COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT REFUGEES

In our modern era of clickbait headlines and 280 character debate, refugees, like so many other marginalized communities, often suffer from negative stereotyping and popular misconceptions. As part of our commitment to promoting more understanding, truth-based discussions and helping reshape the narrative around refugee populations, it is essential to unpack the facts from the fiction.

NaTakallam’s displaced tutors, teachers, and translators come from diverse personal and professional backgrounds – each with unique skills and experiences surely misconstrued by simplistic generalizations.

This World Refugee Month, NaTakallam hopes that employers and communities around the world will use this time to better understand the rich contribution refugees can offer their cities and places of work.

Myth 1: Most refugees restart their lives comfortably in new countries.

Fact: Less than 1% of refugees are resettled into new countries.

Resettlement is still a rare phenomenon, even though millions are eligible. If successful, it often takes years, and the journey of starting life anew in a foreign country can be extremely hard, especially in the face of new legal and educational systems, foreign languages and cultural norms.

NaTakallam works with many skilled refugees who are often stuck in limbo, cut off from the local labor market, in camps, or in other transit circumstances, where each session contributes directly to their livelihoods.

Sources: UNCHR and Roads to Refugee

Myth 2: Most refugees flee to the US, Europe and Australia.

Fact: Over 80% of displaced persons are in countries neighboring the conflict from which they fled.

Contrary to common belief and loaded headlines, only a small fraction of resettled refugees are hosted in developed countries. More often they are forced into limbo states, with no legal residency or work status.

NaTakallam works predominantly with displaced people who have fled to developing countries, neighboring the conflict from which they fled. Top host countries include Turkey, Pakistan, and Uganda, as well as Lebanon (which hosts more refugees per capita than any other country, according to UNHCR).

Sources: UNHCR and WEF

Myth 3: Refugees are mostly adult males.

Fact: More than half the world’s refugees are under 18.

Most refugees are not men. According to UNHCR, there are around 13 million child refugees, but less than one million seeking asylum. Additionally, 17 million children are forcibly displaced within their country of origin. This demographic breakdown holds true for almost every regional crisis and is a significant concern as contemporary child migration is often inhumane, disregarded, and usually unregulated.

Source(s): UNCHR and UN.

Myth 4: Many refugees have smartphones so they must be well off.

Fact: Smartphones are a lifeline for refugees, not a luxury.

For refugees, smartphones are not just for casual scrolling through social media, instead they offer the ability to access essential and potentially life-saving information such as where to get food, how to find shelter, applying for financial aid, or even earning a livelihood through virtual work. Smartphones are so important to refugees’ lives that they often spend up to a third of their disposable income just to stay connected.

In the era of what some have dubbed “the connected refugee,” NaTakallam can provide income opportunities to refugees, to work as language tutors, teachers and translators for users all around the world. 

Sources: WEF Forum and Forbes.


Myth 5: Most refugees live in camps.

Fact: Over 60% of refugees live in urban areas.

Contrary to the frequent images of sprawling refugee camps in media outlets, over 60% of refugees live in urban areas. This has presented a new set of challenges: resources are often less concentrated, humanitarian assistance less plentiful and individuals can more easily miss vital information and aid.

NaTakallam works with displaced persons in both urban areas and refugee camps – which is made possible because of how we leverage technology.

Sources: UN Refugees, UNHCR, World Refugee Council and The Brookings Institute.

Myth 6: Refugee influxes ruin economies.

Fact: Studies show that refugees can be positive fiscal contributors.

The notion that admitting refugees will ruin a host country’s economy is rooted in false economic ideas. Over time, refugees add more value to the economy than the initial cost of resettlement – if they are granted the right to work legally. Moreover, studies show that low-skilled foreign workers and low-skilled domestic workers tend to complement each other, rather than compete. In addition, immigrants tend to have higher entrepreneurial activity compared to natives, with studies finding that two-thirds of US GDP expansion since 2011 can be directly attributed to migration – an economic development trend also observed in Europe and the Middle East.

Many of NaTakallam’s displaced tutors are barred from employment due to legal restrictions – leaving them vulnerable to black market, unsafe work. NaTakallam allows refugees to make an income legitimately, and safely, regardless of their location.

Sources: UN, Immigration Forum and University of Oxford.

Myth 7: The largest refugee camp is a Syrian camp in Jordan.


Fact: The Kutupalong Rohingya camp in Bangladesh is the world’s largest refugee camp.

