Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Evolutions Of Hot Chocolate

I love a cup of steaming hot chocolate almost any day or any season, as it has been with me through thick and thin.

When I was little, I had a sweet tooth but not much sweets around my house, as food was still rationed by that time in China.  My older cousin Kelli invented this drink by putting two tablespoons of cane sugar into a glass of hot water.  It was hot and sweet, the closest thing to hot chocolate I ever had growing up and I treasured the moments I spent sipping it slowly to make the sweetness last as long as possible.

I first learned about "the real thing" from Larry, my university friend here in California.  I was curious to see what it looked like when he tore open the bag containing the powder, and I thought it resembled a couple of tablespoons of sugar but only darker.   As he stirred hot water into the mixture, I was attacked by the sweet aroma that instantly filled the kitchen.  I curve my hands around the cup and held it close,  able to contain neither the constantly rising steam nor the marshmallows swirling in miniature chocolate rapids. It tastes like melted sugar but is more complicated than my childhood standby.  I fell in love with the drink at that first burning sip.  Since then it had comforted and picked me up on many a cold and gray or down and blue days long after Larry and I had lost touch after the university days. 

A few years later as a customer ambassador I went to Paris for a work assignment.  It was a November day when wind had swallowed Paris and spit it out as distorted and tortured pieces.  Trees bowed deeply to the invisible yet powerful force that was whipping their branches about, pedestrians dove into nearby cafes hidden behind plastic wind barriers or glass windows.   I followed suit and found myself in a cafe across the Louvre ready to be fortified by a steamy cup of hot chocolate before the day's windy journeys.

I was surprised to find the drink served me to have none of the powdery sweet aroma nor swirling mini marshmallows.  Rather it looked literally like a cup of melted chocolate, so thick it threatens to congeal.  Besides the generous sized cup is several squares of dark chocolate,  sugar cubs, a pitcher of steamed milk,  and a tiny hand whisk.  I took a tentative sip of the drink, it was warm but not burning.  It was sweet but not overwhelming so I could taste the tangy, rich, slightly bitter signature of coco and detect a hint of spice.  I could even feel the smooth softness of the milk taming and combing through everything, not so much diluting but bringing it all together.

It was so elegant and sophisticated that I could hardly recognize it.  I could not decide between feeling elated at the new discovery, indignant at the transfiguration, or rural for my love of the humble American powder.  Yet I suddenly remembered that old childhood drink of sugared hot water, of how it had carried me through many belly aching days, when there never was enough food to sustain my growing hunger and it the only reliable cheer and comfort, food wise. 

I made two more cups of the delicious french drink out of the excess provided, enjoying it to the last drop and feeling strengthened against even the harsh howling wind outside.   Foreign as it seemed, it came through for me just the same.  I have since then discovered many varieties of hot chocolate drinks and welcomed them all into my life.  I guess sometimes old favorites can put on new costumes or masks that surprise, confuse or test us.  But humble or elegant, the unchanging familiarity of this old friend's warm sweet comfort lies just beneath any fancy disguise; and it is never just beyond my reach, for which I am so glad.

16 comments:

  1. Real hot chocolate is the BEST. I've only had it a couple times, and I always like I've gained 10 pounds after I've finished it, but man is it worth it!

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  3. I've never had real hot chocolate before, but you make it sound amazing.

    I absolutely love your style of writing. It appeals to the senses and has the perfect balance of description. Some people go detail crazy and I tend to get lost in what they are really saying. Not with your writing though ^_^

    Have you ever tried dirty girl scouts? It's hot chocolate with a dash of peppermint liqueur. I don't like alcohol and these are delicious because all it adds is peppermint. Mmmm


    *Trisha*

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  4. Lovely, really beautifully written. You took me on a wonderful journey of discovering a hot chocolate and I loved it.

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  5. If only my words flowed like yours... beautiful!!

    I've never had REAL hot chocolate before, just the fake box junk I guess. Seems I am missing out...

    Be blessed!!

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  6. Loved this post! You took us on a mental journey.

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  7. Lovely descriptive post. I love hot chocolate to! Especially in the winter. The French version of it sounds awesome! Your writing is very nice to read:) Thankyou for visiting my blog. Happy New Year!

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  8. Ohmigooooooooood! That was heart-warmingly beautiful. I've had hot chocolate very few times in life...but yes, I always go to chocolate for comfort...and now I've discovered a new form of it that you've brought into such comforting light. The French version sounds deliciously sinful they way you've written. LOVE your writing!

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  9. Great post! I've never been much for chocolate. I love love love white chocolate. So thats what I get "White Hot Chocolate". Though you make me want to try the traditional again :)

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  10. The way you described hot chocolate.. its simply yummy and regal! I can feel its rich taste melting in my mouth.
    I love it!

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  11. Meredith - it is so worth it isn't it?

    Trisha - I'm glad the level of details worked here, a lot from the first draft were edited out. "Dirty girl scouts" sounds delicious!

    Starlight - It's a sweet journey and I am glad you enjoyed it.

    No matter how... - Thanks you that's a great compliment. I do love the box version too.

    Barbra - thank you!

    ALittleSprite - Thank you and Happy New year.

    The Mad Fat Girl - Welcome and thanks for your high praise. Yes try out the French version if you can, so yum.

    Ms. Ryterski - White hot chocolate! I love how I've just discovered another form of my old friend through blogging. Thank you.

    runawaybride - To make the reader taste and feel, wow, that's the ultimate compliment. Thank you so much.

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  12. Love your description. I just had some hot chocolate earlier. Just the little powder in a bag kind, but it was delicious!

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  13. i'm craving for some hot choco drink right now!lol when i was a young girl, i'd prefer dark brown chocolate over white boring milk. i had childhood chocolate stories too and reading this post makes me relive them. i can almost smell the fresh aroma of cocoa. and that bitter sweet heavenly taste.. yea i'm drooling!lol

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  14. Christine - I had a feeling you are a "drinker". I agree!

    Maria - It is not health to let chocolate cravings go unanswered. Must go have some... I'm curious to hear your story now, a new post?

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  15. Real hot chocolate is like having a party in your mouth. :)

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  16. Beautifully laid out piece. And I'll take Parisian hot chocolate, or any other French chocolates, over all the others, any day.

    Now to make it myself... that's quite another matter! ;)

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