I have been quite busy for the past couple of weeks at school – yes, school. I try to make it a rule to leave by 3:00 PM, unless a meeting keeps me, but the Friday before last, I stayed until 6:00 PM to put up displays for Hispanic Heritage Month. I have had my students make papel picado, and paper flowers, and have so far constructed a large Day of the Dead ofrenda (altar) in the art showcase of my school.
The ofrenda was a touchy point – I felt strongly that we should put one up and label it so that it was explanatory. I find it really unbelievable that people in any school system feel like they have to omit important cultural information from their curriculum for fear of offending someone. We are not asking people to convert to Catholicism, but it is important when studying Spanish to know what the importance of the Virgin of Guadalupe is to Mexico. Day of the Dead and Easter are also celebrated in a different way in different countries. I see no reason to ignore that. Likewise with Diwali and Eid al Fitr.
Having been a foreign language teacher, I think that teaching culture is one of the only aces in the hole that we have. I teach English as a Second Language at the moment, and we explain to them about Halloween and such! When you teach Spanish, you need to make your students eat wierd chili laced Mexican candy and goats milk caramel. When you teach French, they need to taste cheeses and learn about the bells of Easter! Hardly anyone learns a foreign language just to speak it here at home. They want to get out in the world and explore – and there are so many opportunities to do that right here in the U.S.
Okay, I’m off my soap box now. I have also been busy searching the internet for fun free things. One of my new favorite things is to look for paper toys. There are some fabulous sites. My favorites to date are The Toymaker and RavensBlight Haunted Paper Toys. So far, I have printed out two things from The Toymaker: The Angel Retablo (in Holidays, under Christmas), and Best Thoughts Cards, which come with a carrying case.
Of course, this led to a mini-marathon of web surfing to find as many sites as I could. Highlights were: Maneki Neko, the lucky Japanese cat you see in restaurants. It looked like it would take a lot of ink (I wonder why they did a cream colored one, instead of a white one…). There was Cinderella’s Castle and The Pirates of the Caribbean ship. Both look hard. It really is amazing, the things you find on the internet.
Today, I am experimenting with chili and chocolate confections. No, I don’t mean mole (Mexican savory sauce that has chocolate and chilis in it). I am talking Dark Chocolate cupcakes with Ancho Chile powder and Cinnamon. I found a few recipes on the internet, but for all of my gourmet leanings, I am really a Cake Mix Doctor fan (call me a Cake Intern). I like to use mixes. That way, all I have to tinker with are the extras.
In this case, I added 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Ancho Chile powder (a relatively mild chili with dark undertones), 3 teaspoons of Saigon Cinnamon powder, and 1 cup of Hershey’s Dark chocolate morsels to a Betty Crocker mix – Dark Chocolate. As a rule, I use milk instead of water (I had some whole milk this time) and melt a stick of butter instead of using oil. The results are very tasty, although they possibly could be more picante. Still, I had better let a chili wimp try them first – I may just think it’s too mild. They almost don’t need frosting, but who are we kidding? I will post the recipe on my Food Blog.
Next? Cajeta cupcakes with membrillo (quince paste) filling. Yum!