I should really write this down during All Saint’s Day, not on July when there’s nothing to commemorate about (and this came from a country who happens to celebrate something in a weekly basis!)and just like memories, my stories do not connect sometimes.
You see, whenever November comes, we always look forward to sticky rice and good old chocolates. Valentines do not hold the monopoly of these sweets in our family and what I am talking about is not the commercialized ones, but those that my father brew for drink. He learned it from Lolo.
Our grandparents on both sides specialized in making tablea, it is like our local chocolates made from roasted grind cacao nuts. My grandpa sells them on rolled up coupon bonds, stored in jars low enough for us to reach and put our fingers on whenever we visit. For us, those rolls of chocolates are public property and Lolo would just turn a blind eye as we struggle to make the tin open. I swear he looked amused! (I called it old-movies jar because it is huge with tin covers and can be mostly seen in horror flicks with a decapitated head on it. I really liked those jars.)
On my mother’s side, it was Lola. Me and my cousins would run around during harvest at our Grandma’s backyard with its lines of cacao trees, looking and climbing for those ripe greenish-yellowish nuts the shape of a wrinkled football. We would grab as many as we could and slam it on the tree’s trunk until it split to two. We eat the seeds and spill it out. And after having our fill, we would go to Lola and gave the seeds to her, saliva and all, while grinning as if we did her a favor. I really have no idea how she maintains a straight-face as she receives those, but maybe it has to do with being a grandmother.
The seeds without the coating would be easier to sundry. You would find it on Lola’s roof with a nigo or two, filled with seeds. Later it would be roasted, grounded and compressed to these small nice cylindrical shapes with the help of polvoron-shapers.
It can be cooked for champorado, or make a chocolate drink out of it like my father does, or eat it as it is. My favorite is pulverizing it and just use it as rice topping. Later, when eating the choclates, we would joke around of how we are eating something with all our salivas mixed in! Not really a piece of information you would look back fondly (but it really was funny, in a very gross way).
Now, every time I see tablea, I would remember the rows of trees at my Lola’s house, the jar of sweets from my Lolo, and my dad’s drink whenever we visit their resting place during Undas. Paying our respects and prayers while sipping a rich smoky drink. During those moments, I could almost see myself smiling. “What better way to give respects than chocolates?”