flavor to the peanut butter, but overall it was too many neutral flavors cavorting in one dish which never really grabbed a hold of my palate and said, “I Want You, I Need You”.  Instead I was just left with Suspicious Minds…alright, pun fest over.  My mom’s choice, the Bananas Foster French toast, was the same pattern where the presentation overshadowed the quality:

A Taste of NOLA for Breakfast

I enjoyed the bananas more than with the French toast which was bland overall, but the fruit had a nice coating of a cinnamon sugar glaze which would satisfy anyone with even tiniest of a sweet tooth.

Overall, I would recommend Juicy O to anyone who wants to try some new variations on breakfast favorites, even if they aren’t that satisfying sometimes.  On a closing note, the establishment only stays open till 3 p.m., so if you’re uncertain about going, take the everlasting advice of a soulful Mississippi boy, “It’s Now or Never”.

Juicy-O on Urbanspoon

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