Mexican Chocolate Traditions in Massachusetts

Back in November, we introduced you to Taza Chocolate and promised you more info on an upcoming public program at Lowell National Historical Park.  Well that day has come. Tomorrow, in the Park’s Visitor Center, we are presenting on Mexican chocolate traditions here in Massachusetts.

Alex Whitmore, co-founder of Taza Chocolate, will talk about his Mexican-inspired, stone ground chocolate company located in Somerville. Taza manufactures minimally processed chocolate made from fair trade organic cacao beans. Rotary stone mills imported from Oaxaca are used to grind the roasted beans. Each one is hand chiseled with a pattern specifically designed for grinding chocolate.

Ricardo and Maria Candiani, owners of Mr. Jalapeno in downtown Lowell, grew up in Hermosillo, Mexico. They will share recipes and traditions passed down within their respective families. These include mole, a sauce made from finely ground ingredients, including chocolate. Delectable samples will be available at this free program, which is sponsored by Lowell National Historical Park. Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 4:00 p.m. at the Visitor Center, 246 Market Street.

Come join us to hear stories and taste samples of Mexican style chocolate and chicken mole. This free program takes place Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 4:00 p.m. at the Visitor Center, 246 Market Street.

Click here to watch the program.

 

Massachusetts Artist’s Work Featured in New Smithsonian Exhibition

The detail is mind boggling. And the engineering, craftsmanship, and design are just what one would expect from maritime historian and ship modeler Erik Ronnberg, Jr. He called a few months ago to invite me up to Rockport to see a model he has been working on for the past two years. The Smithsonian Institution commissioned Ronnberg to design and build a Pacific Coast factory trawler. The piece is an incredible rendering of a working factory trawler, with exacting detail. Though the hull is made of very thin wood, the majority of pieces are cast out of metal. She is modeled after the real ship ” Alaska Ocean,” which routinely catches and processes 50-100 tons of Alaska pollock in a single haul. Every fish that comes onto the factory deck is weighed and measured to ensure that the ship doesn’t exceed her quota.

Once the fish are released, they spill out into one of three holding tanks. A conveyer belt brings fish to their ultimate fate, where they end up as packaged and frozen surimi (imitation crab/lobster), rectangular fillets, or highly profitable roe. The majority of the work on the processing deck is automated. Erik has machined parts to represent the many processes that take place on this factory-on-waves: sorting, scaling, skinning, filleting, gutting, deboning, washing, cooking, compacting, freezing, bagging, loading, and storing.

Examining the many fish processing stages, you can see where the infatuation with technology comes from. The model is six feet long (scale: 3/16 in. = 1 foot) and is part of the new exhibit, On the Water: Stories from Maritime America, which opened May 22 at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum. Erik Ronnberg’s hope is that a few kids will see his model of Alaska Ocean and out of that will come the next generation of naval architects.