Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere… and lots and lots to drink!

Greetings from a hot and sunny Catalonia.

It’s great fun comparing events and such items of interest from such a different place as Spain, and from Catalonia in particular. Partly, it’s because the Spanish are very keen on their fiestas, so there will one taking place in a town somewhere nearby almost every day of the week; and partly, because such things often exemplify what is different between our cultures.

The city of Barcelona in particular has a very active calendar of public events organised to keep itself in the cultural limelight. These include festivals of everything from skateboarding to the most avant garde of art, as well as more classic music and opera seasons. My favourite at the moment is the Chocolate festival – La Fiesta de Xocolata.

Now, the Catalans take their chocolate very seriously indeed. Many start their day with it – but their drinking chocolate is light years away from the weedy equivalent out of a tin we are used to in the UK. Catalan hot chocolate is made with serious quantities of real chocolate: usually dark, only lightly sweetened, and with the consistency of a thick custard. It’s normally consumed with the help of a spoon, or with churros – long, thin doughnut-like pastries – dipped into it.

The other noticeable thing is that the festival isn’t particularly aimed at women, either: here, it is perfectly acceptable for a man to admit that he likes chocolate - although maybe not that he prefers it to sex. The festival includes examples of all sorts of chocolate creations made by Master Chocolatiers, as well as demonstrations of how it is made from the original cocoa bean. Some of the the creations (including savoury ones, in the South American tradition) are simply to die for – and it wouldn’t surprise me to read in the local papers if someone had indeed killed for one of them…

They even take parties of school children along, to learn all about their favourite confection (and, of course, to have some fun making things). Now, there’s a day out from school I wouldn’t have missed!

No comments: