Churros y chocolate

by

People are so kind. I’ve met so many warm Mexicans since I got here—Soledad my cooking teacher at ICO, Hector the architect professor at the Museo de Anthropologia who invited me to tour the city with the Pratt professors he was showing around, Eduardo our guide in the mountains of the Sierra Norte in Ixtlan de Juarez—but one of my favorite memories will always involve the waitress at the Churreria “El Moro” who wanted to make sure that we knew what kind of hot chocolate we were ordering.

“El Moro” at Eje Central Lázaro Cardenas 4 in the Centro Historico is open 24 hours, so that you can satisfy your churros and chocolate craving any time of day. Open since 1935, it has a sense of worn, well-loved history, from the faded old-school menus to the stained glass window and old Mexican tiles to the baby-blue diner uniforms the waitresses wear. The menu consists of churros, slim tubes of fried dough dusted in sugar, and hot chocolate or coffee, nothing more, nothing less.

Erin and I are never perturbed by not knowing what something is, and we blithely ordered one “espanol y 4 churros” and one “frances y 4 churros.” Five minutes later, the waitress came back, anxious.

“Do you know the espanol is very sweet?”

“Uh, no. How sweet are the others?”

“Especial is a little bitter, espanol is very sweet, frances is sweeter and mexicano is normal sweet.”

“Especial is a little bitter?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll have the ‘especial,’ please.”

She smiled, glad that we understood.

Later, we realized “espanol” must be the Spanish style of very thick, almost sludgy hot chocolate, which can be very good, but I was happy with my “especial” which was made of strong, delicious bittersweet chocolate, especially since I’ve been craving
dark chocolate since I got here. Bracing and fortifying, it almost made me forget that I hadn’t had my morning coffee yet.

The churros, sadly, weren’t on par with the hot chocolate, since they were too greasy. But I did love seeing them piled up in giant coils in the window, next to an equally giant pan of sugar. And at least we had been guided towards impressive chocolate!

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