While not receiving much global media coverage, Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh hosts over 860,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing ethnic and religious persecution – making it the largest refugee camp in the world, since 2017. Followed by Bidi Bidi camp in Uganda with a population of over 230,000 refugees, and Dadaab camp in Kenya with over 200,000 refugees.

In comparison, the largest Syrian camp, Zaatari refugee camp, located in Jordan, is home to over 77,000 refugees – 11 times fewer refugees than that of Kutupalong camp. 

Sources: UNHCR, Africa Center and UNHCR Data

Myth 8: Most refugees are from the Middle East.

Fact: The largest groups of refugees are from Venezuela, Syria & Afghanistan.

While refugee flows from the Middle East have captured most media attention in recent years, unfortunately conflict and persecution know no bounds. In 2020, 5.5 million Syrian refugees made up ~25% of the global refugee population. Meanwhile, Venezuela continues to battle one of the largest non-war displacement crisis, with over 5 million people forced to flee economic, political, and humanitarian disaster over the last two years. In addition, many often overlooked countries actually top the list, such as Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Eritrea.  

Sources: UN, Statista, The Brookings Institute, UNHCR, and World Vision.

Myth 9: Refugees don’t make for good employees.

Fact: Refugees can be a long-term economic advantage for companies.

Employers say it best: when it comes to refugees, “They come to work and get the job done.” Recent research from the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) highlights that in addition to being hardworking, refugees often stay with their employers for longer and speak a foreign language – a highly desirable skill for any company with global operations. Furthermore, in the Tent Partnership for Refugees report, many businesses hiring refugees claimed that employee turnover rates were much lower among refugee employees than the general population – thus, saving businesses a lot of money. This finding was further backed by FPI across all industries and sectors.

Sources: UN, Fiscal Policy Institute and Tent Partnership for Refugees.

Myth 10: “There’s nothing I can do to help refugees.”

Fact: Each person can make a difference in supporting refugees.

Everyone can do something. Whether it’s hosting refugees in your home or community, raising awareness or supporting refugee-centered companies, you have the power to make meaningful differences aside from financial donations.

And if you’re looking to directly support refugee livelihoods, consider bringing NaTakallam into your home, classroom or office setting, for your language-learning, cultural exchange or translation needs. All services are delivered by skilled refugee and displaced tutors, teachers and translators, and each session contributes directly to refugee livelihoods, at a time when they might be cut off from the local labor market, in camps, or in other transit circumstances.

Top 10 Lebanese Street Art – of the Thawra

Credit: @dear.nostalgia

No, this post is not about COVID.

It’s about Lebanon, and if you’re reading it, chances are you’ve heard about the country’s tumultuous past year. A political and economic crisis, much time in the making, sparked countrywide protests beginning in October 2019. In the time since, the economic situation has only deteriorated further (not to mention, of course, COVID… but, as promised, we’re not here to talk about that). 

We’re here to share some of the inspirational work of the talented artists and powerful voices that, in the wake of the turmoil, took to the streets with their passion and creativity. 

Here are some of NaTakallam’s favorites — with a sprinkle of Arabic lessons along the way! 

1. “Oh Lebanon, piece of paradise” / لبنان يا قطعة سما

Credit: @dear.nostalgia

@dear.nostalgia’s “Oh Lebanon, piece of paradise.”

2. “To the street!” / عالشارع!

Credit: @kibok.art

@kibok.art’s “To the street!” — ! عالشارع

3. “The Love Revolution” / ثورة حب

Credit: @amani.ashkar

@amani.ashkar: ثورة حب, meaning “the love revolution”

4. “Revolution of pots” / ثورة الطناجر

Credit: @antonybmhanna

This pot-banging protest known as “cacerolazo” (Spanish term), is usually associated with Latin America, but it has played an important role in Lebanon as well. 

@antonybmhanna’s: ثورة الطناجر or “the revolution of pots”.

5. “I don’t want to fear revolution and love” / ما بدي خاف الثورة والحب

Credit: @rawand.issa_

@rawand.issa_’s Picasso-esque piece about not wanting to fear revolution or love.

6. “Peace and love” / سلام وحب

Credit: @yazanhalwani

سلام (“salaam”) meaning ‘peace’ in Arabic might be among the first words you learn in Arabic (i.e. in the greeting, As-salāmu ʿalaykum). @yazanhalwani’s statue ‘سلام وحب’ means peace and love.

