Friday, February 01, 2013

Hot Chocolate Festivals Here and There: New York, Vancouver, Oaxaca

Remember Festivus?  Or maybe I'm dating myself.  Seinfeld took place a long time ago, arguably in another era. An arbitrary era of peacetime irreverence and irrelevance.  An era that gave us Reality Bites and all of the related musings about Generation X's distinctly American form of self loathing, a sort of post Portnoy's Complaint woe-is-me refrain in which the country's newest batch of adults invited themselves to mope about not doing quite as well as their parents. In the 21st century, though we haven't yet come to a consensus about terrorism being only the latest bugaboo to replace communism, we're perhaps realizing with newfound gravity that manifest destiny really is a myth, as we contend with a collapsing planet, collapsing economies, and the perfectly ok reality that the United States doesn't print its own license to be at the center of world affairs.

But, still, we're not without motivation to celebrate ourselves and convene for feasts of one kind or another.  And if the word "festival" was once reserved for village- or county-wide affairs of universal gravity, it can now refer to niche events of any kind.  In fact, participants in modern American festivals need not convene at all.  Rather, they can pour in, in a steady stream, as has been the case every February for the past 20 years at the City Bakery in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, host of the Hot Chocolate Festival.  There's no critical mass, no oratory at this convention, just nineteen different flavors of thicker-than-life-blood hot chocolate served in rotation throughout the month.  This year's liquid chocolate celebration opens with the clean citrus sting of fresh lemon juice suspended in rich, cocoa-buttery chocolate and goes on to champion other flavors both comforting and startling such as caramel and "ode to the polar bear."

New Yorkers and their countrymen are not alone in this celebratory hot chocolate endeavor.  We're joined by our Good Neighbors to the North and the land South of the Border.  In Canada, Vancouver is staging a parallel Hot Chocolate Festival, which runs through Valentine's Day and features as many varieties as City Bakery at about as many different venues. And since I haven't yet found a Mexican fiesta de chocolate dedicated specifically to the drinking variety (the only variety known in Mesoamerica before chocolate became a colonial product), I'm declaring every day in Oaxaca--home to Chocolate Mayordomo--a festival day.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Easy now. By so declaring such in Oaxaca you run the risk of ironically licensing yourself -- in a sort of Lady Will Walker way of personal rule for private use -- in the new reality that decentralizes power. Citizens there, and everywhere, should be OK with it as long as it is in concert with, to paraphrase Billy Collins, 7 billion (and counting) centers of the universe.

5:52 PM GMT-5  

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