Friday, January 15, 2010

Chocolate Friday - Valuable "almonds"

On May 9, 1502, Christopher Columbus set sail on his fourth-and what turned out to be his last-trip from Spain to the New World. He was searching for a direct water route to Asia, plus whatever riches he could find along the way.

In August 1502, he landed a Guanaja Island, 30 miles off the coast of modern-day Honduras. He spied an enormous dugout canoe in the waters nearby and ordered his men to seize it.

The vessel turned out to be a Mayan trading canoe, probably from somewhere on the Yucantan Peninsula, and it was loaded with a full cargo of trading goods - colorful clothing, wooden swords, flint knives, copper hatchets, small copper bells, and other items. As Columbus's son Ferdinand recounted years later, the Mayans who had been in the canoe were also carrying a cargo of "almonds." Very valuable almonds, it turned out. Ferdinand wrote:

The natives seemed to hold these almonds at a great price, for when they were brought on board ship together with their goods, I observed that when any of these almonds fell, they all stooped to pick it up, as if an eye had fallen from their head.

But Columbus wasn't interested in almonds - he was looking for gold and other riches. "As there was nothing of importance in those Guanaja Islands," Ferdinand Columbus later wrote, "he did not tarry there."

Columbus and his men traveled as far south as modern-day Panama before returning home to Spain, where he died in 1506. He never did find his passage to Asia, and although he was the first European to come in contact with the cacao beans he mistook for almonds, he died without ever tasting chocolate.

(Taken from Uncle John's Supremely Satisfying Bathroom Reader).

Tune in next week to hear the rest of the story. :)

A simple recipe: Chocolate en Leche (Hot Chocolate with Milk)

To serve 4

~ 4 to 6 ounces Mexican chocolate (you can actually find this at Wal-Mart - it's called Abuelita and is made by Nestle - go figure)

~ 4 cups milk

In a heavy 2 to 3 quart saucepan, combine the chocolate and milk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate has melted completely and the mixture is well blended and hot. Do not let the mixture come to a boil. With a molinillo (Mexican wooden beater) or a rotary beater, beat the chocolate vigorously until it is foamy. Pour in into individual cups and serve at once.

Enjoy on these cold winter evenings.

Meanwhile, head over to Lisa's for more Chocolate Recipes.

Until next time...


Anonymous said...

Yummy yum! :O)

Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates said...

I love the story! And the recipe sounds yummy. I like the flavor of Mexican chocolate. So good!

Arlene said...

Cute story -- I love that little bathroom reader, lol! So sad that he never got to taste any chocolate :(