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Monday, July 22, 2013

...to chocolate town

I think we all deserve some chocolate today.

Peruvian chocolate.
I had heard rumors that the open air market, Mercado Surquillo, was selling Cacao pods. This was too good to be true and had to be investigated. Sure enough, the fellow with the most varied fruit stand, the one who inevitably has something (or a lot of somethings) that I don't recognize, had pods. For 10 soles, ($3.61) I jubilantly took home my very own football-like chocolate pod.
Aren't they pretty?!
My level of enthusiasm should have been embarrassing, but no matter. I took it home and gazed at it like a newborn baby. The sunset colors. The potential for greatness.
Could I make my own chocolate? Was that crazy? I had all the necessary ingredients right here for the pure stuff. I knew what to do: cut open the beautiful, tough pod. Inside, chocolate beans encased in a sort of sweet marshmallow fluff. The beans are supposed to be laid out to ferment in the goo beneath banana leaves. When I did cut it open, the kids and I ate some of the marshmallow fluff goo. It was pretty good. 
A cut-open cacao pod

But before that I needed to research how to have the beans ferment instead of mold in the damp, damp air of Lima? Some of the Segway-riding Policia may be riding around with their firearms drawn and in hand but it's the mildew that I am ever-vigilant against; even our Q-tips molded when we left the box open. Such is the effect of the Pacific Ocean.

So I went to the experts; the nice people at Chocomuseo. Fortunately for me they've opened a branch of their brand of chocolate lovin' mania within walking distance of our apartment.

Walking in you hit a positive wall of chocolate fragrance. I think my eyes rolled back in my head. The Mothership. I'm home!

sign on the bathroom. Obviously these are my people.

This tiny museum/chocolate making place has a kitchen, a cafe, one screen beneath a cacao tree mock-up playing a fascinating documentary on all sorts of aspects of chocolate and another the movies Chocolat, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or Like Water for Chocolate in turn.

You get your chocolate fix and your Johnny Depp fix all at once. This, my friends, is one stop shopping.

One of the nice enthusiasts working there in his Chocomuseo apron, gave me the bad news. "You would have a very difficult time making chocolate from the pod in Lima," he said sadly. "you need warmth and about 5% humidity for it to work, and Lima, well..."

I understood. The humidity had ranged from 80-95% and it was chilly, being winter. Shoot.

Hmmm, what's the luggage weight limit back to the USA, again?

I somehow sucked up my disappointment by purchasing already fermented and dried cacao beans, since that's what I was going for anyway. Also a container of pure cocoa butter night cream (pure white with a texture like coconut oil, but with that smell of chocolate...talk of your midnight cravings!) and hitting up the cafe.

A cup of cacao tea later, and a chocolate brownie, I was running on overload. Which didn't stop me from finishing off the kids' drinking chocolate when they overloaded as well. The way it was served was beyond charming; a largish, treasure chest-shaped piece of either milk or dark chocolate on a stick, tied with a pale shimmering ribbon and a cup of steamed milk to dunk it in until the milk was thick, creamy hot chocolate.

Be still my beating heart.

I haven't roasted he beans yet. I ate one, the package suggested that eating 5 a day would ensure favorable health. The one I ate was beyond bitter and that's a waste of a good chocolate bean if you ask me. Plus I can always go back to Chocomuseo and buy some chocolate nibs to munch on...

Maybe take a class on making truffles, while we're at it.

As for my cacao pod, I carefully cut it open, gutted it, and spent the next week gradually drying it in the toaster oven. It shrank and hardened, and the husk turned a dark chocolate color, but it was still getting patches of mold. The last step was to clean it off and paint glue over the entire thing, sealing it.

Now I have an oh-so-unusual box to take home. Is it not beautiful?


  1. Salivating ... I had to reach for a piece of chocolate half way through your post! I was also hoping you would be successful with those beans but oh well. I am learning something new every time I stop by! :)

    1. Ooh! That's awesome! Drool on, m'dear. xxoo

  2. Oh and the bathroom signs totally made me crack up!!! :D

  3. Ingenious way to make the best of things with the cocoa pod!

    I, too, like the restroom sign. I have a small "collection" of funny restroom signs I have photographed. My kids get so embarrassed when I take the pics!

    1. Hee hee, that's our job as Moms. Thomas looked that the photo and said, as only a 7-year-old can, "why'd you take a picture of THAT, Mom?"

  4. I'm drooling, and cracking up at the potty people. I love kooky signs too :)