I’m celebrating a notable anniversary today.
February 14th was my family’s very first full day in the United States so many years ago. We had arrived the day before, on my dad's 50th birthday and it seemed to take forever to get through customs and get acclimated and move into our new (very cramped) apartment in South West Miami. That was okay, though.It was only supposed to be temporary.
That first day of freedom, my sisters and I were given heart shaped boxes full of chocolate and so a tradition was born. Every year on Valentine’s Day we would receive some kind of chocolate and every year we would remember that it was the anniversary of our first real day on U.S. soil.
Welcome to America! Happy Valentine’s Day!
We counted each year of exile as we celebrated the holiday of the heart – always with chocolate:
February 14, 1962 – One whole year. I miss my home in Havana, I miss my cousins, my abuelita, my school. My dad brings home a one pound box of American chocolates called See’s.
February 14, 1966 – It has been five years already. That pesky revolution thing is NOT blowing over. My dad gets us all little Whitman Samplers (which was awesome because the lid had a guide to the kind of chocolate contained in the box, but that's not important right now). =D
February 14,1971 – Ten years have gone by. I’m a teenager. We receive news from Cuba that my grandmother has died. “N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestle’s makes the very best. Cho – co – late.”
February 14,1976 – The U.S. Bicentennial. Is it possible that we’ve been here for fifteen years? I’m a brand new and very proud American citizen. I love America. I love American history. I love my bag of Hershey’s Kisses wrapped with a red, white and blue ribbon.
February 14, 1986 - It has been twenty-five years since we left Cuba. I have children of my own. Little Cuban-Americans who love M & M's (plain and peanut).
February 14,1991 – Thirty years is a lifetime. We learned a new and hopeful word – “perestroika.” The chocolates come in beautiful golden boxes from Godiva.
February 14, 2001 – My mom calls me to wish me a Happy Valentine’s Day and to remind me that it has been forty years. The tradition, like the chocolate, is bittersweet. My father has passed away. I hope to keep my promise to him to scatter his ashes one day in a free Cuba. I continue the chocolate tradition with my own children. I bake and decorate a beautiful chocolate layer cake.
February 14, 2008 – Today. My mom calls me to wish me a Happy Valentine’s Day and to remind me that it has been forty-seven years since we left our homeland.
Call me crazy, but I will forever equate the taste of chocolate with the taste of freedom.
I am unapologetically a lover of both.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Chocolatón (Chocolate Mousse) Recipe
- 6 eggs (separate whites and yolks)
- 1 12 oz. Pkg. Nestlé’s semi-sweet chocolate chips (reserve a few for topping)
- 2 sticks butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. Vanilla
1) Melt the butter and chocolate chips together. This can be done on top of the stove in a double boiler, or in a microwave oven for about 1 1/2 minutes.
2) Stir the melted chocolate and melted butter together until smooth.
3) Whip the egg whites into a fluffy meringue.
4) When the meringue starts to peak, add the sugar, bit by bit.
5) Fold in the egg yolks.
6) Add the (warm) chocolate mixture and the vanilla to the meringue.
7) Gently blend together until it is completely mixed.
8) Pour into a serving bowl or individual cups.
9) Chill for at least an hour before serving.
10) Decorate with chocolate chips.