On the eve before Noche Buena, I remember fondly the tamale making and cooking preparation. Abuela would hand grind the venison and pork. the air was filled with the tart smell of vinegar and a mix of Comino, Chile Powder, and a slight smell of cinnamon. The cinnamon came from the homemade hot chocolate Abuelita made every year during the holidays. This was before Abuelita’s Chocolate by Nestle.
She would heat up the mix of milk and sweetened condensed milk we always called “Leche Pet” with a few sticks of cinnamon while we diligently rolled and filled dozen after dozen of tamales. When finished the chocolate was bitter yet sweet and had a sweet, spicy aroma and I always breathed it in. To this day, Christmas is not Christmas without a cup of Abuelita Chocolate.
For years, I didn’t really care about recreating any of my childhood memories of tamales and chocolate until the birth of my son. I soon realized that those precious memories of chocolate and tamales was lost. No one had the opportunity to write down any of Abuela’s recipes so I found myself struggling to recreate that perfect cup of hot chocolate. In 2009, I was at Starbucks with my husband when I saw a sign that said “Abuelita Chocolate”. I ordered a cup waiting in anticipation of that white cardboard cup.
I felt the warmth in my hands and pulled off the plastic rim and breathed deep. It took me back to Abuela’s kitchen table with the cigarette marks and loud laughter. It brought me back to cold December nights popping fireworks on Noche Buena dragging ourselves in only to drink that one cup. A cup of chocolate with Pan De Polvo.
I have tried to recreate Abuela’s recipe but when all else fails I always use Abuelita’s Chocolate. I still hope to recreate the original recipe Abuela used. I look at our Christmas tree and anxiously wait for the 24th so I can make my own hot chocolate for my kids and hope one day to pass on the same memories.