Polar weather came to Louisiana, and like many others in the area, our power went out and I was forced to take a moment without technology and think about how much we rely on electricity in our daily lives.
I sat on my couch draped with a couple of blankets and looked through the window. The neighborhood looked beautiful, covered with a thin layer of ice, snowy white. Iced tree branches and garden flowers looked like they were encased in crystal. For a moment this cold reminded me of winters spent in other cold areas of the world, I remember a particularly cold winter in Tajikistan.
Tajikistan is a very small country located in Central Asia. It is full of mountains and hills – Tajiks are especially proud of living in the midst of “the roof of the world,” the large set of Parmir mountains that extend all the way to the Himalayas and others, forming some of the highest places on earth. Though Tajiks have had a difficult history, there is a particular gentle strength in Tajiks that I haven’t found in any other culture, and their Persian heritage taught them centuries ago to be hospitable. Now that hospitality is a part of their nature.
Tajik winters are rough, temperatures can get to -40°F. Many roads close during winter due to snow and ice, but people have developed ways to keep themselves alive and warm during those cold winters. Without electricity, my Tajik hosts would put a heater made of charcoal under the center of the table, covered with a thick blanket. We would all sit around it to keep ourselves warm.
In villages, I was often given a cube of frozen lard with chopped onions and cilantro to keep myself warm (It doesn’t taste that bad when the weather is that cold! Ha). I remember missing a traditional drink for the cold days that we have in Mexico made with corn meal and chocolate: Chapurrado. At the time I only had polenta, so that is what I used. My Tajik friends enjoyed it and I was happy to share something warm with them. I am thankful for the warm love I received from my Tajik family during my time there.
While sitting in my living room in Port Allen, I also thought about the warm love I have received from the people in this community and how hard many unnamed people work to keep basic services functioning (like water, roads, electricity, trash, mail, etc.).
Our electricity came back by the end of the day! The next day, our pipes froze and our sweet neighbors were checking on us, offering their help. This cold weather made me see the warm hearted community we have… I am counting my blessings.
Today, I want to share the recipe of Champurrado with you. Champurrado is a thick chocolate drink made for the cold days in Mexico. In my city this is usually drunk during mornings. I hope you enjoy it and it helps you to face the cold days.
Champurrado – Mexican Chocolate
3 cups of water
2 cinnamon sticks
3/4 cup of piloncillo, aka panela, aka brown sugar cane block (or dark brown sugar)
7 ounces of chocolate bar
1 cup of milk (optional)*
½ cup of corn flour
1.Dissolve corn flour in a cup of water, set aside.
2.In a medium pot on medium heat, add two cups of water, chocolate bars, cinnamon sticks and piloncillo. Stir constantly until the ingredients dissolve.
3.When the ingredients have dissolved, slowly pour the corn flour mix through a strainer while stirring the pot. Add milk if prefer and keep cooking between 5-7 minutes.
4.If the drink gets too thick add more water, just remember that like roux, whenever it cools it will thicken.
Serve while hot.