We live fairly near Cerro San Cristobal, a small mountain/large hill that’s a noted landmark with a towering statue of the Virgin Mary on top. She’s the tallest thing around, minus the nearby cell towers. The Cerro is a verdant wonder in this dry city. It is watered (and therefore green), landscaped, and sports Japanese gardens, a zoo, a chapel, some restaurants, and a huge swimming pool. The Cerro is so big that each venue feels fairly tucked away and secluded from everything else.
On weekends, the winding roads going up the Cerro are busy, busy with pedestrians, runners, and cyclists. It’s the closest experience to being in the woods for miles around, so it’s a very popular place. Sudoku and I have taken to riding up the Cerro once a week or so. From our apartment, it’s two hours round-trip for us pokey-paced girls. (But we are getting faster!)
On our first climb up the Cerro, we got to the top, looked around, spotted our apartment and some other familiar locations, caught our breath, and then enjoyed the exhilarating ride down. Zip!
The second time, we were with a local friend. When we got to the top, we followed the crowd through a little passage underneath the funicular (incline railway) which opened onto a large patio. Scores of runners and bikers were hanging out, enjoying the view, sipping mote con huesillo. Since it was my birthday week, we treated ourselves to this unique, sweet Chilean beverage. And when I say sweet, I mean really sweet.
We had seen lots of people drinking/eating mote con huesillo (especially around the Dieciochera holiday), and it really didn’t look appetizing at me. The drink is typically served in a plastic cups with plastic spoons, is the color of beer, has barley in the bottom of the cup, and large wrinkly dried fruit floating in the juice. I don’t know…maybe it’s the plastic spoons sticking out, maybe it’s the way you have to eat/drink it (more on that in a minute), but it just didn’t appeal to me.
BUT it’s a very Chilean drink, and we had just biked up a Chilean hill, were looking out over the largest Chilean city, surrounded by Chileans enjoying one of their signature Chilean drinks… It was time to try this thing. So we did. The liquid is syrupy sweet. My first thought was, “They opened a can of peaches and drained the syrup into my cup.” But then it started to grow on me. The drink was very cold, the mote (barley) was soft, and the huesillos (dried peaches) were so yummy, sweet, and soft! Did I mention it was sweet?
So, here’s the gist of how it’s made. Dried peaches are soaked over night, then cooked in the soaking water with chancaca, which is a raw, unrefined sugar with a high molasses content. The peaches and juice are then completely chilled. To serve, a couple of spoonfulls of cooked barley are put in the bottom of the cup, followed by 2-3 dried peaches (including the pits), followed by the juice. The drink is sipped and eaten with a spoon. As Gaby, my Chilean friend says, you have to forget about being proper or elegant. You scoop out a big peach, balance it on your spoon, take a bite out of it, and then lower the remainder back into your cup while you chew on what’s in your mouth. When in Rome…
The drink was super yummy. But about 30-40 minutes later, after arriving back home, I felt just a bit dizzy and had a sugar-high headache for a couple of hours… It’s that sweet.