A Hot Chocolate Flight #FoodieReads
Updated: Sep 22
After reading Scent of a Garden - and making Masala Chai Gummy Bears , I picked up The Candid Life of Meena Dave by Namrata Patel.
This has all the hallmarks of Cam's favorites: food, culture, a little drama, and a touch of romance. Gotta love it.
On the Page
Meena Dave is a life-long nomad, a photojournalist who travels the world and someone who was orphaned a second time when her entire adopted family dies in a tragic accident. But, when she inherits an apartment from a total stranger, she settles in and is determined to figure out who the owner was to her.
The other people in the apartment building are Indian 'aunties' and a 'cute boy' across the hall. Remember I said a 'little drama'? There were parts of this book that were a little too dramatic, such as the exaggerated fight between Meena and one of the aunties as well as all of the reconciliation that wraps up at the end. But, as I read this story about the being pregnant at a young age, of giving a child up for adoption, of keeping a secret and having the child come back after you worked so hard to forget that part of your life, I empathized with the characters of this well-written novel.
And, about the romance, you can't hide your feelings...apparently.
'Sam?' Meena put her cup down. 'He’s nice.' 'Meh,' Tanvi grumbled. 'Potato chips are nice. What do you think of him as a man? A single, handsome man?' Meena ate a little more, in small bites to manage the heat level. 'I didn’t notice.' 'You are a bad liar,' Tanvi observed. 'Your eyes look away and your nose twitches.'
There was plenty of food in this book to inspire me into the kitchen, from Indian cuisine to more eclectic menus.
"'What are we having for dinner?' Tanvi found the one topic that paused the chatter. 'Malabar fish curry, dal makhni, paneer tikka, puri, jeera rice, raitu . . .'Sabina continued to list off items. ...The dal makhani was creamy, spicy, savory. The fish curry had a tang and a kick. The food was passed around, everyone serving themselves. A lot of the conversation centered around complimenting Sabina on the food. Meena begrudgingly admitted that the praise was well deserved."
"'The menu looks . . . eclectic.' 'I’m sure you’ve had some interesting food in your travels.' 'Not caviar panini or foie gras lollipops.' They settled on burrata, a cheese board, ahi tuna flatbread, steak pot stickers, and a few more small plates along with a California cabernet."
In My Mugs
But what I ended up making was based on a hot chocolate flight that Meena had with her aunties.
"Meena listened to them debate about the hot chocolate flight in front of them. Four tall mugs, bursting with whipped cream at the rims, each topped with something unique—from a burned-marshmallow skewer to a gingerbread cookie to a candy cane. Each laced with Baileys or vodka in a complementary flavor."
My hot chocolate flight was comprised of recipes from around the world. A Canadian version (photograph above, left) was sweetened with maple syrup and served with whipped cream; an American standard was hot chocolate with marshmallows (photograph above, right). In the center is Hot Chocolate Agasajo-Style which has a splash of rosewater in it. Jake did not enjoy that heavily floral concoction.
But the hot chocolate recipe I'm sharing is a drink from Columbia: Chocolate con Queso.
Chocolate con Queso is an authentic Colombian hot chocolate served with cheese cubes. Yes, really. Cheese. It sounds odd to American ears, but it's a sweet, rich drink with a salty surprise. I read to get the saltiest, squeakiest cheese you can. I opted for a goat milk mozzarella. It was delicious!
4 cups milk
6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 stick cinnamon
¼ cup honey or maple syrup (use less or more, depending on personal preference)
4 ounces cheese, such as halloumi or mozzarella (I used a goat milk mozzarella
Also needed: pot, molinillo or whisk
Pour the milk into a pot. Add in the cinnamon stick and cloves. Bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, reduce heat to a simmer and add in the chocolate. Use a whisk or a molinillo to mix the chocolate and make the chocolate frothy.
Cut cheese into cubes and divide them between the mugs. Pour hot chocolate into the four mugs and serve immediately with a spoon.
After I ate the cubes in the bottom, I sliced off more cheese and dipped it into the chocolate. Delicious!