7. “Embrace me under the sky of Beirut”  / اغمرني تحت سماء بيروت

Credit: @miraelfeel

Artwork by @miraelfeel: Embrace me under the sky of Beirut.

8. “Back, back, to rebuild it” / راجع راجع يتعمر 

Credit: @dear.nostalgia

@dear.nostalgia’s artwork: “back, back, to rebuild it”, or “it will be rebuilt”. The hope for Lebanon to be back on its feet again.


9. “Where are we going?” / لوين رايحين؟

Credit: @tamara_nasr

As the world is uncertain right now, this question has been on the minds of billions of people, not just Lebanese, around the world today: “Where are we going?”

Artwork by @tamara_nasr, with a side of a reality check.

10. All for the nation / كلنا للوطن

Credit: @nouriflayhan

Whether in the face of an uprising or weathering uncertain times, let the words of @nouriflayhan remind us of unity: All for the nation, or homeland.

* * * * * * * * * *

Fascinated by learning Lebanese Arabic from scratch? Look no further.

Last March, NaTakallam officially launched its programming with the Lebanese dialect, and is, for the first time ever, supporting host communities alongside refugees.

 Sign up, today: natakallam.com/conversation-sessions/

Friday Food: Kibbeh

You’ve probably tried, but do you know what it means?

“Kibbeh” (كبة) consists of bulghur wheat, minced onions, a choice of red meat, and spices, all rolled up together, and its name is actually derived from the Arabic word ‘kubbah’, meaning ‘ball.’

Kibbeh can be fried into croquettes stuffed with minced beef or lamb. Kibbeh can also be cooked in broth or baked!

Give it a try yourself this weekend! Sahtein 😀

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds finely ground beef (or lamb, lean, divided)
  • 1/2 pound  bulghur cracked wheat (medium or #2)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (plus 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon pepper (plus 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 medium onions (1 finely chopped, and 1 coarsely chopped, divided)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)

Steps to Make It:

  1. Gather the ingredients.
  2. In a medium bowl, soak wheat for 30 minutes in cold water.
  3. Remove and drain. Remove excess water by squeezing through thick paper towel or cheesecloth.
  4. Place into a medium bowl and combine with 1 pound meat, coarsely chopped onion, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
  5. Combine well and place a small amount in a food processor until a dough-like consistency. You can slowly add an ice cube at a time during processing if needed.
  6. Place mixture aside, covered. Instead of using a food processor, you can use a mortar and pestle. However, it will take you over an hour to achieve the desired consistency.

Prepare Kibbeh Stuffing:

  1. In a medium frying pan, sauté the finely chopped onion in olive oil. Add pine nuts if desired.
  2. Add ground lamb or beef and chop well with wooden spoon or spatula to ensure the meat is chopped. Add allspice, salt, pepper, and cumin.
  3. Once the beef is light brown, remove from heat. Allow it to cool for 10 minutes.

Assemble Kibbeh and Fry:

  1. Take an egg-sized amount of shell mixture and form into a ball. With your finger, poke a hole in the ball, making space for filling. Add filling and pinch the top to seal the ball. This recipe will make about 25 medium-sized kibbeh.
  2. You can then shape it into a point, or football shape, or leave as a ball.
  3. Fry in 350 F oil on stovetop or in a deep fryer for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Drain on paper towels and serve.

Image/Recipe: https://www.thespruceeats.com/easy-beginner-kibbeh-recipe-2355367

Love — Lost in Translation

Learning any of the above languages? You’re probably familiar with how to say “I love you”.  But what about other forms of expressing affection?

In Arabic, يا روحي (pronounced: ya rouhi) translates to “you’re my beloved, though it’s literal meaning is “my soul.” More unique, تقبرني (pronounced: tuqburnii), literally means “bury me” and implies one would rather die and have you bury them, than live without you.  

In Persian, جیگر طلا (pronounced: jigar talâ) takes the cake, literally meaning “golden liver”, while in French, saying mon chou to the special man — or ma choupinette to the special woman — in your life is a term of endearment like “darling”, (it literally means “my little cabbage,” although, chou here is short for chou à la crème, a sweet puff pastry).

In Spanish, mi cielo, meaning “my sky,” is rather non-controversial. Wouldn’t you enjoy it if someone told you were their “sky”, or alternatively their “heaven”. 😉 Some might also call their partner mi media naranja, literally translating to “my half-orange”, meaning you are the one irreplaceable other half.


