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Article suitable for Top Juniors and above

Traditional Mexican wooden chocolate whisk or molinillo

Chocolate whisk

Ever since our team began asking English primary school children to guess what the Mexican object on the right might be for, we have been amazed at the imaginative answers we have received - alongside, of course, the correct one, that of chocolate whisk. We think it is time to share some of these guesses with you... (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

The humble wooden Mexican chocolate whisk
The humble wooden Mexican chocolate whisk (Click on image to enlarge)

Chocolate features strongly in all our Aztecs and Maya programmes in schools - from the word’s Náhuatl origin to its use as a form of currency in Aztec times. Strictly, we should point out that the drink so highly prized in pre-Hispanic times was not frothed with a molinillo but rather using an older and more artistic method of pouring the chocolate carefully and ceremoniously - from a considerable height - from one vessel to another [follow link below] (in other words, the wooden whisk is probably a Spanish import). But it remains an intriguing artefact with a long history of use in Mexico.
So what do children guess was/is its use, without any clues to guide them? In no particular order...

• Toy
• Rattle/shaker/musical instrument (‘sound of rotating discs’ / ‘by rolling finger nails around the edge’)
• Priest’s staff
• Fire kindling stick (note similarity in the movement involved!)
• Medical instrument
• A ‘flaming arrow’
• Emblem for the emperor
• ‘Something for scaring wildlife’/bird scarer
• ‘Something to scare evil spirits away with’
• ‘Something to call/summon people with’; to call family for a meal
• ‘Something to signal danger with’
• ‘Something to remove air bubbles from food with’
• ‘A puzzle for entertainment’
• ‘To do tricks with’
• ‘Something to distribute seeds on the ground when planting maize’
• ‘Something that works with cogs/gears’ (‘two could mesh together....’)
• ‘Something to tickle children with’ (to wake them up)
• ‘Something to put children to sleep with’
• ‘Something to dance with’
• ‘Something to hypnotise people with’
• Tool for spinning yarn/’weaving stick’
• Tool for ‘making string’
• Tool for (tie) dyeing
• A whip
• A horn
• To churn milk into butter
• A telescope
• A ‘Mayan spatula’
• Tool to unclog something with / a plunger
• ‘A Mayan glockenspiel’
• An instrument for weighing ingredients
• Tool to ‘express air out of bread’
• Tool for crushing beetles to produce dye
• Tool for ‘making holes in tortillas’
• Tool for gardening
• ‘For making bricks’
• A shredder
• A flute
• A megaphone
• A tool ‘for making leather’
• Tool to separate egg yolks and whites with
• A bottle opener
• To wake up the gods!
• ‘For relaxing music’
• A tool to ‘hold the maize [cob] with’
• Something to make a noise with at a party
• Something ‘to blow into’
• A ‘calendar tool’ (the disks revolve to mark a date)
• Alarm clock/’for waking up with’
• Drill
• A powder ‘shaker’/mill
• A (door) key
• A door knob
• A spoon or scooper
• Hairbrush
• Toothbrush (!)
• (Water) sprinkler
• Duster
• Wind vane
• Sundial
• A ‘decoration’
• Something to ‘keep the peace between two warring sides, like in a court’ [a gavel]
• Candle/candle holder
• A tool for whacking clothes to remove dust and dirt
• ‘For smoking’
• ‘To soften butter’
• A fan for keeping things cool
• Something for ‘purifying water’; something ‘to filter water’
• King’s mace
• Hammer
• Pencil
• Sieve
• Salt/pepper pot
• Tool for stripping spines off a cactus
• Potato masher/grinder
• Fruit juicer
• A baptism tool
• Honey stirrer
• Rug beater (for dust)
• Rolling pin
• Toilet cleaner
• ‘Something to spray [paint] designs on a wall with’
• Weapon
• A ‘god’s amulet’ (then changed to ‘staff’)
• A magic wand
• Microphone (!)
• ‘Something to hit/punish children with’
• Incense burner/scent holder/diffuser
• A stilt
• Poker for the fire
• ‘Something to juggle with’
• A cheese grater
• Walking stick
• Handwarmer
• Something ‘to make a mold with’
• Gong beater
• Back-scratcher
• A ‘dispenser’ (cf modern pill dispensers)
• An instrument connected to the calendar/reading the days
• Laundry squeezer (wringer)
• A ‘clothes drier’
• A ‘gift for the gods’ / ‘to offer a drink to the gods’
• Tool for cracking open cacao pods
• ‘Something to put in the ground, twist, dig around the earth to find roots of crops’
• ‘To spin cactus thread with’/a tool to make clothes with
• A kaleidoscope
• A hunting tool
• A tool for skinning animals
• A nutcracker / ‘you put nuts inside it’
• A baseball bat
• A snake-catcher (wind it round the molinillo!)
• ‘To massage someone with’
• A tool for storing chillies (by winding them round it!)
• Something to use to make patterns - in cakes, or generally
• Something for calling animals with in the forest
• Something to herd animals with
• A tool for getting sap from a tree
• A sports implement (as in Olympic torch, baton...)
• A tool for taking samples from things
• A tool for rolling out ink (ie for printing patterns)
• A meat tenderizer
• Some kind of timer (the loose rattles making a sound)
• Tool to lift the edges of a tortilla off the griddle, to prevent it sticking
• A tool ‘to make jewellery with’
And of course, a WHISK!

Photos by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Aug 03rd 2013

emoticon Some of the kids’ guesses point to the molinillo being a dangerous weapon. Perhaps we should start carrying out a special WHISK ASSESSMENT in schools...!

‘Blood of the gods’

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