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Saturday, April 1, 2017

J'aime le chocolat!

What better way to start the month of April than with a brand new blog?

No, this is no April Fools' joke. This is the first time I am really back to blogging after more than ten years. I owe my friend Rane the inspiration to start again.  Years ago, I used to own whenidance.com. Some domain guru bought it, who now wants two thousand dollars for the name. I say, screw that. I'm whenidance.org now.

This post, btw, is about chocolate. It's also about my mother.


Allow me to explain. My mother has begun a chocolate business in my native country of El Salvador. My beautiful, talented, unstoppable mother, whom I'll someday write a thousand pages about.

What's special about Salvadorian chocolate, you may ask? Well, if you haven't had 100% pure, Salvadorian chocolate, you haven't really had chocolate. Yep, I said it. Sorry, Godiva! While I adore Godiva chocolates, eating pure chocolate is its own experience, and no one should ever die without knowing it. And every responsible chocolate lover should know the origin and history of chocolate.

I'll be brief with the history. I'll share, succinctly, some of the things I remember learning about cacao in my high school Mesoamerican History class:

First, chocolate comes from the lush jungles of Central America and Mexico (this, btw, makes me damn proud to be Salvadorian!). The Mayans and Aztecs didn’t eat chocolate as much as they drank it. You could even argue that they got high on it. They considered it an energizer, mood enhancer, and aphrodisiac. No wonder, then, that they had a chocolate deity! The Mayans worshipped the god of cacao (which, in case you didn't know, is the plant that cacao beans come from). Cacao beans, like coffee beans, get roasted and ground, and the ground beans are mixed into a paste that gets mixed with things like sugar, milk, butter, nutmeg, honey… you get the idea.

Roasting cacao beans is harder than you might imagine. You must roast the beans, and then peel them while they're still very hot! Ouch is the right thing to think.

Perhaps because of its costly process, in ancient Mayan civilization, only aristocrats were allowed to have chocolate. According to History.com, “Emperor Montezuma drank three gallons of chocolate a day to increase his libido.” But did that work for him, I wonder? It’s not like they even had Alka Seltzer back in those days.

Cacao beans were so precious to Mesoamerican culture that they were even used as currency. If you want to know more about the history of chocolate, you can visit this link.

But really, one thing you might be even more interested in doing is: having some pure, un-Godiva-fied chocolate. The kind my mother now sells. Her brand, Chocolate Grisel, is only being sold in El Salvador, but I think she should start selling in the U.S. sooner rather than later. After all, I -- her only daughter! -- am sitting here on this balmy night in Boca Raton, Florida, dreaming languorously of the dark Salvadorian chocolate of my childhood. I ate it as a little child, but mostly, I drank it. And yes, it probably made me climb trees. And maybe that’s how I ended up doing cartwheels and backflips in our backyard, amidst my mother’s lovingly cared for and pristinely preserved gardenias. And perhaps my chocolate-induced frenzies were the true beginning of my gymnastics career. Who knows?

I wanted to write a little about my mother tonight. Honor her, on this first day of April. My mother has survived atrocities, and she's never lost her indefatigable spirit, her joy. Perhaps I am biased. But I still have to say, there is nothing my mother can’t do (including properly raise a child running all over the house, high on pure chocolate). She can sing, dance, sew, cook, clean, and still walk around looking like a lovely, carnation-lipped lady straight out of a Chanel ad. She can learn foreign languages one right after another. She can survive in the country with the highest degree of violence in the Western Hemisphere. And she can start her own business.

I’m proud of you mom. Proud that there is no force in the world that could stop you. No degree of sorrow, illness, heartbreak, danger, or violence could hold you down. Hell, not even a bloody war. And I am just going to end this post by quoting what you wrote yourself --

"La actitud con que enfrentemos la vida es todo; quiero transmitir con este video, la alegría con que debemos hacer todo, con nuestro mejor esfuerzo y voluntad; la esperanza en el porvenir ante situaciones inciertas y la humildad ante los golpes que no podemos evadir, levantarse de nuevo es lo importante, sonreir ante la dicha de existir y porqué no cantar...” -- Nuria Grisel.

This picture is of my mother, making chocolate in her very own home. Year 2017.