A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Theobroma cacao - The Food Of The Gods
Wednesday, August 23, 2006

It was 1973 and Rosemary, Ale (6), Hilary (3) and I were trying to breakfast in the fancy St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Hilary was screaming and we were being stared at. The waiter, in a dinner jacket, asked my wife, "Madam is there anything we can do for the little girl?" Rosemary answered, "I don't think so, she wants tortillas, beans and Chocomilk." Since Hilary had been barely over one year old in our home in Mexico City, the only way she would drink her milk was if we added a generous portion of powdered Chocomilk. It wasn't until she was almost 5 that we weaned her away. Hilary today (34)still loves chocolate. We returned from our trip to Morelia with a large can of Chocomilk. I was tempted to buy one of the newer flavours like chocolate/banana but in the end I knew what Hilary wanted.

It was at the Morelia airport, on our way home that the kind Mexican security agent suggested that Rosemary take out her Carlos V chocolate bars from her carry-on and place them in the luggage. It would seems that some alien and demented soul could possibly doctor the chocolate with some Prague plastique.

They have been making Carlos V chocolate bars in Mexico for years. Some say that since Nestle bought the company the flavour changed. If it did Rosemary has not noticed and she loves them. Only Spaniards would name a chocolate bar for a King (Charles V) who reigned before Charles III. Call that Latin logic.

35 years ago I was teaching English at the US pharmaceutical firm, Richardson Merrill in Mexico City. The company, which at the time made Vick's Vaporub, had recently purchased a Mexican chocolate company. They manufactured Chocolate Express which was a competitor to Hilary's Chocomilk. Richardson Merrill also made all sorts of wonderful Mexican chocolate bars but some cynical Mexicans stayed away from the chocolate covered mints - Vick's Vaporub filled chocolates, perhaps? My star student was Jan VanDyke a Dutch petroleum engineer who had lost his job with Shell in Indonesia when the Dutch were booted out. He was a chocolate expert now and was the plant engineer for Richardson Merrill. From him I learned the ins and outs of chocolate making and I will not bore you here with all he taught me. What is insteresting is while the chocolate plant(Theobroma cacao)was discovered in Mexico, Mexico lost the chocolate market in the latter part of the 19th century when they lagged behind in the art of blending beans from different cultivars of the plant. Africans, particularly the Ghanians, did well and most of the good raw chocolate today comes from Africa.

But then there are many of us who like Mexican chocolate, perhaps because there is always a hint of cinnamon, even in Mexican Hersheys. And why did Hilary like Chocomilk? Unlike other products, like the more expensive Nestle Milo, Chocomilk did not dissolve well in milk. The pasty mixture that floated to the top, was a delight to spoon.


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