I put my palms on the table and spread my fingers. In between my hands sits a glass pitcher layered with a few inches of cocoa powder, honey, paprika, and soon a few drops of my blood.
“Thanks for volunteering,” Pedro says and then instructs me to lean over so my face is positioned above the container and my chin nearly rests on the rim.
My friends and I have signed up for a two-hour chocolate making and history workshop at the Choco Museum in Cusco, Peru. I lift my chin and smile, excited to help.
“Now do this with your tongue,” he tells me in his heavy Spanish accent. Pedro sticks out his tongue and curls the tip over his lip, then motions for me to do the same.
“I just need 12 drops of blood from under your tongue,” he adds before turning to the group.
“We are adding the blood. We will offer this drink to the gods. You may drink from this, but I will also make another without blood.”
My chin drops along with my smile. “Aren’t you going to just prick my finger or arm?”
“No. It will be from your tongue. Get ready,” he says as he snaps on latex gloves. He grabs a butcher knife and begins sharpening a wooden skewer.
“You’ve done this before,” I state more than ask as my initial enthusiasm for being the one brave enough to sacrifice blood for the Gods turns to anxiety.
“Yes. Now close your eyes.”
I resume position, but quickly draw my tongue into my mouth along with a deep breath. “So, you are serious?”
“Yes, now stick your tongue out again,” Pedro tells me as he sets down the knife and reaches over with the skewer.
I do as told. The tip of the skewer touches the underside of my tongue. I keep my eyes closed.
“Hold very still.”
I focus on my breath and let my muscles numb. I can always pull back if it hurts.
“Are you ready?”
“Yeth,” I say as I leave my tongue curled and eyes closed.
Pedro maintains the slight pressure. “We only need 12 drops of blood. It will be quick.”
This doesn’t hurt. Maybe it’s a relatively painless spot to draw blood that I never knew about.
I wait for more pressure.
“Just kidding,” Pedro laughs as he pulls the skewer away.
I drop my chin and shake my head, laughing with him and my friends.
“Instead of your blood, I will add milk.”
Pedro stirs it in and serves our group the hot chocolate drink. We clink mugs in honor of the gods.