A few weeks ago, S and I received a wonderful gift from a new friend who is based in the Philippines. Margaux Salcedo is an ex-lawyer, a journalist and serious foodie and, since 2004, an inspiring micropreneur. Her fantastic little business revolves around and started with one product, a traditional Filipino hot chocolate paste made using a recipe from her 90 year old grand-aunt. Nana Meng’s Tsokolate (Nana Meng is what Margaux affectionately called her grand-aunt, whose real name is Carmen Perez) is really interesting. This traditional hot chocolate paste is flavoured with ground peanuts. According to Margaux, the ground peanuts were traditionally used both to add a special flavour but as a thickener. And, as anyone who has ever enjoyed a Reese’s peanut butter cup knows, peanuts and chocolate go really well together. Margaux was inspired to launch her business when she was living in New York in 2003. Unable to find a hot chocolate that appealed to her as much as those she had drunk throughout her childhood, on her return to the Philippines, she decided to try and bottle these childhood memories and share them with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, Nana Meng’s Tsokolate is currently only available in the Philippines, but I’m sure Margaux has plans to try and export it as widely as possible. (For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The thing I really admire about what Margaux has done is that she’s preserving traditional recipes that are meaningful to her and that she believes are unique and delicious. And, through sharing them with the rest of us, she’s been able to build a business around them. I wish more people who have access to similarly impressive traditional recipes would do the same thing. One person in particular I am always pestering to do this is my good friend J. Readers of her blog will already know that J is a wizard-chef, especially when it comes to pastries and dessert. In fact, her pastries have proven so popular that J’s been able to launch a mini-bespoke pastry business called Gateaux Fabulous! But, what a lot of people don’t know is that J is descended from an equally talented cook. Her grandmother, like her, has a magic touch when it comes to cooking. I am particularly addicted to a spicy bean sauce/paste that her granny whips up from time to time (pictured above). It’s an amazing sauce which is also highly versatile. I’ve used it in a variety of ways. It was the base for the best sea urchin pasta that S and I have ever (made and) eaten. I love topping steamed scallops with it. Honestly, it works well with almost anything.
Because I had a little free time last week and also because I was so inspired by Margaux, I decided to try designing a label for J’s granny’s bean sauce, with the intention of finally convincing her to launch an ultra-chic line of traditional Chinese sauces. I figured if I could show her some possible packaging ideas, maybe she’d be similarly inspired to convince her granny to go into business with her. My first idea was to go with something slightly cartoony, retro and fun. The above was the result.
This next image is a slightly more jazzed up version of the first idea. I just added a little more colour to it. A little later, I decided to go in a different direction altogether and put together the label design below. Instead of fun and cartoony, I decided to try something more minamalist and clean. The idea for this one was that each sauce could have an assigned number and colour.
Anyway, I’ve since shown these to J and am hoping she shows them to her granny. I’m pretty confident that if she ever does bring her granny’s sauces out into the market, they’d sell like wildfire. They’re that good. (My ideas for packaging, on the other hand, are still pretty rough. If any of you want to give some feedback, or better yet, offer new design ideas, that would be really awesome.)
I’m sure J isn’t alone either. I’m sure there are many of you with access to great traditional recipes. Wouldn’t it be incredible if you could package these exceptional food products and share them with the rest of us?