A very dear friend of mine, back home in Cincinnati, used to make me things when I came to visit: a pot of espresso; a shared cigarette; pancakes on a Sunday morning. And this time of year, when Cincinnati is covered in ice and mud, I would flee to her house for warmth and sustenance.
One such day, she made me drinking chocolate from little chunks of chocolate melted in a pot, mixed with milk and a tiny spoonful of sugar. She poured it into mugs and we drank it from her sofa while the weather pissed sleet on the window panes.
Chocolate has been around as a beverage since at least 2000 BCE in the Americas, and it entered European cuisine in the 1500s, via the Spanish. This article via the Smithsonian is a great introduction to the history of chocolate. Especially these tidbits:
Aztec sacrifice victims who felt too melancholy to join in ritual dancing before their death were often given a gourd of chocolate (tinged with the blood of previous victims) to cheer them up.
By the 17th century, chocolate was a fashionable drink throughout Europe, believed to have nutritious, medicinal and even aphrodisiac properties (it’s rumored that Casanova was especially fond of the stuff). But it remained largely a privilege of the rich until the invention of the steam engine made mass production possible in the late 1700s.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Drinking chocolate can be used as an aid to ritual sacrifice atop a rain forest temple, as a debaucher’s morning drink in Renaissance Europe, and as a sign of steampunk ingenuity around the world. So the next time it’s snowing and you’re hiding in the tavern, watching your thief eye that paladin’s purse and waiting for the weather to clear, consider indulging in that ancient pleasure: chocolate.
Image credit: Raimundo Madrazo’s Hot Chocolate (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons.
And, as a bonus, have this lovely article comparing their flavors!