Culture

The Colombian drink combining hot chocolate and cheese

Strawberries and cream, steak and chips, hot chocolate and cheese. It might not be the most well trodden of paths for those of us in Britain but in the tropical rainforests of Salento, Colombia, it is as common to their breakfast tables as soft boiled eggs and soldiers.

Making it is simple. Made in a metal pitcher known as a Chocolatera, water or milk is heated over a flame. Bars of Colombian chocolate rich in cacao butters are added. Sometimes they are sweetened with sugar. Using a Molinillo, a wooden whisk, air is beat in to make it frothy. Then it is served.

It’s here that eyebrows start to raise. Cubes of queso fresco (fresh cheese) are dropped in, sinking to the bottom of the mug. They’re forgotten about for a minute or two until they break down and begin to ooze. The tongue of the person drinking then lolls around their face like that of a cow in a grassy meadow in a desparate attempt to scoop up each

Like a cow in a grassy meadow, the tongue of

It is then messily spooned out and eaten, the consumer’s tongue lolling about like a cow in a verdant meadow after the strings of cheese plunged from the shimmering brown depths of the mug.

The first time I was privy to this was whilst at the Cocora Valley nature reserve. After about three-ish hours of hiking through muggy cloud forests, Molly & I stumbled across a hummingbird sanctuary. Sat at a communal table under a wooden lodge, we gazed out at the skyline of Quindío wax palm trees abundantly dotted around the surrounding hills. We embraced the serenity and the stillness of the flora and fauna we found ourselves in. Momentarily all we could hear was the gentle pattering of rain drops bouncing off the wooden veranda above our heads and the occasional vibration of the bird’s wings.

And then you peripherally spot a middle-aged British lady ungracefully rescuing hot cheese from her chin and, no matter how hard you try to get yourself back into the headspace you were in previously, it just isn't happening. You can't unsee it, sadly.

Now, I am no Philistine. Honestly, I’m not. It’s just that, no matter how I looked at it, that cheese would be melting into my hot chocolate. I just can’t square off in my head why that would be a good use of either my hunk of cheese or my mug of hot chocolate.

I met it halfway, dipping in my cube of cheese like a Rich Tea biscuit. The saltiness from the cheese is a contrast to the rich cocoa butters. In that respect, it tasted was interesting. Did it unlock anything new in my mind? Not really, I confess.

I’ll be damned if isn’t the kind of mind-broadening experience I set out to achieve whilst on my six month long journey across South America.

food & writing