Photo credit: www.pinterest.com/hense87/

For those who are still crushing, a few other notable expressions include كلامك عسل على قلبي, (pronounced: kalamuka ‘asal ‘ala qalbi) in Arabic, which literally means, “your words are honey on my heart”.

Meanwhile, دل به دل را داره (pronounced: del be del rah dare) in Persian means “there is a path between our hearts,” i.e. a feeling of affection is mutual. 

In Spanish, ¡Qué mono(a) eres! means “you’re so cute!” though it literally translates to “you’re so monkey!” i.e. funny in a charming way.

Another fun fact: “love at first sight” in French translates to coup de foudre… literally “lightning strike! YIKES 😉

Looking to discover more expressions of love? NaTakallam’s conversation partners are here to help! To learn more, click here.

Don’t forget! Throughout February, use promo code LOVE20 on purchases of $70+ (=5 hours of conversation) to receive a FREE* set of NaTakallam-designed Arabic love cards! Perhaps a nice Valentine’s gift?

*T&C: For US-based purchases only, while supplies last. Please note, postcards will be received in March.

Friday Food: Persian Love Cake

Many legends surround the beautiful Persian love cake. Some say that it was baked by a woman to charm a Persian prince. Others add that the pastry is enchanted. With its delicious hints of rose, cardamom & nuts, we wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some truth to the tales!

Fun fact: This cake is similar to the Middle Eastern basbousa “بسبوسة” while others say other versions of the cake take a more French approach!

Indulge in a piece of Persian-inspired love, over some Persian sessions with NaTakallam! Visit here.

PREP TIME: 25 mins

COOK TIME: 40 mins

TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 5 mins

YOU WILL NEED:

For the cake,

  • Butter – 1 cup, softened
  • Sugar – 1 cup
  • Eggs – 4, large, at room temperature
  • Ground almonds – ½ cup (see Notes)
  • Greek yogurt – ½ cup
  • Rose-water – 1½ tsp
  • Lemon zest – 2 tsp
  • All-purpose flour – 2 cups
  • Baking powder – 2 tsp
  • Salt – ¼ tsp
  • Cardamom powder – ½ tsp
  • Saffron – a generous pinch, crushed
  • Milk – ½ cup

For lemon-rose syrup,

  • Sugar – ¼ cup
  • Lemon juice – 2 tsp
  • Rose-water – ½ tsp

For the glaze,

  • Powdered sugar – 1½ cups, sifted
  • Lemon juice – 2-3 tbsp

For decoration,

  • Pistachios – 2 tbsp, roughly chopped
  • Dried rose petals – 2 tbsp

HOW TO:

  1. Cake: Pre-heat the oven to 350 deg.F. Generously grease and flour a large bundt or fluted pan. Set aside.
  2. Before you begin, warm the milk slightly and stir in the crushed saffron strands. Let stand till you prep the rest of the ingredients. By the time you need the milk in the recipe, the saffron would have infused all their flavor into the milk and also given it a lovely golden color.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar on high speed for few minutes till pale and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one by one, beating to mix after each addition. Spoon in some ground almonds along with each egg to prevent the mixture from curdling.
  5. Add Greek yogurt, rose-water and lemon zest and beat to incorporate.
  6. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom powder into this mixture. Add the now cooled saffron milk and mix till batter is smooth. Do not over-mix.
  7. Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Tap the pan lightly on the countertop a coupe of times to remove any air bubbles.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 deg.F and bake for another 20-25 minutes or till the cake passes the toothpick test. If you bake it at 350 deg.F throughout, the cake may brown too rapidly.
  9. Remove the pan from oven and cool the cake in pan for 10 minutes. Gently untold the cake to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
  10. Syrup: During the last few minutes of baking, prepare the syrup. Combine sugar, lemon juice and rose-water in a small saucepan and heat till sugar dissolves and syrup thickens slightly. Brush warm syrup over the warm cake and allow to cool before covering with the glaze.
  11. Lemon glaze: Add 2 tbsp lemon juice to powdered sugar in a bowl. Using either a wire whisk or a spatula, mix together to form a smooth paste. Add more lemon juice as needed to make it into a thick but dripping consistency.
  12. Decoration: Pour glaze all over the top of the cooled cake and allow the excess glaze to drip down the sides of the cake.
  13. Sprinkle chopped pistachios and rose petals all over the top of the cake. Cut into slices and serve.
  14. Storage: Keep cake covered (like in a cake container) on the countertop for 2-3 days. Refrigerate for longer durations.

