In the grocery store, if you grab a bar from the shelves where the chocolate is, you might end up with the kind you’d find in the States, milk chocolate or dark, or you might put your hand around a thick tablet labeled chocolate a la taza. Made of cocoa, flour, and sugar, it’s to be melted in water to produce a very thick and very sweet unction called simply chocolate, which is less a drink than a dip for sticks of fried batter called churros. Together, they are a common breakfast or afternoon treat here in Spain, much appreciated by young children and old women, whom you can see together of an afternoon, grandmothers and grandkids, in a churrería, licking their fingers. The first time you see it, you want to share it with someone. ¡Fíjate! is a Spanish exclamation meaning look at that or imagine that, used either to direct someone’s attention somewhere or to concur with what you’ve been told or shown.
Neither I nor my kids could ever make it through a whole cup of the dark, goopy chocolate, but the churros, hot and crispy and sprinkled with sugar, were easy to eat up, and for several years that was the afternoon snack of choice, and the churrería was the place to go. At home, though, I gave the boys peanut butter and jelly and made them hot cocoa, the kind I’d grown up with, no thickening flour about it. I’ve never bought a bar of chocolate a la taza, nor bought the powdered form.
This past summer, however, on arriving home after a race, I opened the bag of goodies that’s provided as a pick-me-up at the finish line. It’s often a banana or an apple you get and a bollo preñado—a piece of chorizo baked inside a roll. This time, in addition to the snack was a dark green foil package of powdered chocolate a la taza with the name of the chocolate maker, Santocildes, in gold writing.
“Look at that!” I thought, and mixed some up. It was as thick as war paint and the color of mud, like a salve to rub on tired muscles or scratched legs, but it tasted mild and soothing. Could it be those grandmothers and children were right all along? I drank it all. “Look at that!” I thought, putting down the empty cup.
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