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When most people think of chocolate these days, their thoughts naturally turn to desserts and other sweets. There’s no shame in that; few temptations exist that can match the allure of even the simplest of chocolate bars. But sweet chocolate confections are a relatively recent invention. For centuries, chocolate was enjoyed only unsweetened. When we decided to do a chocolate month, we knew we had to include at least one savory dish. So we made mole (pronounced mole-ay).

Mole Sauce

Although not as widely known outside of Mexico as it should be, mole is one of the most representative dishes of Mexican cuisine. While most popular in central and southern Mexico, nearly every region of the country has its own version of mole. Ninety-nine percent of Mexicans have tried at least one type of mole. Many regions host mole festivals to celebrate the dish’s local heritage. At their annual mole festival in 2005, the city of Puebla set the world’s record for largest pot of mole, feeding 11,000 people.

But where does mole come from? According to one legend, the nuns of El Convento de Santa Rosa en Puebla de los Ángeles panicked when they learned that the archbishop was coming for a visit. They were wholly unprepared for such a distinguished guest and they worried about what food they could possibly serve him. They prayed desperately and then inspiration came. They mixed chilis, spices, and whatever else they could find—even a little chocolate—and let it boil down into a thick, rich sauce.

The only meat they had was an old turkey, which they slaughtered and cooked in the sauce. With great trepidation, they served the archbishop this strange concoction upon his arrival. To their great surprise and delight, the archbishop loved their invention and the fame of their new sauce spread throughout Mexico.

We’ll never really know how much truth there is to that legend. There’s one thing we know for certain, though: mole is delicious!