A chocolate experience

I went to a historical program this week, but it was much better than Diane’s and also appropriate to Amanda’s on Valentine’s Day (and Carolyn, sigh. Carolyn, do try and get your mind out of the gutter). I’ve finished my chocolate–I ate half of them at five minutes after midnight and the other half that evening of the 14th and here’s the evidence.

But I digress. I went to a chocolate program at Riversdale House Museum and although I was volunteering I didn’t spill anything on anyone and I managed to eat a fair amount too. There were some awesome chocolate fans there who ate their way through four centuries of chocolate and probably would have been good for more.

You can find the recipes at Cooking Up the Past, the FB page that Riversdale’s Food Historian runs, and which has some great stuff on it.

So, chocolate. First it starts off as a tree with a fruit, with seeds (pods), from which you extract the nibs (the things that look as if a mouse has visited). It’s a very labor intensive product and you can see a video made by the foodways historian at Williamsburg on a site devoted to the history of chocolate in North America, American Heritage Chocolate. There are some more recipes and also products if you wish to try some authentic cookery.

Chocolate is NOT sweet. You have to add sugar and I found that the historic recipes had a bitter kick to them rather like coffee–cacoa does have a high caffeine content. This is why chocolate was a popular breakfast drink–we used a latte machine to froth up spiced and (slightly) sweetened chocolate in hot water and added in milk to taste just as you would with coffee. This 1731 chocolate pie, one of the delicacies served at the chocolate event was deliciously bitter.

Into the nineteenth century, things got sweeter. Here’s a whole plateful of chocolatey thrills, including ice cream, a layer cake with chocolate icing, chocolate pudding, a heart-shaped cocoa biscuit, a cake with chocolate icing and some chocolate candy.

We went into the twentieth century with tollhouse cookies, and into the twenty-first with white chocolate and chocolate flavored with chili. Yum. Then we kitchen staff did the dishes. If you’re anywhere near the Washington, DC area, check out the schedule of events at Riversdale: there’s a complete weekend of women’s activities on May 5-6, The 1812 Woman, one of the many events commemorating the war of 1812.

So let’s talk about chocolate!

And go visit The Bookish Dame who’s given Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion a great review today and is giving away a copy!

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