I finished my last visit of the day (overtime of course) and, due to bus diversions, began the long walk into town to one of the main bus lines. I’ve walked down this particular road many times. My client lives around the corner from the road; sometimes I take the long walk as a form of exercise under the circumstances, and usually just walk past the little shops at the top of the road. But for some reason, I finally decided to take a look inside one of them.
I stopped in front of a chocolate shop to see what was on offer. I looked at the menu outside, which listed a number of chocolate products, and decided to go inside. It’s a small cafe – I think it only sells chocolate products – with small trays of chocolate samples that anyone can try. I walked in and said hello to (who turned out to be) the owner of the shop, a woman with (what is likely) a French-sounding accent, and she said “feel free to try the samples”.
In front of me were some trays, filled with broken bits of dark & milk chocolate, all different flavors. Dark orange & chilli, milk coriander & grapefruit, dark basil & lemon – just 3 examples of 14 different mixes. I tried each one and decided that my favorite is milk chocolate coriander & grapefruit. I can’t fully describe the taste, but the flavors go together well. I asked to buy 100 grams of that flavor, enough to last me for about a week. (That’s a long time for you die-hard chocoholics, I know.)
After I bought the bar, what looked like a bunch of chocolate balls caught my eye. I asked the owner about it and she said “This is chocolate from Panama (Wikipedia link).”
“Wow, what a coincidence!”, I said. “My maternal family is from Panama.” 🙂
“Oh wow! I’ve never met a Panamanian before.”, she said. “My friend lives there on the islands with the (Kuna & other) native Indians. She owns a shop and I get my cocoa from her.”
(I corrected her & explained that I wasn’t born in Panama; I’m 2nd generation American. But she still considered me the 1st Panamanian that she ever met. To my knowledge, there isn’t a large Panamanian population here, if any at all.)
We had some small talk; I explained my family’s roots there and she told me more about her friend living among the indigenous people there. She buys the cocoa from her friend, who ships it up here. She showed me some photos from her friend’s shop, including candid photos of customers buying different goods, and explained that she uses the Panamanian cocoa specifically for cooking (garnishes, etc.) I took a photo of the chocolate balls (see below) and promised to visit again.
The next day, I shared some of the chocolate with my co-worker D. She agreed that the chocolate is good as hell. That small seal of approval strengthened my resolve to visit again in a couple of weeks.
No matter where you go, you can find some version of your roots anywhere & join yours to those already planted. Encounters like this make me more curious about the world and how far the roots of my ancestors’ countries stretch around the globe. I can plant my roots anywhere, make a new home, and feel at home. It’s a small world after all.
I wrote a post about the Chocolate Festival a few months ago. Well, it’s back in a few towns again and unlike the last time, I went with a friend & met up with 3 people from Meetup. I also got to buy myself a couple of treats this time (no laughing ATM for now). Rather than write the same things that I wrote in the last festival post, take a look at a few new photos instead. In the meantime, I’ll have a bite of my brownie with white chocolate chips & a bite of my piece of red velvet cake, please & thank you.
As an added bonus, here’s some beef chilli flavored with dark cocoa and topped with pico de gallo & shredded cheese. It was surprisingly good.
While I’m far from a chocoholic, based on my nostalgia I can understand how millions of people worldwide have such unconditional & undying love for chocolate. So when I found out that the annual Chocolate Festival was coming back to town 12.09-11.2011, I decided that unlike last year – when I was more lazy & colder than I am now – I’d definitely attend to see what the big deal is. I wanted to go with at least 1 person, but life doesn’t work out the way that I want it to so I went solo. And as usual, it was nice.
(Well… except when the cash machine laughed at me when I tried getting cash to buy some chocolate. Maybe that’s a good thing for my health.)
The Festival was held for a full weekend and took place on 2 levels – street level and inside a venue. I didn’t feel like going into the venue so I stayed on the street.
For someone who isn’t a die-hard chocoholic, that was enough for me. Check out these photos to see why:
Along with buying ready-made chocolate products, one vendor sold kits for people to make their own chocolate and has a program specifically for 16-24 year olds to make & sell their own chocolate – entrepreneurship at its best. One of the partners, Kieran, said that he & his business partner are available to visit schools to showcase the business. In this terrible economy, I applaud them for giving others the opportunity to make a little legal change.
Although I couldn’t buy anything, I took many samples and collected many business cards. I plan to give 1 or 2 of them my business in the future.