Beijing, 31 March 2013

On this Easter Sunday, the newspapers (the English-speaking ones at least) have been afroth with articles about various Easter traditions. One of these is of course the Easter egg. I was particularly struck by an article on the BBC site about an Indian restaurant in the UK having made a series of chocolate Easter eggs with a mix of chocolate and three hideously hot chilli peppers: a ghost chilli, a scotch bonnet and a habanera chilli.


The makers boasted that the resulting chocolate registered 1 million on the Scoville scale of hotness.  I have written a previous post on the use of hot spices; the readers of that post can imagine my horror when I read this article. But as I read and mentally shook my head, my mind drifted back to one of my earliest memories. I am a small child, back in Africa, it is Easter Sunday, we are in the garden. I am tugging desperately on my mother’s hand, I want to follow my older brother and sisters who are running through the garden looking for Easter eggs hidden by my parents. I guess she wanted to guide me to where they had hidden my eggs. I suppose she eventually was able to drag me in the right direction and I “found” the eggs, but that part didn’t imprint itself in my memory.

We weren’t looking for chocolate eggs. We were looking for real eggs, boiled hard and painted by us children. This was the family tradition; we children painted a couple of eggs each, and then our parents hid them for us to find. A trawl through the internet shows that the painting of Easter eggs is not a dead art.

painted easter eggs-2

although  I think the following pictures give a better idea of what our eggs no doubt looked like and how they were painted.

Children painting eggs-1revised

Children painting eggs-2

Once we left Africa, we no longer had a garden in which to hide the eggs. Anyway, I think we adopted the new ways of doing things and bought chocolate eggs. One could buy very fancy chocolate eggsChocolate-Easter-Egg-fancy

along with fancy chocolate rabbits


But our Easter eggs tended to be the more modest-sized ones wrapped in coloured silver paper. My mother would pile them up on a plate at the centre of the table and we would nibble on them during Easter and for days (and days …) thereafter.

Easter Eggs

I have to say, I’m not terribly, terribly fond of chocolate. I’ve never eaten very much of it. I don’t eat it at Easter any more. Apart from dutifully accepting chocolate sweets when someone hands them around, I sometimes eat a bar of chocolate with hazelnuts; I like the nut and chocolate combination.chocolate-bar-with-hazelnuts-1

And from time to time, when I’m in France and have baguettes at hand I will eat a piece of chocolate and baguette.

baguette and chocolate-1

It’s really delicious, by the way. When my French grandmother was feeling somewhat flush, she would buy a bar of chocolate and give it to us grandchildren with bread at teatime. Mm-mm, good!

Luckily, my wife is also not a great eater of chocolate, although she is definitely fonder of chocolate cake than I am. When we go to a restaurant and chocolate cake is on the menu she will sometimes crack and order it.

chocolate cake

She also often ate the Italian equivalent of chocolate and baguette when she was young: Nutella spread on a piece of bread. Like my grandmother, her mother would serve it as a snack at teatime.

nutella and bread

About 15-20 years ago, we began to notice growing chatter in the media about going back to the fundamentals. We were told we should move closer to the way the Mesoamericans consumed chocolate before the Spaniards arrived, as a whipped-up drink of water, chocolate, spices and vanilla:


We didn’t necessarily have to go the whole way, we were informed, but we could eat chocolate without all the things Europeans had added over the centuries: sugar, milk, nuts and who knows what else. We read that it was much better for you that way. It has delicate tastes which linger on the tongue. It also contains chemicals which make you happy, which are good for the heart, which give you more sex drive. Well! After listening to a lot of this kind of hype we noticed one day in a shop in Vienna some very smartly packaged “modern” chocolate produced by Lindt, the luxury Swiss chocolate and confectionery company.


On an impulse, we bought a bar. After some debate, we decided not to go for the 100% pure chocolate, but rather to start with a 70% mix. We took this precious material back home, we opened it reverentially, and tried it.

I have to say, it was no great shakes. We didn’t feel our mouths being overcome by delicately intoxicating tastes, we didn’t feel any happier, we didn’t … Maybe our tickers worked better but we couldn’t tell. For those interested readers there is another BBC article reviewing the state of play on the topic.

I think we’ll just eat our chocolate the way we always have. Perhaps the Europeans were on to something when they added all those other things.



Chocolate and chilies:
Painted Easter eggs:
Children painting eggs-1:
Children painting eggs-2:
Chocolate Easter egg-fancy:
Chocolate rabbit:
Chocolate Easter eggs-typical:
Chocolate bar with hazelnuts:
Baguette with chocolate:×449/2/90/63/97/Autrefois-./Chocolat/Le-Bon-Chocolat–13-.JPG
Chocolate cake:
Nutella on bread:
Lindt excellence:
Cocoa pods:

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I like writing, but I’ve spent most of my life writing about things that don’t particularly interest me. Finally, as I neared the age of 60, I decided to change that. I wanted to write about things that interested me. What really interests me is beauty. So I’ve focused this blog on beautiful things. I could be writing about a formally beautiful object in a museum. But it could also be something sitting quietly on a shelf. Or it could be just a fleeting view that's caught my eye, or a momentary splash of colour-on-colour at the turn of the road. Or it could be a piece of music I've just heard. Or a piece of poetry. Or food. And I’m sure I’ve missed things. But I’ll also write about interesting things that I hear or read about. Isn't there a beauty about things pleasing to the mind? I started just writing, but my wife quickly persuaded me to include photos. I tried it and I liked it. So my posts are now a mix of words and pictures, most of which I find on the internet. What else about me? When I first started this blog, my wife and I lived in Beijing where I was head of the regional office of the UN Agency I worked for. So at the beginning I wrote a lot about things Chinese. Then we moved to Bangkok, where again I headed up my Agency's regional office. So for a period I wrote about Thailand and South-East Asia more generally. But we had lived in Austria for many years before moving to China, and anyway we both come from Europe my wife is Italian while I'm half English, half French - so I often write about things European. Now I'm retired and we've moved back to Europe, so I suppose I will be writing a lot more about the Old Continent, interspersed with posts we have gone to visit. What else? We have two grown children, who had already left the nest when we moved to China, but they still figure from time to time in my posts. I’ll let my readers figure out more about me from reading what I've written. As these readers will discover, I really like trees. So I chose a tree - an apple tree, painted by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt - as my gravatar. And I chose Abellio as my name because he is the Celtic God of the apple tree. I hope you enjoy my posts. Klimt/big/Apple Tree I.jpg


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