Valentines and Chocolates

997324p04 Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today being a special Wednesday, hopefully each of the Wenches will find time to stop by to wish you all Saint Valentine’s Greetings (as this little Victorian munchkin is doing).

Since this tends to be a chocolate holiday–well hey, any day is a chocolate holiday but it’s always nice to have a legitimate excuse–it’s a good time to talk about chocolate. And since I’m in deadline mode this week, it’s also a good time to recycle my blog on history of chocolate from a few months ago … enjoy!

Keepingkate250_2 My Sarah Gabriel book, 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. He ends up chasing Kate MacCarran, sometime spy and accused thief, all over part of the Highlands, because she has a radically different idea about where she should go, and it’s not to Edinburgh in chains. Finally he drags her unrepentant arse to Edinburgh to face a Judge of the Session Court for her espionage crimes. By that time, natch, Alec is fiercely attracted to the girl, and she to him, and jail and a hanging is just not something either one of them want to think about…

But what what does that have to do with chocolate? Oooooh lots. Yummm…chocolate is all through the story…. hot chocolate, spiced chocolate, hot chocolate with hot peppers (yes that’s right), hot chocolate with cream, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon — hold the hot peppers (really I’m not kidding). Oh, and chocolate-dipped liver (what can I say, it’s 18th c. experimental cuisine).  There’s also an uncle in the story who’s experimenting with forms of hardened chocolate for eating, but just can’t get the formula right….

Zurbaran___bowl_of_chocolate_1640 Chocolate drink was extremely popular by this time (18th century), and "chocolate houses" had popped 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 drank chocolate by the  time the Spaniards came upon them — the South American natives would mash the beans and drink the stuff as a paste, 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 in ritual ceremonies and at social events they had to drink it to be polite, and probably to prove their manliness.

Chocolate_18th_c But the Spaniards had a brilliant idea: 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 still drank it laced with chili peppers (one cannot fathom why), or with cinnamon. Even today, hot chocolate with cinnamon is called Mexican or Spanish chocolate. It was mixed in silver pots, sometimes ceramic, and stirred with a wooden stick until it was frothy — a technique learned from the Aztecs, who often drank the froth and left the rest. In Europe, the foam was regarded as the best of the drink, the frothier the better.
"Eating" chocolate, shaped into bars, 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 forms of chocolate other than for drinking.

Hence the failed experiment, Liver Dipped in Chocolate….

Lavery_cup_chocolate Today we understand chocolate better–its natural neurotransmitters and psychoactive chemicals, its endorphins–chocolate contains serotonin and tryptophan–make us feel better. An urge for chocolate is sometimes an urge to medicate or adjust the brain chemistry, and lately chocolate (especially the dark kind, closer to its original cacao form) has been shown to be beneficial for heart and circulation too. Some experts recommend an ounce or two a day. What a hardship! So next time you’re craving a little chocolate, remember–it’s very healthy for you in small amounts! Go dig out that special chocolate bar you’ve squirreled away, or sit down with a steaming cup of hot chocolate with cinnamon (and pepper for the brave ones), and pick up a good book to enjoy while you’re at it. Maybe something by one of the Wenches…(and if that chocolate craving is really strong, try KEEPING KATE…).

Vintage_valentine_1 Wishing each of you a wonderful, fun Valentine’s Day filled with something special for everyone — be it chocolate, flowers, gifts, kind thoughts, warm hugs, or loving words — you deserve it!

~Susan Sarah

40 thoughts on “Valentines and Chocolates”

  1. Hot chocolate with a bit of bite to it is fab! Dagoba makes Xocolatl (hot chocolate with chilies & cinnamon). It rules my winter nights. And one of my favorite truffles is called El Diablo (dark chocolate with cayenne). There’s just something about the spice and the sweet . . . but then I like salty/sweet, too. A chocolate covered salt caramel is Heaven.

    Reply
  2. Hot chocolate with a bit of bite to it is fab! Dagoba makes Xocolatl (hot chocolate with chilies & cinnamon). It rules my winter nights. And one of my favorite truffles is called El Diablo (dark chocolate with cayenne). There’s just something about the spice and the sweet . . . but then I like salty/sweet, too. A chocolate covered salt caramel is Heaven.

