(Correction: Earlier listings had the day listed as December 12th. But with my fake history, unfortunately I found out I added fake news. It turns out some food holidays change like Father’s Day. I thought I had researched enough, but I messed up this year. Every year the day can be different for Cocoa. So for the year 2017 the day happens to be December 13th. But don’t feel bad. Just feel good you got your celebrating on a little early.)
I don’t know whether there is something about the month of December or not, but it seems there are lot of drink holidays out there. From Eggnog month to national Lager day, December finished off everything with some good drinking. Now, you do not have to add any alcohol to any of these beverages of course. But whatever you decide to do, you should enjoy this December by getting a nice drink. So you can imagine when the Guide decided to cover its second food holiday of the month, my eyes would be out for a drink which tasted delicious and went down smooth. So it should go as no surprise when you hear that the Guide decided to celebrate National Cocoa Day, December 13th.
Everyone at some point can imagine sitting out in the cold by a fire, drinking a class of nice, hot cocoa. Without a doubt the beverage of choice for most people on a cold, cold night would be hot cocoa, or hot chocolate. Of course, you are now thinking this is a distinction without a difference. Logically, a difference exists, but I will get to that a bit later.
As for me, my experience with cocoa goes back to my mother’s discovery that I had an allergy to chocolate. So when I was growing up, all my mother would bring home was a huge can of carob powder. And I would get to drink a mixture of carob powder and milk. As you can imagine, this hardly excited me the way others seemed to be excited about hot chocolate. It was just the closest thing to it I was allowed to drink. I cannot say that I hated the drink, but I knew that something was missing.
So the first time I had the chance to drink hot cocoa I had to escape my home and head off into the wildnerness. And by wildnerness I mean Big Bear, California. There I was, in the middle of the mountianous wilds of Southern California (And yes we do have those here despite popular opinion), spending some time with complete strangers, singing songs and making up dances. Sounds perfectly safe, right? Then, in the cold of the night, amidst the amber and scarlet of a toasty fire, they offer me a strange brew concocted from water and a brown powder. They followed this up by dipping marshmallows in it. (I guessed they were trying to hide the bad flavor.)
I stood there trepidatiously holding this dark and frothy brew, bringing it up to my nose to take a smell of the darkened water. It was as if I was a drug sniffing dog, searching out some illegal substance. With each progressive smell I cannot say whether I was intoxicated by the strange brew, or whether the cold of the night convinced me any warm drink would do. So I took the first sip into my mouth as if i had been given a precious gift I had to hide from the world and could only do so by taking it into my mouth.
One sip and I knew I was in heaven. Between the luscious chocolate drink pouring into my mouth and warming my whole body to frothy sugary goodness of the marshmallows mixed in with the chocolate and I had been transported to another dimension. Why had my mother kept me away from this delicious drink all this time? Oh yeah. I was allergic to chocolate or something like that. Eventually, I would be able to drink hot chocolate on a more regular basis as my allergies would subside. But at the time they were significant enough that if I had decided I wanted a second cup I would end up with allergies and a massive sinus infection. My mother was right to keep me away.
But today, the allergies from the past have subsided and any day of the week and twice on Sundays I can savor the smooth liquidy refreshment known as cocoa. And as it’s getting colder, I might just have to enjoy that second cup as well. What about you?
With all food holidays, the Guide make sure that we do not leave you hanging as to the historical nature of the food we celebrate. Or maybe we just enjoy creating these fake food histories to change the nature of reality. Who knows? In either way, the Guide makes sure to do our level best to make sure our readers are in the know when it comes to the nature of their favorite foods. To do this right, we know we have to be scavengers for information in the dark reaches of the deep web. Ingloriously we deliver to you all of the information, straight from the horses mouth. (Just not Mr. Ed’s mouth as he was only a fake talking horse. Nothing like the real talking horses we know about.)
With this in mind, the Single Dad’s Guide to Life present to you the fake history of cocoa.
The Fake History Of Cocoa
Once upon a time, a long long time ago, in the land of Mexico, there existed a silly Mayan priest name Caca O. This was in the time before Indiana Jones was seeking out his temple. Before Ponce De Leon sought out his fountain. And even before Cortez went face to face with Montezuma and Montezuma ended up getting his revenge. Caca O worked in the temple near the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Every morning he would go inland, into the jungles of Mexico, to get water for the other priests.
