MAKING TABLILLA WITH MY ABUELITA: UN RECUERDO

When I was a little girl, I loved Summer. Summer signified planes, the beach, swaying in hammocks under the shade of palm trees, and the comforting embrace of my grandparents.

Every Summer mi mama took my brother and I to her native country, El Salvador. For two months, we stayed with my paternal grandparents in a little city called San Miguel. Like any other old person, my grandma enjoyed spoiling me with candy even though she knew my mother was notorious for whipping out 'la mano dura' if she caught me eating too many sweets.

As a kid, my only vice was was lack of self control with candy- especially chocolate. (This is still true today) 

In 2003, on a rather humid morning in San Miguel, my grandma, brother, and I were strolling through the aisles of La Despensa De Don Juan (the local grocery store) when out of the blue, she asked me if I wanted chocolate.

What kind of question is that, abuela? Of course I do. I always want chocolate. I'm craving some right now, actually. 

Without even answering, I zipped passed old ladies pushing grocery carts, weaved through families picking out Goya products, and ran directly to the "American Goods" aisle of the grocery store. I didn't even dawdle in looking at the variety of candy the section had to offer, I just went straight for the Hershey bar. Before I could even imagine unwrapping that delicious almond, milk chocolate rectangle, I felt the full force of my grandma's hand strike that candy bar right out of my fingers.

"That's not chocolate", my grandmother huffed. "Today, I'm going to show you how to make real chocolate."

Next thing I know, we're buying cacao beans from a Pipil street vendor and hauling a sack full of beans back to my grandparents house. While my brother and cousins ran off to play on the hammock, I sat with my aunt and grandma at the kitchen table waiting for the cacao beans to roast.

After the beans finished roasting, we proceeded to peel off the skin, one by one, and sifted out any twigs, leaves, or tiny pebbles that may have remained from the bag. Peeling was tedious, but listening to my family tell stories about the history and significance of this chocolate making process, kept me from counting how many beans I'd been peeling.

As I absorbed the stories of MayaAztec, and Zapotec tribes making drinks out of cacao beans using the same techniques we were using, my mentality started to change. I didn't see what we were doing as a chore, I felt like in a way, getting back to my roots. At the age of 12, my grandma was teaching me about my culture, refusing to let me assimilate and forget my identity. It was through these stories that I learned about the Aztec sand Quetzalcoatl, the Maya Kukulkán, and even about Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés.

 

After peeling the beans, my grandma started to get fancy with the spices- throwing in brown sugar, cinnamon, and God knows what else into the bowl of peeled cacao, my aunt and I helped her mix the ingredients together.

 

Fotografía de: Juan Carlos Quintero

After mixing the ingredients, my grandma, brother, and I walked three blocks to 'El Molino' and gave our concoction to the man who would grind them together and make the chocolate.

  Fotografía de:   Juan Carlos Quintero

Fotografía de: Juan Carlos Quintero

Looking back, I realize my brother avoided the grunt work and only got involved when the chocolate was almost ready.

As my brother and I waited on the other end of the grinding machine with our plastic tub, we watched the chocolate start to come out. We simultaneously scraped the chocolate into the tub while sneaking a few finger scoops into our mouths when abuela wasn't looking.

The end product was a smoothrichwarmchewy dark chocolate unlike anything I've ever tried in my life. It was chocolate in its purest form- no milk, artificial flavoring, or any other additives thrown into the mixture. Nestle's Abuelita Chocolate fails in comparison to the glory that is homemade "Artisan Chocolate."

I'll never forget that feeling of satisfaction and pride I had when we got to take our chocolate home, just like I'll never forget the lessons I learned from my abuela that day. Always return to your roots.

Originally posted on TruthNetMedia