NOTES:1. Ground almonds: I ground blanched almonds myself to a semi-fine powder using an electric spice grinder. You can use either store-bought almond flour (typically made with blanched almonds that are ground very fine) or almond meal (made with skin-on almonds that are ground somewhat coarse).
2. You can use orange-blossom water, orange juice and
zest instead of rose-water, lemon juice, and zest respectively in the recipe.
3. I have baked the cake at a lower temperature for the latter half of the baking time. You can also bake it at 350 deg.F throughout, but you may need to tent the top to keep it from browning too rapidly. Some cracking on the top of the cake is expected, but it doesn’t matter as you will be inverting the cake anyway.
4. You can also decorate the cake with fresh organic rose petals instead of dried rose petals.

Image/Recipe: http://www.happyandharried.com/2017/06/15/persian-love-cake/

Travel Tuesday: Bcharré, Lebanon

Home of legendary poet Gibran Kahlil Gibran, did you know that Bcharré (بشري) originates from the Phoenician language ‘Bet Ishtar‘, or, “The House of Ishtar”– the Phoenician goddess of love and war?

A UNESCO World Heritage site, this area — located in the North Governorate in Lebanon — is one of the last forests of rare Lebanon cedar trees. For ski lovers, Bcharré hosts one of the oldest skiing areas in the world, based in the Cedars Ski Resort!

P.S. Interested in Levantine Arabic.. or, more specifically, the Lebanese dialect? Stay tuned for a special announcement 😉

Image: https://www.lebanoninapicture.com/pictures/bcharre-oldvillage-lebanesehouse-photography-photograph

Friday Food: Malfouf

Malfouf (ملفوف) has a double meaning in Arabic, ‘cabbage’ + ‘rolled’ — and perhaps the perfect combination to describe this comforting dish in the Middle East!

‘Mahshi malfouf’ (محشي ملفوف), or ‘stuffed cabbage’, is rolled with various rice fillings, & seems to be a local dish in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Finland, too!

This favorite Middle Eastern dish has fillings that differ depending on where you eat it! For instance, in Egypt, it is usually stuffed with rice while in Lebanon it is usually stuffed with rice and meat. Here’s a recipe you can try below, and adapt to your taste!

Servings: 10 people

Ingredients

Instructions

For the Cabbage

  • Peel cabbage leaves. Bring a pot of water to boil.
  • Blanch cabbage leaves until soft and set aside.

For the Filling

  • Place rice in a bowl and cover with water. Let sit for 15 minutes and drain.
  • Mix the ricesaltspices, and meat.
  • Place a few leaves in the bottom of the pot to be used for cooking.
  • Take a small amount of filling and place in cabbage leaf. Roll into cigar shape and place in the pot.
  • Stack malfouf until the pot is full.
  • Mince garlic and spread on top layer of malfouf.
  • Place a plate on top of the malfouf in the pot, so that they don’t float.
  • Pour the broth into the pot.
  • Bring to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer.
  • Cover loosely with lid, so that steam can escape easily.
  • Cook until done, about 25 minutes or until broth has cooked off.
  • Remove lid and plate. Place the serving dish over the pot and then flip. Remove pot and serve immediately with yogurt and lemon wedges.

Recipe & Image: https://www.cheftariq.com/recipe/malfouf-stuffed-cabbage-rolls/

Festive Food Series: Fesenjoon

Photo Source: Persian Mama

A magical burst of flavor that meshes both sweet & sour, Fesenjoon is a rich chicken (or duck!) stew recipe & classic in all Persian homes, made with walnuts & pomegranate!

Fesenjoon, or Fesenjan, originates from the Gilan region in the North of Iran, but has found its way into millions of homes (and hearts!) across Iran.

This mystical dish has stood the test of time.. In fact, “[Fesenjan] has been around in one form or another since the days of the Persian Empire. A cache of inscribed stone tablets unearthed from the ruins of the ancient capital of Persepolis show that as far back as 515 BCE, early Iranian pantry staples included walnuts, poultry and pomegranate conserve. Today, fesenjan is a de rigueur dish for weddings and special occasions.” — Louisa Shafia, Wall Street Journal

This dish especially pops around at this time of year for the ancient Persian winter-solstice tradition or “Shab-e Yalda“, the night of “Yalda” or rebirth (of the sun, as the days will get longer in the Northern Hemisphere) — taking place during December 21 or 22 each year. The winter-solstice is also called ‘Shabe Chelleh‘, which means the ‘40th night’ of the winter-solstice.

