An account of a day off school, during the Christmas holidaysFrancesca Palange
Imagine three children, a typically small London house, a tiny garden – the English winter sogginess rendering it unusable – and very short days.
Tough days, spent inventing games, writing and reading stories, drawing and, only for a short while, breaking up the day with some cartoons (Their choices? Peter Rabbit and the Octonauts, both of which are shown on the CBeebies channel).
At this time of year, the only way to get out of the house is to find somewhere they can ‘do’ something different, knowing that we will undoubtedly be able to get there on public transport, wherever it may be located. And so, a journey becomes an opportunity to study the map and learn about the thousands of routes offered by a city like London, which includes options such as the underground, light railway, train and of course, the bus.
We identify a possible destination in the Museum of the Chocolate, an independent space in Brixton, at the end of the Victoria line. It will take approximately an hour and a quarter to travel from east to south, passing through the city centre on the way: DLR, Jubilee line and Victoria line.
We book the workshop online and, on the appointed day, we get ready for the journey – which is mostly underground – across the city. Perhaps inadvisably, we are carrying everything but the kitchen sink, as is usual when one travels with three children.
The space is very small but well organised; in the morning there is a workshop for adults, children and school groups, in the afternoon it becomes a place to sit and relax, and eat and buy all kinds of chocolates. In the basement level is an interesting collection of prints, antique games, photographs, documents and tools used in the making and consumption of chocolate, from moulds to china cups.
There is a whole world to discover, from the beans that cocoa is derived from, to its arrival in Europe and customs surrounding its consumption. Then moving onto chocolate, there is the opportunity to learn about its history and the ups and downs it suffered during the last few centuries.
The space is set up to receive the children, about twenty in total, seated around tables arranged in row. The course manager begins their explanation and the children are silent and pay attention; very soon they have the raw materials in front of them (a bar of chocolate, a pot containing melted chocolate and other pots containing flaked chocolate) and the tools they will use.
They are guided step by step as they make different types of chocolates, without wasting anything and reusing what is left over for other creations.
An hour passes calmly, while in front of each child their respective creations mount up; they come in various shapes, and of course, are not perfect (each chocolate `lollipop’ is as gnarled as desired!).
As a final touch, the children are given a paper bag to carry their treasure home, where they can eat it gradually in the coming days!
Before returning home, we can’t miss a stop at the popular and busy Brixton market, which is home to numerous ethnic restaurants – we choose one with vegetarian choices. Gaily painted walls, a portrait of Che Guevara in the corner, and a very energetic gentleman who runs everything on his own, including a quick pop to the shop next door to stock up on exotic fruits needed for the dish that he is preparing.
Mission complete: the children have been out of the house, have learned and seen new things and are returning home tired but pleased with the chocolates they have made!
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