If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you can guess that I had a brownie from the Southbank food market today. I went back to Galeta and treated myself to a salted caramel brownie.
I know I’m meant to write a thing here about the brownie, but there’s not much new to say. I talked about Galeta a lot the first time I ate a brownie from there and it’s not like any of that information has changed. This brownie is different in that it is a chocolate brownie with salted caramel and also is apparently gluten free. I have nothing else interesting to say about it.
Let’s talk about something else instead. The summer before I went to university (for the first time), I went to Chile to go trekking for a month. Chile is a beautiful country and it was, at the time, the most exciting and exotic place I had ever been to. (To be fair, even now it’s certainly up there.)
One day about halfway through the trip, we were trekking through a valley in the Atacama Desert and came across a half-eaten alpaca corpse. Its neck was broken. Our guide reckoned it was probably only a couple of days dead and told us it had clearly been killed by a mountain lion. We were excited and a little nervous to be surrounded by mountain lions (as we assumed at the time), but our guide told us not to worry for three reasons. Firstly: mountain lions are not stupid. They want to eat alpacas (and/or llamas, which are basically the same thing), and aren’t interested in hunting humans. Secondly, assuming a stupid or desperate mountain lion, there were still the best part of twenty fully-grown humans trekking in a single group, and no mountain lion was likely to try its luck against those odds. Thirdly, assuming a really stupid or just insane mountain lion… we’d never see it coming. It would be able to hide until it was ready to attack, and then whoever it attacked would die from a broken neck before they even knew the lion was there.
That night, I woke up needing to pee, and stepped out of my tent to do so. And startled a mountain lion that was rooting around our campsite. I remember vividly how it startled and looked directly at me, frozen in the moonlight.
It’s funny how the brain suddenly shifts into a different track in this sort of situation. Logically, I startled the mountain lion as much as, if not more than, it startled me. I was significantly larger than it. It was clearly unprepared for a fight and had not been hunting me. The most likely outcome was that in a few seconds it would run off, spooked, deciding that whatever had attracted it to the campsite was not worth the trouble. But that’s not what I was thinking, looking at this perfectly designed predator standing five feet away from me in the pale moon.
I thought, very clearly and calmly: I am about to die.
I was so tranquil in that moment. My mind was entirely clear and blank. I knew my fate, knew that I had maybe just seconds left to live, and I accepted it completely. There was no life flashing before my eyes, no terror or fear, no thoughts of my family or friends or anything other than acceptance. My eyes were locked with the lion’s eyes. Any moment now it would leap and attack me and end my life, and somehow this just seemed inevitable and natural and correct. It’s not that I wanted to die, far from it. I had no desire to be killed by a mountain lion. I just felt peace in the certainty that it was about to happen.
I stared down that lion for an eternity. Who knows what the lion was thinking in that time? It was just a lion. It did not, and does not (if it even still lives) have anything close to my capacity for thought. At no point before or after this encounter did its mind work on anything like my level. And yet, totally unscientifically, I feel strongly that what I experienced was just such a base response to danger, and that I recognised something in the lion’s eyes that night. I will never prove this, nor will I ever stop believing it. But that night, I saw in that lion’s eyes exactly what the lion thought in that moment when we surprised each other.
The lion saw me, and it thought: I am about to die.
We stared at each other for a few seconds, and then the mountain lion ran off, spooked. I decided I didn’t need to pee after all and went back into my tent and went to sleep. I didn’t think to mention it to anyone the next morning, and truth be told I wasn’t sure how I could really get across the feeling I had had, how I could share the purity of that experience with mere words and expressions. It’s many years later now and the passage of time has dulled the experience to the point that sometimes I can hardly be sure if this actually happened. So much of the surrounding time has gone fuzzy in my mind, half-recalled details jostling with modern-day fact checking and recollections of recollections for space in my brain.
And with time, logic has crept back into my memories. How can I be sure I saw a mountain lion? I remember something that looked like a large cat, but humans seem to be predisposed to seeing large cats where they aren’t, and why would a mountain lion be scavenging around a campsite? Am I sure I didn’t just see a fox? Assuming it was a mountain lion and it had leapt at me, I don’t imagine I would have continued to accept my fate. I was young and healthy and at peak fitness, and probably stood a better than even chance of fighting off a hungry mountain lion if I survived the initial lunge, and I am sure my instinct to survive would have quickly overridden my tranquility. How sure am I that this even happened? It’s unlike me to have not told anyone about this in the slightest. The presence of a mountain lion in the camp goes against everything else our guide told us about mountain lion behaviour. Could I have made this up out of whole cloth in the years since? And so, the passage of time breeds uncertainty and doubt, and slowly whittles away the truth of experience.
But that feeling, looking into those bright eyes across a dark campsite, will never dull. On some level, I have never been as closely connected to another creature as I was for a few seconds on that night, when I knew beyond any possible doubt that I was dead.
Taste: Very good. The caramel taste does just come through under the chocolate. At no point did I get a mouthful of salt, which is a bonus. It’s a shade too rich overall, and I did have difficulty finishing the whole thing. Ok, that’s a lie, I didn’t have any actual difficulty, but that small part of my brain that takes note of my inability to eat sensibly did start going “This is too rich, please don’t eat it all”. I ignored it, as usual. 9/10
Texture: Mmm, so thick and rich and indulgent, exactly what I wanted at the end of the week. It is almost too thick at times – it doesn’t quite fall into the trap of becoming actually chewy, but it’s a bit cloying in the mouth at the end. 9/10
Presentation: It looks ok, I like the cross-section, but there’s nothing else very special to say about it really. 3/5
Value: One (minor) issue with going back to the same place a few times is the need for consistency in my value rankings. This was £2.50, same as the Galeta blondie, and I feel it’s comparable value. 8/10
Fudge Factor: I like Galeta, I like this brownie, I like the server and I loved the fact that she felt the need to apologise for not offering a discount because I didn’t work at the Southbank Centre? I mean… I didn’t ask for a discount, I didn’t need or expect one, and it’s just really cute that she thought this needed an apology. 3/5
Final Total: 32
Should I Buy And Eat This Brownie?
Oh, were you expecting me to be more long-winded for some reason? Well, not today. Go read an encyclopedia.