Cookie Monster sings, “C is for Cookie, that’s good enough for me!” I agree, but in my opinion, the best cookies have my favorite thing in the world in them: CHOCOLATE!
For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, the letter C at the beginning of a word with 4 or more letters is the theme this week.
Chocolate comes from cacao, a fruit that grows on a tree native to Mexico. The ancient peoples of Mesoamerica (primarily Mexico and Guatemala) had made a bitter drink from cacao seeds for millennia before the Europeans arrived, but it took the European palate to make chocolate into the delicious treat we know today by adding sugar. The language of the Aztecs, Nahuatl, gave us the word from which our word “chocolate” is derived: xocolatl.
On our first stop in Mexico during our Panama Canal Cruise was at Puerto Chiapas, just west of the Guatemalan border. I had chosen a shore excursion that included a chocolate making demonstration.
We went by bus to the village of Tuxtla Chico, where in the central plaza a stage had been set up, with rows of chairs facing it. Surrounding this makeshift outdoor auditorium were vendors, selling primarily products made from chocolate as well as coffee, although there were vendors selling colorful embroidered blouses as well, and my husband and I took time to bargain for a couple of them.
On the stage, a couple of long tables covered with brightly colored woven cloth were set up with the accoutrements for making chocolate. The cacao fruit is filled with a white pulp which surrounds the seeds. The pulp can be made into an ade, which we were encouraged to try, dispensed into tiny plastic cups from the spigot of a large jug. The drink was somewhat sweet and refreshing, but I don’t know if it was pure or sugar had been added.
The first step in making chocolate by hand, as the native women were doing, is to separate the seeds (or beans, as they are often called) from the pulp. The beans are then spread out on a tray to dry and then roasted. Raw cocoa beans cannot be eaten.
After the beans are roasted, they are crushed into a coarse powder using a metate and brazo (mortal and pestle).
At this point, the demonstrator adds flavoring to the powder – sugar and cinnamon or other flavors, and continues grinding and mixing until the mixture forms a paste.
These chunks of grainy, flavored chocolate are also used to make hot chocolate by melting them in milk. All of us were given cups of hot chocolate to taste!
I have loved the delicious Mexican foamy hot chocolate since discovering it on my first trip to Mexico in the late 1960s. The chocolate is sold in solid bars, plain or with added flavors (cinnamon is the best and most common). To make Mexican hot chocolate at home, cut off a section of the bar (usually they are scored for individual portions) and melt it in milk in a pan on the stove. Stir constantly with a whisk until the chocolate is melted and you have a foamy hot chocolate ready to drink!
After the chocolate demonstration, there was a show with dancing and music. First was the Dance of the Jaguar. Then women in traditional dress danced to marimba music. At the end, the ladies in the flowered dresses invited people to dance – I was one of them!
Here’s a short video of the dancers: