Sounds mythical, doesn’t it? Like ‘Ambrosia creamed rice’. Something an eccentric retired choirmistress might have been drinking in a village inn in an interwar murder mystery before being driven off her fixed-gear bicycle into a verge by an unknown assailant. That, or the unfortunate woman’s name. Something one might cook up in a piss-take of a Betjeman radio talk. But no.
It’s real and in Cyprus it’s a squash. I bought some half-expecting it to taste wretched. But, dilute it one part rose cordial to 4 parts Nepo (water) and put it to your lips. It is literally Turkish Delight in drink format. It is Ambrosia. Up the hill from Peyia, where my late Dad wasted some of the family inheritance on an apartment that is now worth less than it was in 2006, just like the Daily Mail told him to, there is a sign that emphatically points to ‘WHERE GODS LIVE.’
Next to it is the empty concrete shell of a villa that was never finished. It has gazed eyeless out over Coral Bay for three years. Gazed on even less-finished husks, rusty iron rods sticking out from unfinished walls like spears on battlements guarding Mifune’s Throne Of Blood. Looking on these works, you might despair of an England who’s only colonists are now its old and dying, where once were its intrepid criminals and freedom fighters. It kicks the hubris out of you. In the street below the cliff on which this hulk rests are several more grassy-pooled villas, guarded by a chained-up Husky-cross Cerberus, one eye blue, one brown, who leaps up at you not from ferocious duty but from loneliness, and only starts to bark and howl as you walk away, but still pulls your bloody headphones in two. Cyprus is where the empty comes to be refilled with nothing, where
Look THAT’S NOT WHERE GODS LIVE. WHERE GODS LIVE IS IN Lanitis Rose Cordial. Ingredients: Water, sugar, acidifier: phosphoric acid, preservative: sodium benzoate, colouring matter; carmoisine, natural flavouring, rose oil 0.003%. Yes, this English market garden of flavour fragrantly blooming in your mouth comes from an almost-homeopathic 0.003% rose oil. That’s how much flavour a rose contains. An amount an Iceland pineapple squash, with its 10% juice from concentrate, would be left gasping asthmatically as it even hoped to achieve. Admittedly, the second greatest ingredient is sugar and carmoisine ‘May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’ but you don’t expect to steal the red nectar of the Gods and for it not to send your kids at least part-way to Elysium do you?
If this is no average food, you ask, what is it doing on an average food blog? The point is that in the birthplace of Aphrodite, this is an average food. In the North we have dangerously lowered our standards. We dare not steal the secrets of the Gods. We would not sneak a peak at Diana. You can’t even get peppermint cordial in a pub these days. But in the Mediterranean; well, they also have an almond squash, which looks like PVA glue but, if rose cordial is anything to go by, must be liquid Marzipan.
Cultural relativism aside, if you were to point out that this is in fact a drink, and therefore has no place on an average food blog, I’d be forced to agree.
Also, Rose cordial’s exactly the same colour as Salgam, its equally-intriguingly disgusting sour Turkish black carrot & turnip savoury alternative, to which I am equally addicted. You could have a lot of fun crossing the border and replacing a Turkish person’s Salgam with Rose Cordial, and vice versa. In fact I suspect that’s what happened in 1974.