Monday, December 5, 2011

Hot Chocolate

Colorado has an average of 300 days of sunshine every year; so it’s usually not too unbearable during the winter here. However, we have an Arctic front coming through this week, so the high today was somewhere around 10 degrees, and the low is in the negatives tonight.

That is why when I saw the link to this NPR article about Hot Chocolate I became particularly interested and inspired; there is nothing quite like a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day after all.

So what is the history of hot chocolate? On this cold night I think I’ll make myself a cup, curl up next to my computer and answer that very question.

Archaeological evidence suggests chocolate was being cultivated some 4,000 years ago. In the Mayan culture cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility, and was used in religious rituals and was considered the food of the gods. The Aztecs believed wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree. It was even used for currency in the culture.

For most of its history chocolate was consumed in drink form; it wasn’t until the late 1800s that chocolate bars became fashionable. I do have an earlier blog about chocolate, visit it here.

It is said George Washington drank hot chocolate with his breakfast. The recipe included grated chocolate and sugar mixed into a cup of warm water, milk or even brandy (for a real kick). New world flavors like chili powder, vanilla and allspice created a complex concoction, making it richer and sweeter than the hot chocolate of today.

Usually Europeans did not like to experiment with the New World foods, but chocolate was the exception. Who can’t love chocolate? In 18th Century Europe chocolate was a status symbol a treat of the rich and royals. But in the United States everyone, rich and poor, enjoyed chocolate alike. This is probably because the chocolate was located much closer geographically to the United States that Europe.

Chocolate was also valued as a high-energy food in Colonial America, one that didn’t spoil.

And so is the history of hot chocolate. Hope everyone finds their own way to survive the cold weather this winter, and happy history!

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