    Reply
  3. Hot chocolate with a bit of bite to it is fab! Dagoba makes Xocolatl (hot chocolate with chilies & cinnamon). It rules my winter nights. And one of my favorite truffles is called El Diablo (dark chocolate with cayenne). There’s just something about the spice and the sweet . . . but then I like salty/sweet, too. A chocolate covered salt caramel is Heaven.

    Reply
  4. Hot chocolate with a bit of bite to it is fab! Dagoba makes Xocolatl (hot chocolate with chilies & cinnamon). It rules my winter nights. And one of my favorite truffles is called El Diablo (dark chocolate with cayenne). There’s just something about the spice and the sweet . . . but then I like salty/sweet, too. A chocolate covered salt caramel is Heaven.

    Reply
  5. Mmm, delicious blog, Susan/Sarah. I, too, like chocolate with hot and spicy. But without chili pepper is fine, too. And steamy hot in a mug, on a cold, wet, sleety, snowy day as this Valentine’s Day is here in Massachusetts–with a dab of Marshmallow Fluff–Oh, bliss!

    Reply
  6. Mmm, delicious blog, Susan/Sarah. I, too, like chocolate with hot and spicy. But without chili pepper is fine, too. And steamy hot in a mug, on a cold, wet, sleety, snowy day as this Valentine’s Day is here in Massachusetts–with a dab of Marshmallow Fluff–Oh, bliss!

    Reply
  7. Mmm, delicious blog, Susan/Sarah. I, too, like chocolate with hot and spicy. But without chili pepper is fine, too. And steamy hot in a mug, on a cold, wet, sleety, snowy day as this Valentine’s Day is here in Massachusetts–with a dab of Marshmallow Fluff–Oh, bliss!

    Reply
  8. Mmm, delicious blog, Susan/Sarah. I, too, like chocolate with hot and spicy. But without chili pepper is fine, too. And steamy hot in a mug, on a cold, wet, sleety, snowy day as this Valentine’s Day is here in Massachusetts–with a dab of Marshmallow Fluff–Oh, bliss!

    Reply
  9. Well, you convinced me. I’m off to make myself some homemade hot chocolate (they just don’t do the powdered stuff here in Germany) and feast on that chocolate bar I was going to give to a friend.
    Hey, she can get her own.

    Reply
  10. Well, you convinced me. I’m off to make myself some homemade hot chocolate (they just don’t do the powdered stuff here in Germany) and feast on that chocolate bar I was going to give to a friend.
    Hey, she can get her own.

    Reply
  11. Well, you convinced me. I’m off to make myself some homemade hot chocolate (they just don’t do the powdered stuff here in Germany) and feast on that chocolate bar I was going to give to a friend.
    Hey, she can get her own.

    Reply
  12. Well, you convinced me. I’m off to make myself some homemade hot chocolate (they just don’t do the powdered stuff here in Germany) and feast on that chocolate bar I was going to give to a friend.
    Hey, she can get her own.

    Reply
  13. Love and chocolate and candy and flowers and presents–it’s the best day of the year.
    I’ll be spending the afternoon snowbound with my sweetie, sipping hot chocolate!
    If I’d been clever, I would’ve put chicken mole on our dinner menu–that Susan/Sarah’s comments about chiles and chocolate raised a longing for that rich, chocolately spicy mole sauce.

    Reply
  14. Love and chocolate and candy and flowers and presents–it’s the best day of the year.
    I’ll be spending the afternoon snowbound with my sweetie, sipping hot chocolate!
    If I’d been clever, I would’ve put chicken mole on our dinner menu–that Susan/Sarah’s comments about chiles and chocolate raised a longing for that rich, chocolately spicy mole sauce.

    Reply
  15. Love and chocolate and candy and flowers and presents–it’s the best day of the year.
    I’ll be spending the afternoon snowbound with my sweetie, sipping hot chocolate!
    If I’d been clever, I would’ve put chicken mole on our dinner menu–that Susan/Sarah’s comments about chiles and chocolate raised a longing for that rich, chocolately spicy mole sauce.

