Thursday, and Susan/Sarah back again… after last night’s groaning feast and all that hot historical pizza (fresh though!), I’m thinking a bit o’ chocolate would be good just about now. It’s a quiet afternoon (at least where I am), and we were talking historical foods, and there’s a tailor-made foodie thought if I ever heard one…. ooooh, chocolate!
Have I got history of chocolate for you. My Sarah Gabriel book from Nov. ’05, KEEPING KATE, involves lots of chocolate. Alec Fraser’s family runs a chocolate shoppe in Edinburgh, and he’s something of an expert in the family biz…but at the time, he’s a captain in the Highland Watch, and is assigned to bring a spy to Edinburgh to face trial. Well, he ends up chasing Kate MacCarran, sometime spy and accused thief, all over the Highland hills, because she has radically different ideas about where she should go. Finally he drags her unrepentant arse to Edinburgh to face the Judge of the Session Court for her espionage crimes. And by that time, natch, he’s fiercely attracted to her, and she to him, and jail and a hanging is just not something they want to think about just now….
BUT WAIT, what does that have to do with chocolate? Oooooh lots. Yummm…it’s all through the story…. hot chocolate, spiced chocolate, hot chocolate with hot peppers (yes you read that right), hot chocolate with cream, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon/ hold the hot peppers (really I’m not kidding). Oh, and chocolate-dipped liver (hey, you liked 18th c. cuisine yesterday!). And then there’s the uncle who’s experimenting with a form of hardened chocolate for eating, but just can’t get the formula right….
Chocolate drink was extremely popular by this time (18th century), and "chocolate houses" had sprung up all over England and Scotland. It was imported in solid logs that were serrated to be broken easily–this stuff was bitter and powerful, and had to be melted and mixed with water, milk, sugar, and a variety of other ingredients to create hot drinks. Originally the Mayans and Aztecs were drinking it when the Spaniards came upon them — the South American natives would drink the stuff cold, full bitter, mixed with chili peppers and liquidated just enough to choke it down. Xocolatl, they called it. The Spaniards called it horrifying, a tortuous concoction, but they were forced to drink it to be polite, and probably to prove their manliness. Soon, though, some Spaniard got the brilliant idea to mix the stuff with sugar and milk and heat it–suddenly it was GOOD STUFF. They started importing it to Spain and Portugal, and by the 16th century it had caught on fast. In Spain they were still drinking it with chili peppers in it (one cannot fathom why), and adding cinnamon too. Even today, hot chocolate with cinnamon is called Mexican or Spanish chocolate. It was mixed in silver pots, sometimes ceramic, and stirred with a stick until it was frothy — this was a technique learned from the Aztecs, who drank the froth and left the rest. In Europe, the foam was regarded as the best of the drink, the frothier the better.
The chocolate that we know, "eating" chocolate in bars and shapes, was not fully developed until the 19th century (Fry’s and Cadbury’s among the first to do so), though in the 18th century they were experimenting (just like Alec Fraser’s uncle) with other forms of chocolate other than for drinking.
Hence the failed experiment, Liver Dipped in Chocolate….
So there ya go, now that you’re craving the stuff, your brain is hunkering for a hit of natural serotonin and caffeine, go dig out that special chocolate bar you’ve squirreled away for an emergency, or sit down with a steaming cup of hot chocolate with cinnamon (and pepper!), and read a good book. Something by one of the Wenches, maybe. Oh hey…you could read KEEPING KATE by Sarah Gabriel (well, it IS Thursday and my day to shamelessly promote!)!
~Susan/Sarah, who just gave herself a craving and has to go find that 70% cacao bar she hid in the drawer….
P.S. CONTEST !!! Are you signed up for the Word Wenches newsletter? If not, hurry! I’ll send a signed copy of KEEPING KATE to a person whose name will be chosen at random from the Word Wenches email list by 12 noon EST, Friday, 7/28/06. That’s when I’ll ask Sherrie for the list. And I’ll throw in some fancy hot chocolate packets too. 😉