The Cold Ember
(The story of Mocheros)
Early memories of growing up in my father's house…
“I wouldn't recommend that!” my father said with a conciliatory smile as he gazed at me across the kitchen table. But those words fell on the deaf ears of a young boy like myself on that lazy Sunday in 1963, in Lima, Peru.
“I wouldn't recommend that!” my father repeated, "That is a fire even water will not be able to quench." This, as he expertly twirled his fork around the mass of spaghetti on his plate with one hand, while popping the “rocoto” (a super spicy Peruvian hot pepper) into his mouth with the other - followed by taking a measured bite.
In the same manner in which one pours gun powder into a cannon before loading the iron ball, he devoured this load. Lo and behold! I was mesmerized by the fact that there were no fireworks - no explosions. All I observed in my father were waves of pleasure and head nodding, confirming this “amazing and uplifting” experience.
I burst out of my silence. Half demanding and half begging, "Dad, please, I want to try, please ... please ...!" And then I spat out the most foolish statement of my life - one that I still feel the kick-back from the universe to this day, as I said, “It .. won't… burn… ME…” - finishing up this miserable, but honorable, afterthought with, "I promise!" (To this day I kept my word!)
The second I made that promise, I had a flash of insight that perhaps I should have thought twice about such a pronouncement - and I was filled with fear. And maybe, knowing my father's determination about such things and decisions, somewhere inside me I believed I would get away without paying the ultimate price of that public declaration.
My father put down his fork, contemplating for a moment as he stared at the kitchen wall. I could swear he was playing a video in his mind - one that I, of course, couldn't see from where I was sitting.
"Okay," he said briefly, and proceeded to cut a decent ring-shaped piece of Rocoto. I thought to myself: This rocoto is a strange juxtaposition of a cold ember on one hand, while a shiny and beautiful red-hot object on the other.
I remember this rocoto ring flying slowly towards me, dangling on my dad's fork. I didn't wait for any signal from above on how to prepare for it. I knew my fate was sealed. There was no turning back as I walked my own personal Green-Mile (or “Red-Mile”). I opened my mouth, just recently weaned off pure mother's milk, as I looked over at my father. I tried to identify some sign of remorse or concession towards that innocent boy waiting with his mouth open - like a chick in the nest waiting for soft, easily digestible morsels. But no ... not this time ... I discovered that my dad's determination had taken over… end of discussion!
The rocoto ring landed on my tongue. From the first second, I reached the conclusion, accompanied by the initial sensory input, that there was nothing to this rocoto except public relations mythology and Peruvian legends or, in contemporary terms: "Fake-news!"
My dad gazed at me with bunched eyebrows. Suddenly his face changed into a mischievous, unfamiliar smile - unexpectedly matching the arrival of the tsunami wave which began to flood the hollows of my mouth and threatened to engulf all of me into a sensory swirl of fire. My father's smile remained the only beacon to direct me to a safe shore. And just as a beacon illuminates your path to salvation, it also shines a light exposing the naked truth!
Then, before losing my last grain of self-respect, and before the wetness of my tears blurred my father's smile, I repeated that statement, yet again: "You see Dad, it doesn't burn at all!"
The years passed. At the age of thirteen I immigrated on my own to Israel. Time went by; my father passed away; the years continued their journey like passing clouds. This time, as a businessman, I became an explorer and perpetual world traveler.
Through these journeys, the impact of that experience with my father served as a lens through which I examined life. Suffice it to say, all my existential questions and answers could be examined, with a simplistic smile, as either "severe" (hot or pungent or smart in Hebrew) or not-severe. People, problems and solutions, were identified as “severe” or “not-severe”… like a severe problem, severe crisis, severe girl and so on.
During my long work trips abroad, I found myself buying hard-to-find concoctions in remote markets and from obscure vendors. Upon returning home, I was disappointed by these condiments - and they went straight to the trash, or I gave them as gifts to friends and family - because they just didn't live up to my expectations.
I've always complained: It's not good enough ... It lacks this and needs more of that ... I suffered from "severe" dissatisfaction!
Then one morning in 2006, after returning from a very long trip to Indonesia, I said to myself: "Abe, stop whining and prepare the stuff as spicy as you like ... express your taste!" (I didn't realize then I had actually decided to open up to life both for myself and others.)
That's how it all started. Simple and modest home concoctions evolved into increasingly complex, interesting and challenging culinary versions that I shared with my family and friends.
One day in 2012, I got a call: "Abe, do you hear me?" rasped the voice on the other side of the line, "I urgently need a pint of your spicy stuff for the barbeque I'm organizing, can I come and pick up some?" "Ilan," I apologized, "I don't have any spicy stuff right now ..." "You don't have any?" Ilan asked desperately, not giving up. After a second of silence he became the friend who changed my reality - for which this friend himself became a midwife: "Then make some spicy stuff, Abe, and I'll payfor it!"
And so it was, per my friend's demand: "Mocheros" was born.
The “Mocheros” Designation
Our world must change for the better - it has no choice. But it will go through, so to speak, a severe, multi-faceted and inevitable crisis: ideological, social, religious, conscious, environmental - those early signs are already with us.
As a compulsive consumer society, accompanied by dizzying technological capabilities, we are drawn to waste resources in great quantity - rather than striving to find life-long, calm, and uplifting quality. I believe we need to fill in the blanks, seeking quality - not quantity.
I present “Mocheros” as my small and humble donation and my way of expressing allegiance to this practice. I want to bring back quality - void of harmful chemicals and sugars and, by doing so, return the complement of natural and healthy elements to the human body. Equally important: To delight the world's no lovers of spiciness. Today, with half a century behind me, I have come to understand that my father's rocoto ring was not the engagement ring to hell, rather it was a wedding ring to heaven.
Mocheros (origin of the name)
The name Mocheros is a tribute to the Peruvian culture from which I originate. Mocheros comes from an ancient culture that flourished in northern Peru called Mochica *, in the Mocha Valley, in the state of Trujillo. The Mochica culture, which preceded the Incas, based its economy on smart agriculture. They utilized water reservoirs, through innovative engineering. In addition, they developed a unique skill on the creation of silver and gold jewelry, combined with the art of pottery - the laughter memorializing the sexual and human elements inherent in their culture.
Mocheros voyage to the new world.
Acrylic painting by Abraham Burciaga, Mexico