One year ago I was in South America. One year and 5 days ago (and 5 days ago that I meant to write this up), was my first full day in South America, in Peru. It was my mom’s birthday and it was sunny. The second part of that statement is MUCH more important than the first part.

So sunny I need sun glasses...WHAT?!
So sunny I need sun glasses…WHAT?!

Yeah…that was me, one year and 5 days ago. Where i luxuriously fell asleep on a lawn only woken up by the sun burning my legs entrapped within my black jeans. Sorry, had to get that off my chest considering it’s supposed to be under 0 degrees this weekend, and I’m talking Fahrenheit. I mean check this snow!

See the frozen tundra?
See the frozen tundra? (Picture courtesy of my housemate)

So I sucked and stopped writing for awhile. But give a girl a break. I still have school work and extra curriculars to do. Note: U.S. colleges, SO much harder than Argentine. Although that could be because my grade actually matters here and I don’t constantly have the excuse, “I need to explore and be with my friends. It may be my last chance anyhow.”  (I knew that I was kind of using a quote from something there…it’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail – Spam-A-Lot).

So in honor of me back online, my fond memories and my mother’s birthday, I am going to write about the day I learned where chocolate came from.

– It’s a gift from the gds, right?

– Nope, it comes from beans….cacao beans

Okay, I already knew this and learned all about the history of chocolate and the cacao bean on my trips to various Chocolate museums (See: Chocolate Baby and Havannah Chocolate Museum)

BUT this time I actually learned how to make the cacao bean from bean to the delectable heavenly treat that we mere mortals refer to as…chocolate. Oh and Mom was with me then, that’s why it is applicable to her getting older.

Choco Museo in Peru (shit almost started typing in Spanish since “Choco Museo” is Spanish…), specifically Cusco Peru was like my second home. Since my first time there, I promised myself that I would take the chocolate lesson. I HAD to do it before leaving Cusco. By the time I left, I became friends with some of the workers. They knew me by name and I still talk to one of my friends from there.

Side note: when I went in there…well of course I had to get chocolate. The chocolate was soo good and rich. It didn’t have that sugar crap that burns your throat like they do in the U.S. They also sold cacao based liquor. My dad’s favorite was the Chili one. I picked him up a second bottle when I visited the Choco Museo in Lima. (PSA: the one in Cusco is better!) They had a bar set up so that one could taste test the different types of liquors. And usually my friend was the one manning the bar. So basically we just chilled there taking shots of the tasters. A couple of times he would put one randomly in my glass and I’d guess which flavor it was. I got REALLY good at guessing. :End side note

You get that they knew me there pretty damn well…but the night before, I woke up and ran to the bathroom puking. It was SO UNFAIR. It wasn’t even because I drank too much. It was sudden and it was painful. I felt like CRAP that day. I thought I was going to puke everywhere when I woke up.

So Mom asks me, “Do you want to cancel?”

“No, it’s my last chance to do it!” My pride as a self-proclaimed chocoloic was being tested. Pain of body versus strength of mind and desire for chocolate. Nothing would hold me back from learning the secrets of making chocolates from scratch or eat wonderful chocolates.

I get there and immediately, one of the girls whom I had gotten to know asks me if I’m alright.

“Yeah, why?”

“I don’t know you seem different, you usually have a sparkle to your eyes.”

I swear she actually said nearly those exact words. EEEE! I love them.

So when we were shown into the room we were cooking in, she brought me a stool because standing was difficult. I was leaning on the counter without it. They even got me water and worriedly asked how I was doing when they passed by.

The chef started by opening up the beans. Where we could see white stuff, that gets turned into cocoa butter, used for white chocolate, not any of that fat Hershey’s crap and the smaller dark beans stuff that if not mixed with anything gets turned into pure dark chocolate. The white stuff was actually pretty sweet. Surprise, surprise.

Cacao bean opened up
Cacao bean opened up
I think Mom's laughing at my pain
I think Mom’s laughing at my pain

At this point I think I ran to the bathroom. I felt like I was definitely going to puke and bee-lined it there. I didn’t puke, yay me, but the bathroom was small and there was only one in the shop. (Yeah I know the place pretty well) So I didn’t want to monopolize the bathroom as much as I actually wanted to monopolize the bathroom. Oh and I believe someone knocked on the door. Either way I ended up chilling on the balcony getting some fresh air. The view was great like always, a bit of fresh air does one good, but I could never come to stand the smog in that city.

The group and Mom hard at work grinding the beans
The group and Mom hard at work grinding the beans
...and me too eventually
…and me too eventually
He put together a hot chocolate mixture with Chili powder like the Mayans did. He challenged one of the group members to drink it.
He put together a hot chocolate mixture with Chili powder like the Mayans did. He challenged one of the group members to drink it.

The Mayans used to make their hot chocolate, by the way they’re the inventors of hot chocolate, with chilis. Apparently my dad likes to do that also. It turns out to be a reddened concoction, similar to the color of brick. The chef gave it to one of the guys in the group telling him to drink it. I had some another time I was there, it has an…interesting flavor…

Another step to making chocolate...
Another step to making chocolate…

So I mentioned there was the white stuff and the other stuff that turns into pure dark chocolate if not mixed with anything. Well when they are crushed up, they are nibs, which by the way, make wonderful chocolate tea. A lighter healthier version of hot chocolate. So when we crushed up the nibs with the mortar and pestle, there were some extras that weren’t needed.

The chef asked, “Does anyone want to try some?”

“Me! I do!” Of course I am intrigued of what these nibs are that turn into such delectable treats.

“Um, you probably don’t want them. They’re very bitter and you won’t like them.”

“Trust her,” Mom imputs, “she wants them. She’s a chocoholic.”

They were crunchy and bitter. But like herbs, I felt they helped settle my stomach. Also it could be because they make up chocolate and chocolate is the cure to everything. I actually believe this. Ask my friends. There’s a problem in their life. My response: “Here’s some chocolate.” Usually the chocolate comes in the form of truffles, my specialty.

To everyone’s surprise I consumed a little over half the nibs the chef gave me until my stomach was finally like, “okay chill dude or I’m going to start acting up again.” So I stopped.

Mom's intensely concentrating
Mom’s intensely concentrating

The moral of the story is never try to withhold chocolate from a chocoholic. Especially good chocolate. Because I promise in the name of chocolate, we will prevail!

And we all survived!
And we all survived!