Hola, everybody! It´s been raining for days here in my little corner of Mexico, and I am seriously sick of it. It’s cold, and there’s a constant drizzle that just won’t let up. Ugh. The good news is that this is perfect weather for some comfort food. And I know just the thing to cheer me up- a cup of Mexican-style hot chocolate!
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I must confess I am a real chocolate lover. FYI, I specially prefer dark, bitter chocolate over the light, very sweet kind. If you are anything like me, you are not alone. Millions of people all over the planet share a passion for chocolate, which is perhaps Mexico’s greatest gift the world. What? You didn’t know that? Let’s sit down, have a cup, and I will tell you the story.
How To Make Mexican Chocolate
First, let’s make some hot chocolate! Pour four cups of milk and a tablespoon of vainilla into a saucepan, and warm it up on low heat. Watch it carefully, or it will spill all over the stove. Take it from me!
Now, grab a tablet of Mexican chocolate and drop it into the milk. I know, it looks like a hockey puck, and it’s also just as hard. But don’t worry! As incredible as it may sound, it will completely dissolve in the hot milk. If you want, you can smash it to pieces first, but you might need a hammer for that! It’s best to just throw it in there and let it melt.
I used two tablets because the more chocolate the better, right? I also made another version with almond milk for myself because I’m lactose intolerant. That’s something you didn’t know about me!
After a few minutes, gently stir the milk and to help dissolve the chocolate. Once it does, it’s time to make it frothy. You will need to use this strange looking thing.
This utensil is called a molinillo, and its only purpose is to make frothy, hot chocolate. Every Mexican housewife has one! Put it in the saucepan, hold it between your hands, and rub it rapidly to make it spin. Come on! Spin it faster! The milk won’t splash out of the saucepan, I swear.
Spin the thing until you accomplish two things- a great arm workout and frothy chocolate!
Finally, pour the drink into cups, sprinkle with cinnamon, sit back, and enjoy while I tell you the legend of chocolate.
The Legend Of Chocolate
Once upon a time, the god Quetzalcoatl came down from heaven and brought the light of knowledge to Mankind. He taught humans science, art, agriculture and architecture. With his help, humans prospered and grew wise, and Quetzalcoatl was so proud that he decided to give them another precious gift.
Quetzalcoatl went back up to heaven and secretly brought back with him a cacao tree that he planted in the fields next to the sacred city of Tula. The tree grew and gave fruit, and then Quetzalcoatl showed humans how to pick the fruit’s seeds and use them to make a divine drink reserved for the gods- xocolatl, or chocolate.
Chocolate made humans ever stronger and wiser. So much so, that eventually the other gods took notice. They became became furious when they realized that humans had been drinking chocolate and that Quetzalcoatl had given it to them. So, the gods devised a plan to punish him for sharing the secret of chocolate.
One day, Quetzalcoatl met a foreign trader, who was really one of the other gods in disguise. The fake trader offered him glasses of tlachihuitli, an alcoholic beverage, until Quetzalcoatl got so drunk he passed out. When he woke up, he realized he had gotten drunk and behaved so shamefully, that the cacao trees had withered and died.
Quetzalcoatl wept and decided to leave forever. He walked to the end of the earth, and before he vanished into the sea, he looked back and threw his last cacao seeds on the ground. Those seeds grew into new trees, and humans were able to keep drinking delicious chocolate for ever after.
The ancient Olmecs were the first to drink xocolatl, around 2000 B.C, and they passed down the recipe to the Maya and the Aztecs. Chocolate was made by roasting cacao seeds, grinding them, mixing them with other seeds, herbs, spices, and water. Then, the mixture was stirred to make it frothy and it was served cold. There was no sugar back then, so cacao beans were mixed with chili peppers. How does spicy chocolate sound?
However, only kings, priests, and the high class could drink xocolatl. Ordinary people mostly used cacao seeds as a remedy for several diseases or as currency.
Some historians claim that the Aztec emperor Moctezuma drank 50 cups of xocolatl a day from golden goblets. The drink was said to give enough energy for a soldier to walk a whole day without rest, and it was also considered an aphrodisiac. On a second thought, I think chocolate is still considered an aphrodisiac. Think Valentine’s Day!
When the Spanish conquistadores arrived and met emperor Moctezuma, they were given cups of frothy, spicy xocolatl. After the Spanish conquest, the conquistadores kept drinking xocolatl happily because it was an energy drink. And an aphrodisiac. Let’s not forget that.
For a few more years, chocolate remained spicy and not everyone liked it. Fortunately, a group of clever nuns in Oaxaca came up with the idea of mixing it with milk, sugar, vainilla, and cinnamon. That’s how the classic cup of hot cocoa was born. The recipe became so wildly popular that it caught on in Europe as well. Bless those nuns!
Chocolate became so popular in Spanish-ruled Mexico, that people drank it day and night. Aristocratic ladies even had their maids pour cups for them during church services. Nuns and monks drank cups of chocolate to keep themselves awake during early prayers, but then became so addicted to it that they no longer fasted according to Catholic rituals. You know, for some reason, I truly do not blame them.
This grew into such a scandal, that the bishop in the province of Chiapas decided to simply ban chocolate from churches. However, this enraged people so much, that many even stopped going to church! The bishop remained firm, but it seems he pushed his luck too far. It turns out someone poured poison into the bishop’s daily cup of frothy chocolate and he died soon after. Oh, the irony!
Now, we live in the 21st century, and you don’t have to meet an emperor or plot against a bishop to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. All you have to do is grab some milk and a tablet. Oh, and if your really want to enjoy it like we do here in Mexico, grab a concha, or pastry. This is what I call comfort food!
As you sip your cup, remember that Quetzalcoatl gave the gift of chocolate to the ancient people of Mexico, and then Mexico gave the gift of chocolate to rest of the world. You’re welcome!