As our trip progressed through the mountain villages of Sikkim, it has been brought to my attention that one obscure ingredient was employed as a flavouring agent in most of the crew’s favourite dishes. A white grainy substance that gives the dish a creamy slightly nutty flavour. It took a while to even decipher what this most special ingredient was called.
At first the words sounded Nepalese and so we accepted that we couldn’t understand them. We even tried asking for it once, by name, pronouncing it to the best of our ability, as they did. Logojee. The cook, who incidently was better versed in the English language than us in Nepalese, immediately corrected us.
No logojee, he said, local cheese! We laughed about the misunderstanding and thought of the matter no further. We continued eating this local cheese every chance we had. And what a delicacy it was. I even made arrangement to acquire a case of the cheese to travel with us on our voyage home.
Now educated upon the etymology of the ingredient, we found it infinitely amusing to acquaint ourselves with the many misspellings and mispronunciation of the term. In one restaurant they even had it listed on the menu. The menu was passed hand to hand between the crew, and we all shared a laugh about at how it was written: Locaulth cheese. This was one most rare moment of levity and cheer for the crew. A rare moment given the grave nature of our mission in this far away land. I remember it with much fondness now, to see so many smiling faces amongst the men, many of which would not make it through the expedition alive. That was not the only fact that was queer about the menu we passed amongst ourselves. There was also an obscure grainy picture of a repulsive prehistoric-looking insect, which once discovered redoubled the laughter amongst us. However, the laughter was extinguished most abruptly, when the waiter named it a Locaulth.
As it turned out, and still my stomach is made queasy by the memory, this Locaulth creature was a nocturnal insect that grew to a formidable size of 46cm. As unpalatable as the news of this monster was, the worst had yet to be revealed to us. The locals of this most remote region Nepal, harvested the milky excretion from the nauseating insect, which they, in turn, transformed into cheese. A few of us were then granted the dubious and unsettling honour of accompanying the waiter to their kitchen. The Locaulth, as we were soon to discover, was kept in a warm chamber where it was regularly fed a sumptuous mixture of lichen and dried leaves. Then, twice a day, as our waiter too casually explained, it was taken to a cold room where a prodigious amount of thick creamy mucus was collected from its many nasal orifices. The Locaulth was then taken back to the warm room and fed while the milk was set out to dry. The little white granules left over were then salted and ready to be served. Through its many applications, the locals’ most prised recipe was an fiery admixture of the infamous cheese-mucus, marinated green chillies, dark oil, and a vague assortment of spices and herbs, to create a hellish paste of much renown. The locals, as you known doubtlessly understand, spread this sumptuous paste over their local bread to accompany ever meal between breakfast and supper.
We of course never ingested nor mentioned the ingredient ever again.