Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

On a Cold Winter’s Day, it’s time for Hot Chocolate, Hot Cocoa – anything to keep warm and cozy… WHILE GOING STIR CRAZY!

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, January 14, 2011

For the past hour or two, I have found myself relaxing as I’ve not relaxed in several days.

Here, in the Southeast, we’ve been inundated with wintry weather. Specifically, on the night of the 10th of January, parts of the South received up to a foot (12″) of powdery snow. As a matter of fact, it was recently reported that 49 of our 50 states had snow somewhere in them. That solitary exception… what state was it? Florida, of course! Even Hawaii has snow capped peaks.

Not being familiar with snow, any forecast of snow in the South generates great skepticism, and continues to be a source of great derision and sarcastic mockery among many, because not only do so many people NOT know how to drive in/on it, but grocery stores throughout the entire town have the greatest run on bread and milk of the entire year- one that genuinely defies logic. (It’s humorously alleged that weathermen secretly have interests in bread and milk sales, and thus forecast for their advantage.) Stores have been known to be almost completely emptied of ALL milk and bread when such forecasts are given. And in this instance, it was quite true. Shelves of grocery stores throughout town were quite literally sold out of every crumb and morsel of bread and entire stocks of milk were emptied.

Schools and many businesses have, for the past week, been closed. It’s not as much that snow itself has incapacitated the town, for on the second day, in many areas, salt trucks and road crews were out en masse clearing major roadways. And warming daytime temperatures helped a wee bit too, melting snow. However, overnight, temperatures dropped below freezing, and what snow that had melted, became ice, thus further wreaking havoc on an already treacherous situation. Especially problematic is travel on secondary and rural roads, and navigating inclined driveways.

On the first day, ecstatic children and families have a relaxing extra day of leisure, photograph and play in the freshly fallen snow, make snowmen, snow angels, snow ice cream, snow forts, throw snowballs, play with pets romping in snow, throw a few extra logs on the fire and snuggle in with a few extra movies, popcorn, make soup, cookies, and comfort food of all varities… all while wrapped warmly in their Snuggies®.

However, after about day four, with no real responsibilities or demands upon their time, housewives, homemakers, children young and old, and even men all seem to begin report varying degrees of “cabin fever” – the inevitable psycho-creep that seems to emerge upon humans whom are confined to enclosed spaces… including the house. Fortunately, no genuinely serious cases of “stir crazy” have been reported.

Now… we’ve covered some background, so let’s move on.

Chocolate!

Oh boy! Who doesn‘t like chocolate!?!

The recipe I’m about to share is one I developed after reading some about the history of cacao – the bean of the plant from which chocolate is derived. Interestingly, similarly to the fruit of the olive tree, the cacao bean must undergo special preparation in order to yield its special delight. Like the olive which must be soaked in lye in order to be palatable – the olive is edible, though horrible tasting – and whole kernel corn which is soaked in lye to produce hominy, the cacao bean must undergo a unique transformation before it is useful.

More specifically, like wine, bread, whiskey, beer or cheese, it must first be fermented to yield its delicious flavor.

And so, don’t you ever wonder? Exactly how did humanity come up with the idea to do such strange things to food?

Culinary anthropology – yes, there is such a science – attempts to provide those answers for us. It is the study of humanity that researches the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs  and beliefs of humankind, particularly as it relates to the various aspects of food, including preparation and presentation, consumption, storage and distribution, and more.

The cacao plant is a tropical native plant indigenous to South and Central America near the equator. Anthropologists tell us that the Aztec and Mayan people probably consumed chocolate, and like us, considered it a highly desirable food item, elevating it to high social status, considered sometimes as currency, and perhaps even revered it as sacred.

There is a great history associated with chocolate, and among the most fascinating is learning how chocolate was prepared, and what ingredients were used in its preparation. Some ingredients many would not consider using in chocolate today were cinnamon and chili pepper.

Even in modernity, chocolate continues to fascinate us and captivate our attention, and was a central subject of the 2000 motion picture “Chocolat” starring Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench and Alfred Molina, which provided a unique story line around chocolate production in a small French village.

Nevertheless…

Back to our recipe.

Boil water – about a quart and a-half. Add a pinch of salt (because it increases the boiling temperature of water).

Add 1/4 cup of sugar to the boiling water. Stir until dissolved.

Lower burner temperature to low.

Add cinnamon – approximately 1 teaspoon, or to taste.

Add chili pepper – approximately 1/2 teaspoon, or to taste.

Add ginger – approximately 1/2 teaspoon, or to taste. (Ginger has an “additive effect” and increases the peppery “bite” of cinnamon and chili.)

Add powdered chocolate – approximately 3 tablespoons.

Stir until dissolved.

Now, because I’m partial to moo juice (aka “milk”), I add powdered milk, just  enough to provide some balance and flavor – approximately 1/2 – 3/4 cup.

Stir.

Because the solids are not suspended well, they will eventually accumulate on the bottom of the pan. Stirring the pan will assist in their distribution throughout.

And please, please, PLEASE! For GOODNESS SAKE – DO NOT ADD those horribly atrocious white pieces of garbage, otherwise known as “marshmallows.” Oh, dear God! Please DO NOT! DO NOT! DO NOT!

Now, pour a cup – yes, it will be different from what you’re accustomed to – but keep an open mind, open palate, and feel free to experiment with your own unique blends and balances of ingredients.

Bon apetit!

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