The Happy Pangolin

It’s the third annual World Pangolin Day, a time to raise awareness of the strange and wondrous animal that is the single most encountered mammal in the illegal global trade in endangered animals.

Pangolin Source: Our Beautiful World

Pangolin
Source: Our Beautiful World

The odd pangolin, a scaly anteater that looks like a cross between a streamlined badger and a pine cone, is captured and consumed in the mistaken belief that its keratin scales hold medicinal value – although they are little different from human fingernails. As the pangolin grows ever more scarce, pangolin flesh, and even the fetuses, are made into pricey soups as a demonstration of luxury consumption.

Pangolin & tongue Source: Platyoctopie / Deviantart

Pangolin & tongue
Source: Platyoctopie / Deviantart

Meanwhile, the eight species of pangolin in the world are rapidly becoming extinct.

In honor of the day, I wanted to make a Happy Pangolin cocktail, a drink that reflected the long anteater tongue, the scales, the ants, and the tart appeal of the pangolin.

I started with this – hard apple cider, a slice of cherimoya fruit (note the black seeds for ants), and a long, slender slice of cucumber for the pangolin tongue. I made a reduction of basil essence, mixed that with cognac, and poured it over the fruit.

Happy Pangolin One The best looking, but blandest cocktail.

Happy Pangolin One
The best looking, but blandest cocktail.

But I was unsatisfied with the taste – too sweet, too bland. A pangolin is many things, but it is not bland.

So I moved on. To kiwi fruit (note the black seeds for the ants) mashed with a bit of sugar and basil, the cucumber tongue, and this time, calvados, prosecco and a scaly garnish of pineapple skin.

Well. It tasted just fine, quite delicious, actually. But it was murky, the basil floated around aimlessly. A third try, mashing together the kiwi and basil, rendered the basil flavor too acidic.

Happy Pangolin Two Tasty, but murky.

Happy Pangolin Two
Tasty, but murky. Ditto for Happy Pangolin Three, which is not shown here.

Finally, running out of cucumber, I made this variation. A bit of brown sugar in the bottom of a glass, followed by half slices of kiwi. Prosecco carefully poured over the fruit (it fizzes easily), followed by a shot of calvados, then a cucumber tongue, a slice of pineapple skin perched on the side, garnished with a sprig of fresh basil.

It’s tangy, refreshing, unexpected and overall, pretty good.

Happy Pangolin Four The current favorite, to be reattempted when I have more cucumber for a longer tongue.

Happy Pangolin Four
The current favorite, to be reattempted when I have more cucumber for a longer tongue.

What did I learn from making a Happy Pangolin for World Pangolin Day?

Much like the campaign to save the pangolin, the road to success is paved with many failed attempts, there is no single way to reach the goal of a Happy Pangolin. Any and all variations must be tried. Tenacity and determination are of paramount importance.

Source: Annimaticus

Source: Annimaticus

 

Go here to find out what you can do to support an end to killing and trade in pangolins.

Find out more at Annimaticus, at the IUCN-SSC Pangolin Specialist Group, and at Project Pangolin. Let’s help make sure this oddball branch on the Tree of Life doesn’t wither!

The Pangolin branch on the phylogenetic tree. Source: OneZoom

The Pangolin branch on the phylogenetic tree.
Source: OneZoom

And in the meantime, I hope you enjoy a Happy Pangolin with friends this weekend!

Different Bubbles

Camel Valley Vineyard Bodmin, Cornwall Photo: PK Read

Camel Valley Vineyard
Bodmin, Cornwall
Photo: PK Read

I took the family to visit Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall last week, where we tried out every type of sparkling wine they had on offer. I stand by my first assessment – my favorites are the CV Rosè and the CV Cornwall Brut. The others – including an oddly satisfying pinot noir sparkling wine – were all good, just not quite my coupe de champagne. I like them as well as some of my regular champagnes, which is saying something, and it’s nice to know I can buy tasty sparkling wine in the UK while supporting local producers.

Also, the drive down ever-narrowing roads and through the Cornish countryside, over the Camel River and up to the vineyards, is a small adventure in discovery. After we left the winery, we headed out to our hotel for the evening, the lovely Lewinnick Lodge. A friend (a very good friend!) had made sure that a bottle of chilled Champagne (a Deutz brut) was waiting for us in our room, so we were able to do our own direct comparison – the Deutz had that unique chalky dryness of French Champagne, while the CV brut had a mellow roundess that was very enjoyable.

Twenty minutes from Camel Valley - the sea Photo: PK Read

Thirty minutes from Camel Valley – the sea
Photo: PK Read

Overall, sparkling wines are doing very well globally – for many, they have the pop of Champagne from France without the price. Italian prosecco is expanding in sales, and other countries (notably the United States, Australia and New Zealand) have produced solid sparkling wines for years. The name Champagne is only protected if the product comes from Europe – many other regions outside Europe use the word champagne as synonymous with sparkling wine.

Since English-produced bubbly currently only accounts for around 1% of sparkling wine sales in the UK, I guess you could say it’s a sector with a lot of growth potential. Variety being the spice of life, I know that when I am visiting the UK, I will be trying out some of the other local sparkling products, as well.