On this night, it is customary to gather with loved ones and eat mixed dried nuts and fruits (such as pomegranate, watermelon, and persimmon), while reading some Persian poetry, especially by Hafez, Rumi or Saa’di among others, or recounting folktales.

How about celebrating Shabe Yalda with this delicious Fesenjan recipe?

Ingredients:

  • 1½ large yellow onion sliced thin and fried golden brown in 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil (or 5 ounces fried onions)
  • 2 pounds skinless chicken drumsticks or thighs (4-5 pieces)
  • 8 ounces walnut halves (about 2 cups)
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 cup pomegranate concentrate
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • ⅛ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • Pomegranate seeds for garnish
  • 2 tbsp sugar (or more, to taste)

Instructions:

  1. Pick through the walnuts for any shells, and add to a food processor and process until it turns to a tan-colored paste.
  2. With the food processor running add ¼ cup cold water through the feed chute. Continue processing until the paste becomes uniformly beige in color.
  3. Fry the sliced onions with 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil in a 6 qt stockpot until golden brown. Remove from the pot.
  4. Add chicken to the same stockpot and top it with the fried onions.
  5. Spoon the walnut paste evenly over the fried onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  6. Drizzle the pomegranate concentrate over all the ingredients, and add the sugar if you prefer a sweeter-tasting stew.
  7. Bring to a boil over medium heat. The pomegranate concentrate tends to stick and burn fairly quickly so avoid high heat.
  8. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes.
  9. Now reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for an additional 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is fork tender and falls off the bone. Stir every 15 minutes or so to make sure the sauce does not stick to the pot. If at the end of this time period the sauce has not thickened enough, leave the pot uncovered for about 10 minutes on low heat for a thicker sauce. Transfer the Fesenjan to a serving dish and sprinkle some pomegranate seeds on top as garnish.
  10. Serve over white Persian Steamed rice!

Nooshe jân (نوش جان ) and Yalda Mobarak (happy winter-solstice)!

Source: https://persianmama.com/chicken-in-walnut-pomegranate-sauce-khoresht-fesenjan/

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323335404578445274073488186

Festive Drink Series: Hot Chocolate

 istetiana via Getty Images

Hot chocolate, anyone?

Chocolate comes from the word “xocoatl”  meaning “bitter water” in Mexico’s indigenous náhuatl language.  Unsurprisingly, hot chocolate’s earliest forms were made with chili peppers! 

Did you know that the first civilizations to grow cacao beans, the Mayans and Aztecs, also used it as a medium of exchange? Also, today is National Cocoa Day (December 13)… so happy chocolate-ing with the recipe below… guilt free! 🍫

Ingredients

  • Milk of your choice
  • Cocoa powder
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate chips

Place in the milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add cocoa powder & sugar. Whisk until warm & add chocolate chips once the milk is warm. Serve with toppings of your choice: marshmallows, whipped cream or maybe crushed candy canes! Enjoy!

Sources: https://www.insider.com/chocolate-fun-facts-2018-11 https://www.thespruceeats.com/the-history-of-hot-chocolate-764463https://celebratingsweets.com/homemade-hot-chocolate/

Festive Drink Series: Canelazo

It’s cinnamon season! And we have the perfect soul-warming drink for the holidays: Ecuadorian-born “Canelazo”— stemming from the Spanish word for cinnamon, “Canela”.

The origins of Canelazo are rumored to be from Ecuador, after traveling Europeans introduced the spice cinnamon to Latin America- which was introduced to them through Silk Road imports from India and Sri Lanka! Now, cinnamon is less of a rarity and can be organically grown in Latin America– so you can find this warm drink being enjoyed all over the region.

Cozy-up to this cinnamon-infused treat with this delicious recipe, which can be enjoyed with or without booze!

Ingredients:

  • 6 Cups Water
  • 8 Sticks Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Cup of Grated Panela
  • 1-2oz. Aguardiente (Can be replaced with Black Tea, Ounces determined upon strength preference.)
  • Optional Fruit Juice like Naranjilla, Lemon, Orange, or Passion Fruit

Instructions:

  • Mix all the ingredients in a medium-sized pot (Except to Aguardiente/Tea and Fruit juice.)
  • Bring to a boil. (While waiting, the black tea can be prepared separately.)
  • Reduce heat, simmer over low for 40 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, add the Aguardiente/Tea and fruit juice (if desired.)

¡Salud!

Source & Image: https://www.196flavors.com/ecuador-canelazo/