We made chocolate pasta in class this week for Halloween. My original goal was to serve it with a roasted butternut squash sauce until I realized learning the pasta machine was a project in itself. I thought perhaps half the class could make butternut pasta and half make chocolate pasta, creating an awesome black and orange Halloween blend. In the end, I knew the butternut half would be disappointed. So chocolate pasta it was with some cheddar cheese grated over top. And I know what you’re thinking…
“Like, we pour chocolate sauce over pasta?”
“No, it’s chocolate pasta,” I correct.
“Right, chocolate sauce over pasta.”
“There is no chocolate sauce involved, chocolate powder– cocoa powder, in the pasta. We’re making the pasta.”
There is brief contemplation on this before, “but that’s impossible! How can we do that?!”
I think the impossibility is that pasta is not made, it appears. How will we get chocolate into something that already is?
“Pffff,” I hear a counselor say on the sidelines, “dessert pasta. I’ve had that.”
“Dessert pasta?!” the students echo.
“No, no, not dessert. It’s going to be savory, not sweet.”
And now I’ve stumped the counselor– but that’s impossible, he’s thinking, how can chocolate not be sweet?!
I have similar conversations throughout the week with staff and children– it’s just not possible. There is one elevator ride I take early in the week: “I think I had that when I was young.”
“Your chocolate pasta.”
“No, I had chocolate pasta, but I think it was ravioli.” And he’s lost in some chocolate-ravioli dream as he wanders off the elevator.
It doesn’t matter if it will be savory (think a decadent Mexican mole). They enter the classroom bouncing off the walls–
“Chocolate pasta! Chocolate pasta! This is going to be the best day ever!” They’re poking and sniffing all the ingredients.
I am unable to let my students off easy. Before we really delve in, I borrow a component of a taste exploration exercise I’m currently implementing into public schools with the non-profit Spoons Across America. We review our ingredients and I ask: “who wants to taste the cocoa powder?” Of course every hand shoots up because well, cocoa powder smells like a delicious chocolate bar. I retrieve popsicle sticks, dip one end in water, hand them out and warn: “Just dip it in, don’t scoop.” But they’re being given a chance to taste chocolate so of course they’re heaping as much on to the popsicle stick as possible. It goes into the mouth and…
Expressions turn from pure pleasure to pure horror. This is the grossest thing ever! I am the cruelest teacher! What have I done to their delicious ideal of chocolate?! They’re huddled around the garbage spitting what remains in their mouth. They refuse to swallow and chocolate-laced spittle is dribbling down their chins. One can’t swallow the mess of powder he’s put in his mouth and with no other outlet exhales a chocolate dust ball onto his friend across the table. They’re at the sink grabbing for water.
I sit at front watching it all unfold thoroughly amused.
“That!” a crafty second grader announces, “was unsweetened chocolate!”
And so we have learned our first lesson: chocolate in this world is sweetened by a human touch.
We continue to make and knead our dough. We ready the pasta machines and give them a crank. All of a sudden we have forgotten how disgusting cocoa powder is. Because chocolate is still chocolate and it’s still delicious– especially when it’s combined with pasta. So we keep cranking it out until a kindergartner exclaims:
“This is like golden threads of my dreams.”
Which is funny. Because chocolate pasta is not golden, it’s quite dark brown, almost black. But I’d love to see those dreams.