He needed to bring a machete with him to cut through the bushes of the jungle and into where the well was. It took a half a day in and a half a day back walking to and from the well. The previous year there had been large amounts of rain falling in the region and there was some extreme plant life growing over the usual trail into here the well had been dug. So after hours an hours of heading in the direction he expected to get there he decided he would take a trip around the bushes and into the trees with the great big seeds. This was not the usual way he went. But as he had taken so much time already, he hoped this would be a shortcut.
Straight through the trees with seeds he cut down one after another as he made his way through the deep forest and deeper into the woods. The seeds split open as they fell to the ground, spraying brown beans everywhere. Many of landed in his bucket. Hour after hour he trudged till he finally made this way through to the center of the jungle to where the well was located. He reached there utterly exhausted, and in a terrible hurry. He did not want to remain in the jungle after dark. So he quickly filled the bucket and ran back through the forest to his village on the coast as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately for Caca O, he wasn’t paying attention to the color of the water as it filled the bucket up. As the day was hot and sticky, many of the brown colored beans stuck to the bottom of his bucket. So the color of the liquid was a pronounced brown. But he did not notice this until he had made it all the way back to the village. When he arrived with the brown colored the water, the other priests began to mock him and took to calling the brown water cacao as a term of derision. They all refused to touch it.
But Caca O was a silly man, and decided to keep the brown colored water as a symbol of what happened to him. He would use it as a reminder to always pay attention to what happened in the bucket. As the months went by, Caca O began to think about this brown water he had poured into jars. He had gone back to the jungle to get more water many times, avoiding the plants with the brown beans. Slowly but surely, the aroma of this brown flavored water filled the room.
Caca O put his nose up to the water and a panoply of rich and inviting smells called out to him. He took a sip of the water, leaving it up to his gods about whether he would be killed. Instead of dying, his taste buds began to sing. He loved the flavor. But he knew his people would not trust him to drink the brown colored liquid. So he added chili’s and other spices to the cold brown liquid. He called it Caca O’s miracle elixir. It was an instant hit.
Before you knew it, villagers from towns near and far began to drink from this strange concoction created from cacao seeds. (Of course Cacao took to naming the plants after himself.) And everyone forgot about the brown water Caca O created from his trek into the jungle. Even Caca O forgot. Instead it became a spiritual journey inspired by the gods to bring this village wealth and prosperity. These cacao beans would eventually be renamed cocoa by the Europeans who seemed to think these beans sounded too much like a bodily function for their taste. So they renamed them something more palatable.
Of course, chocolate, hot cocoa, and many other marvelous things came out from these amazing and versatile seeds. I cannot imagine a world without cocoa in it. But should never forget how it all started with a strange colored concoction made by a silly little priest, who couldn’t remember to clean out the bottom of his bucket.
Recipe For Hot Cocoa
The Guide, as always, cannot give you the food history, without giving you some way to celebrate the food either by finding local establishments to best take advantage of the food, or by providing our favorite recipes for the drink or dish. The issue here with picking places to go to was that we didn’t believe a particular establishment made hot cocoa better than any other place. Of course, finding places to give you all you can drink hot cocoa might be fun. But when Doctors Against Diabetes showed up at our door, we thought finding our favorite recipe might be safer.
Unfortunately, trying to find a great recipe for hot cocoa, you enter the great chocolate vs. cocoa debate. Because to be honest, hot cocoa is actually a powder mixed with a liquid. And hot chocolate uses actual chocolate mixed with hot water to make the beverage. Take a look here for a debate about the two. So I wanted to make sure I found an actual hot cocoa recipe. Which meant somehow I had to avoid hot chocolate.
After trying many different recipes and mixes, even some which could be sacrilegiously called hot chocolate, I settled on Creamy Hot Cocoa from Jeanie Bean in All Recipes. Nothing beats the creamy richness or sweetness of this recipe.
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup white sugar
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup boiling water
3 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup half-and-half cream
Combine the cocoa, sugar and pinch of salt in a saucepan.
Blend in the boiling water.
Bring this mixture to an easy boil while you stir.
Simmer and stir for about 2 minutes. Watch that it doesn’t scorch.
Stir in 3 1/2 cups of milk and heat until very hot, but do not boil!
Remove from heat and add vanilla.
Divide between 4 mugs.
Add the cream to the mugs of cocoa to cool it to drinking temperature.
Continue The Conversation
So what did you think of the history of cocoa? What was your favorite part? How are you going to celebrate National Cocoa Day? And explain to me why “Swiss Chocolate” somehow is world renowned when it’s not even native to it’s region. OK, maybe you can’t. But I would love to know. What is your favorite form of Cocoa, and what is your story? I would love to hear from you.
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Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life