Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hot Chocolate & Brötchen ...inspired by The Hunger Games {cook the books + food 'n flix}

It's hard for me to describe the precise pull that The Hunger Games has on me.  The fact that is is so far-fetched that I can't (or hope not to) ever see our world resembling it, or the fact that it's actually not so hard to imagine our world falling into a state of dystopia.  Something grabbed a hold of me when I started reading this book.

But let's back track a few years.  My son was probably around 11 or 12 when he read The Hunger Games.  I remember his face buried in the book on the way to a doctor's appointment, on a road trip, or cozied up in bed.  He described to me this post-apocalyptic world where children between the ages of 12 and 18 were forced to fight to the death for the survival of their families and their district.  The crazy costume-like dress of the people from the Capitol.  The poverty and near-starving state of the outlying districts.  This child who was left standing earns a "life of ease" once they get back home.  Grain, oil, and delicacies like sugar will be bestowed upon their district.  This is all punishment for an uprising of the districts against the Capitol in the past.

Over the next couple of years, the second and third books in the series passed through our house, as well.  My son kept me updated.  I mentally filed the books on my ever-growing bookshelf entitled "one day".  Fast forward to the movie based on the book.  I knew as soon as I heard it was being adapted that I would be taking my son to see it.  Now, if you know me, you know that I did NOT hurry to read the book before I saw the movie.  I've said it before and I'll say it again - if I read the book first, the movie is ruined for me... I will not enjoy it.  I will be comparing it to the book in my head the whole time.  I try to look at the two as separate entities, but I rarely succeed.

So, we saw the movie on opening weekend.  Maybe even opening day, I can't remember.  Well, that was all she wrote.  I was smitten.  I immediately went home and read all three books.  Ummm...even further invested.  And while I think the actors chosen for the movie were pretty much spot-on (with an exception or two, but they were still good)...and that the story stayed pretty true to the book (there's always a few diversions), the one thing that the movie sorely lacked was the focus on food!
If you've only seen the film, you won't realize what a foodie-book The Hunger Games actually is.  In the first half alone, you can barely go ten pages without the mention of food.  Be it Prim's fresh goat cheese wrapped in basil leaves alongside a freshly baked loaf of bread or the hunted and foraged bounty of fish, greens, and wild strawberries that Katniss and Gale are so adept at finding from years of practice.  Maybe even a bubbling pot of Wild Dog Soup from bubbling away in the black market.  Or a loaf of good, hearty bread from the Mellark's bakery filled with raisins and nuts.  Katniss root and dandelions.

Move on a little further and you'll find descriptions of the rich, lavish food of the Capitol... "Mushroom soup, bitter greens with tomatoes the size of peas, rare roast beef sliced as thin as paper, noodles in a green sauce, cheese that melts on your tongue served with sweet blue grapes."  Stew made with tender chunks of lamb and dried plums on a bed of wild rice.  Cream and rose-petal soup.  Thick carrot soup with green salad, lamb chops and mashed potatoes, cheese and fruit, a chocolate cake.

And really, that's just a hint of the food woven throughout this book.

I'm not going to talk about the story.  I'm not going to go into the nitty-gritty.  My guess is that you've heard it before.  I'm just going to highlight another food passage in the book.  Or two.  I'll admit that when I was trying to decide what to make that was inspired by the book and the film, I had visions of roast, suckling pig dancing in my head.  Or bowls filled to the brim with dandelion greens.  Maybe even chunks of chicken in an orange sauce.  But for me, it kept coming back around to the bread.

Though it may be understated, bread plays a large role in the book.  The name of the capitol city, Panem, even translates to "Bread".  Peeta's family owns a bakery and he gives the gift of life-sustaining bread.  The districts each have their own representative bread in the Capitol.   Bread is a life-force that not only feeds our bodies, it also feeds our souls and our minds.  Okay, I've crossed over from the book to real life.   No apologies.
There was a moment when Katniss and Peeta were on the train, speeding towards the Capitol, when Katniss enters the dining car.  Effie is drinking black coffee and muttering obscenities.  Haymitch is red-faced and puffy from drinking the night before.  Peeta is holding a roll and dipping it in something that Katniss is unfamiliar with...

"The moment I slide into my chair I'm served an enormous platter of food.  Eggs, ham, piles of fried potatoes.  A tureen of fruit sits in ice to keep it chilled.  The basket of rolls they set before me would keep my family going for a week.  There's an elegant glass of range juice.  At least, I think it's orange juice.  I've only even tasted an orange once, at New Year's when my father bought one as a special treat.  A cup of coffee.  My mother adores coffee, which we could almost never afford, but it only tastes bitter and thin to me.  A rich brown cup of something I've never seen.

"They call it hot chocolate," says Peeta.  "It's good."

I take a sip of the hot, sweet, creamy liquid and a shudder runs through me.  Even though the rest of the meal beckons, I ignore it until I've drained my cup.... Peeta is still eating, breaking off bits of roll and dipping them in hot chocolate... "

Hot chocolate comes back up later in the book, and Katniss mimics what she saw Peeta doing - ripping off bits of roll and dipping it.  This was such a simple gesture.  It was a natural reaction.  But one that I've never forgotten.

Mexican Hot Chocolate (Chocolate Mexicano)

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Keywords: beverage breakfast dessert soy-free vegetarian milk Mexican Chocolate Christmas Day of the Dead Dia de los Muertos Mexican winter fall

Ingredients (serves 2-4 (3 c.))
  • 2½ c. whole milk
  • 5 oz. Mexican Chocolate, chopped roughly
Instructions
Combine milk and chocolate in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, stirring often, until steaming and chocolate has melted.

Traditionally, Mexican Hot Chocolate is made by pouring the steaming mixture into an Olla Para Chocolate (Mexican chocolate pot) and whipped using a wooden Molinillo. If you have those, use them. If not, use an immersion blender to whip the hot chocolate until very frothy.

Immediately pour into mugs and serve. As Rick Bayless would say, "frothy Mexican hot chocolate waits for no one".

And for a little slice of bliss, try dipping freshly baked, crusty Brötchen in your hot chocolate.
note:
Okay, so you say that you don't have a molinillo OR an immersion blender? Go ahead and pour the whole thing into a blender jar and carefully (hold lid tight w/ a towel) blend until frothy.

ever-so-slightly adapted from Rick Bayless
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Perhaps one of those luxury items that District 12 receives will be chocolate, or even cacao beans so that the people can grind and make their own.  And then they can enjoy Peeta's freshly baked rolls dipped in a rich, frothy cup whenever the mood strikes.
If it wasn't obvious, I chose The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for the round of Cook the Books, and the movie adaptation for this round of Food 'n Flix (both of which I just happened to be hosting at the same time - so really, I couldn't resist combining the two).  
Food‘nFlix cookthebooks



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