Veracruz Chronicles

Friday, January 27, 2006

Willa blogs: How to make chocolate!

Hey everyone. We made chocolate the other day. It was fun, hard and tasty. This chocolate is not like the normal chocclate you find in the store, it is better with freshly ground cinnamon, cacao beans and sugar.

The ingredients, ready to grind

First you grind the cinnamon (it makes the best smell).

Toasted canela

This is a picture of Mexican cinnamon, called canela. It tastes a little different than other cinnamon.

Then you grind the sugar .Then you grind them together.

Working with the molino is hard work.


Then you grind the Cacao beans. (Cacao beans are really chocolate from nature. They come from Mexico and we buy them in the market in the center of town. When you roast them, they smell like coffee. They are not too sweet, more like a flower.)

Roasted cacao beans, ready to grind
These are roasted beans.

A big bowl of ground cacao.
This is the cacao bean right after we ground it the first time. It really smells yummy.

Then you grind it again. After you grind all of it together, it is hot and right after it comes out of the molina (the grinder), you need to form the warm chocolate into patties.
Making gorditas with chocolate.

With the ones that are still hot you can make leaves by taking a real leaf and puting it on the chocolate and cuting the shape out.
Austin making figures.

This is me and my brothers and Thelma our friend taking the shell off the cacao beans after we roasted them.

Peeling cacao beans

Making chocolate takes a lot of work and everyone in the family has to help, but it is worth it when you get to eat the chocolate or your mom makes hot chocolate for you before bed!

If you come to Mexico, we will teach you how to make chocolate, if we have the time.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Austin blogs: A trip to the rancho

The other day I went to David's (who is our friend and the owner of the Hacienda cafe) ranch. He has a really big ranch, really hilly. He owns some cattle, about 80. He has a little stream going through it, it is only little now because we haven't had a good rain recently, but he says it's really big when there is a rain. He had a huge tree, must of been hundreds of years old. He is trying to grow some jungle around the stream, but the cows keep tramping in the river.

Before we go to the ranch, we stopped at a town called Coxquihui. We went to the church, it was made completely out of stone, without a stucco, so you could see the stones. It's a town that produces coffee (it is high in the mountains), so we saw a lot of coffee plants and bought some good coffee at a store on the hill.

Coxquihui

When we arrived at the ranch, we were on the top of a hill and it was beautiful to look out. We started hiking down to the stream. There were a lot of empty places where it looked like there used to be a stream, but it hadn't rained for a while. We started hiking down the river and it started looking a little more like jungle. The trees are amazing, they have so many other plants growing on them.

Vegetation

We walked down along the stream and then climbed a big hill and you could see out to the end of his ranch.

David's land is way out there...

Landscape picture by Austin

It was a lot of fun going there. I want to got there again sometime.

Rancho

If you want to see more pictures, click on a photo above to go to our flickr account.

Coming soon: Willa blogs about making chocolate.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Has it really been a month?

And I thought I'd blog twice a week, no problem. The time has been well spent, as Mark and I are well immersed in our work and the children are happy and healthy. I can't quite decide how to catch up, so for now I will start with the most recent and perhaps try to catch up in the near future.

This weekend, we finally made it to the ecological park here in Papantla. We had tried to get there various times but were foiled by the weather (mostly) and occasionally laziness (once or twice...) Now we are sorry we didn't discover it the first week as it was a lovely place and we'll do what it takes to get out there several times a month.

When we arrived, we were met by a couple of healthy dogs, one of which is an Xholotlescuintle, better known as a hairless Aztec dog. I'd never seen one up close before and this guy was delightful. He loved the kiddos and I especially loved his mohawk, the only hair on his body.

Aztec dog at the Ecological park

Isn't he lovely? The kids are pretty cute too.

This park was once the city dump but a local man, who owned an orange grove next to it, decided to bring the selva (rainforest) back. He had been tending his grove, fighting back the rainforest when three years ago he wondered why he spent so much energy fighting nature. So at that point, he stopped tending the grove and started re-integrating the area into the forest. He covered the dump with dirt and let things grow wild, at times introducing plants but never cutting anything back. There are trails through the forest and we loved walking through them.

Rain forest vines

(Steve, doesn't Willa look like Laura in this picture?) Juan, the owner, has also set up several museums (photos from the vanilla industry and Tajin) and a living museum where he has built a Totonac home with all the furnishings, a sweatbath and a vanilla orchard. These items were built to demonstrate how the Totonac live in a more balanced manner with the environment.

Owner of the park, Juan

This is Juan in front of the honey hives. The bees are endangered, don't produce a lot of honey, but are good to have around a vanilla orchard. In all my months of travel around the country side, I have not seen this, not to say it's not out there. Traditionally, vanilla was grown in the rainforest in an area that had enough moisture and combination of light/shade to support the plant (today, more and more, it is being produced in shadehouses or in more controlled environments). Juan has the examples of both the most traditional method (let the vines grow as high as they can on trees as tutors (using bamboo ladders to harvest) and a more controlled version, where tepees are made with wood to serve as tutors for the vines but larger trees around the orchard provide the shade.

Vainilla, pampona.

If you come for a visit, we promise you a trip out to the park. We only wish we had taken the visitors we've had thus far out there. Well, come back Mark, Denise and Peter, we'll take you this time, promise. There are other photos on the flickr board, just click on a photo above and you'll be led to our account.

Cold water in a cup made from a gourd.