    Reply
  16. Love and chocolate and candy and flowers and presents–it’s the best day of the year.
    I’ll be spending the afternoon snowbound with my sweetie, sipping hot chocolate!
    If I’d been clever, I would’ve put chicken mole on our dinner menu–that Susan/Sarah’s comments about chiles and chocolate raised a longing for that rich, chocolately spicy mole sauce.

    Reply
  17. ‘Kay I’m chocolate hungry now…I can just taste that sweet, smooth flavour melting on my tongue and slowly, slowly…going crazy! I gotta go and get me some. ^.^
    Two of my daughters are chocoholics…I’ll have to make sure that I’ve got some for them!
    Have a wonderful, heart-filled day everyone.

    Reply
  18. ‘Kay I’m chocolate hungry now…I can just taste that sweet, smooth flavour melting on my tongue and slowly, slowly…going crazy! I gotta go and get me some. ^.^
    Two of my daughters are chocoholics…I’ll have to make sure that I’ve got some for them!
    Have a wonderful, heart-filled day everyone.

    Reply
  19. ‘Kay I’m chocolate hungry now…I can just taste that sweet, smooth flavour melting on my tongue and slowly, slowly…going crazy! I gotta go and get me some. ^.^
    Two of my daughters are chocoholics…I’ll have to make sure that I’ve got some for them!
    Have a wonderful, heart-filled day everyone.

    Reply
  20. ‘Kay I’m chocolate hungry now…I can just taste that sweet, smooth flavour melting on my tongue and slowly, slowly…going crazy! I gotta go and get me some. ^.^
    Two of my daughters are chocoholics…I’ll have to make sure that I’ve got some for them!
    Have a wonderful, heart-filled day everyone.

    Reply
  21. Hi Susan/Sarah
    The chocolate post is one of my favorites. Thank you for reposting it.
    Happy Valentine’s Day Susan. All the best on the deadline.
    Nina

    Reply
  22. Hi Susan/Sarah
    The chocolate post is one of my favorites. Thank you for reposting it.
    Happy Valentine’s Day Susan. All the best on the deadline.
    Nina

    Reply
  23. Hi Susan/Sarah
    The chocolate post is one of my favorites. Thank you for reposting it.
    Happy Valentine’s Day Susan. All the best on the deadline.
    Nina

    Reply
  24. Hi Susan/Sarah
    The chocolate post is one of my favorites. Thank you for reposting it.
    Happy Valentine’s Day Susan. All the best on the deadline.
    Nina

    Reply
  25. Alas, I already ate all my chocolate for the day. Darn. I’m a person who will eat chocolate with just about anything but. . . ah, there are somethings I won’t. LOL 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  26. Alas, I already ate all my chocolate for the day. Darn. I’m a person who will eat chocolate with just about anything but. . . ah, there are somethings I won’t. LOL 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  27. Alas, I already ate all my chocolate for the day. Darn. I’m a person who will eat chocolate with just about anything but. . . ah, there are somethings I won’t. LOL 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  28. Alas, I already ate all my chocolate for the day. Darn. I’m a person who will eat chocolate with just about anything but. . . ah, there are somethings I won’t. LOL 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  29. Chocolate!!
    Doesn’t the Muse descend specifically at the sound of unwrapping a Hershey’s Kiss? Thanks for the great chocolate blog, and may there be plenty of chocolaty inspiration for you WIP!

    Reply
  30. Chocolate!!
    Doesn’t the Muse descend specifically at the sound of unwrapping a Hershey’s Kiss? Thanks for the great chocolate blog, and may there be plenty of chocolaty inspiration for you WIP!

    Reply
  31. Chocolate!!
    Doesn’t the Muse descend specifically at the sound of unwrapping a Hershey’s Kiss? Thanks for the great chocolate blog, and may there be plenty of chocolaty inspiration for you WIP!

    Reply
  32. Chocolate!!
    Doesn’t the Muse descend specifically at the sound of unwrapping a Hershey’s Kiss? Thanks for the great chocolate blog, and may there be plenty of chocolaty inspiration for you WIP!

    Reply

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