21 October 2008

Champurrado and Champorado

On a cold, damp day in San Francisco, I was sitting in a bus, hardcore fiending for some Philippine cacao. Thick, dark, not instant stuff, not scrimping on the bean. It was pretty understandable that I frantically jumped up and yanked the stop cord as I saw a sign outside a cafe that said "Champurrado! It's back!".

I had previously read that Mexicans made their champurrado with corn, instead of rice. I was a bit disheartened, therefore, to receive a cup filled with what is basically hot chocolate with masa harina (corn flour) and cinnamon mixed in. Or, from a corn-centric view, it is an atole or corn-flour beverage with chocolate mixed in.


Of course, I grew up with Filipino champorado-- whole pieces of sticky rice, floating (suspended) in a goop of thick, dark, chocolate. More like, the best porridge in the world. I was expecting whole corn bits for texture. This is not to say that it wasn't good-- frothy and at least more dense than most Western cacao drinks-- but the name can mislead poor homesick Filipinos.

Street champorado.

Yesterday, I was walking the streets of Manila and came across a man pushing a cart with large vats of champorado and pansit. Many people congregated. I was interested in the chocolate stuff, as I always am!

Most folks opt for evaporated milk on.

Drowning in milk for this fellow.

Curiously enough, the co-existence of champurrado and champorado brings historical interactions alive. While champurrado had no doubt previously existed as atole de chocolate, the Philippines only obtained cacao during the galleon trade. Our own version may have been a Spanish-time invention, but who gave it the name?

Apparently, champurrar, vernacular Latin American for "mixing drinks", came from the Malay word tchampur or campur, meaning the same thing, or simply, "to add". Consider this a word that migrated into the Americas from Southeast Asia, and has gone as far as French Algeria (champoraux, a coffee and alcohol mixture).

This puzzle of great variations, but same names (and an additional factor of possible renaming from an atole to something specific), makes me think about galleon snippets. Boholano slaves in Acapulco and the current abundance of chocolate in Bohol. Our shared tool, the chocolate frother, there called molinillo, here, batirol, batidor, or chocolatera. And so on, and so forth.

What a species advantage it is-- to be delicious! The cacao needed only to hit a taste bud for humans to carry it across oceans and make it a part of their lives and desires.

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