Friday, 19 April 2013

For G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936),

"Tea, although an Oriental,
Is a gentleman at least;
Cocoa is a cad and coward,
Cocoa is a vulgar beast"
   -- The Song of Right and Wrong


If I didn't know any better, I might be tempted wage war with G. K. Chesterton over these few lines. In addition to the egregious racism of the reference to tea (his were different times, but still...) I can't stomach the disdain for cocoa.

Who could be bitter about something so sweet?
I mean, come on. Cocoa is a vulgar beast? Chesterton, did you never try chocolate cake? Wait a minute... something doesn't add up. G. K. Chesterton was a corpulent man. Once during the war, when someone asked him why he wasn't out at the front, he was rumoured to have replied "if you go round to the side, you'll see that I am." Surely a man of such generous dimensions wasn't shy of a little powdered chocolate.

As a matter of fact, his tirade of insults towards humble cocoa had little to do with his tastebuds. When he published his disparaging little ditty in 1913, Chesterton was employed as a writer for the Daily News. The Daily News was owned by famed chocolate magnate George Cadbury. George Cadbury was a prominent supporter of the sitting Liberal government. Senior Liberal party members were embroiled in an insider trading scandal. Chesterton was involved in exposing the scandal. In this rather tense state of affairs, Chesterton considered it distasteful to keep writing for a Cadbury (Liberal) paper when his own political leanings were so far opposed to that of his employer.

So, making his contribution to the proud history of resignation letters which give a subtle, creative middle finger to the boss, Chesterton 'resigned' by printing his anti-cocoa ditty in another publication. Nothing personal, cocoa. (Except that Chesterton supposedly didn't like the taste of it any more than he did the politics. Nutjob.)

But enough. A hundreed years have passed since then. Chocolate and politics still mix - mostly in my mouth when I chomp on fair-trade-no-palm-oil slabs of the stuff - but surely we can enjoy a hot mug of cocoa without thinking about insider trading. Especially now that the weather in the Southern Hemisphere is packing in, and the storm clouds are rolling by, sending cold sheets of less-interesting beverages pounding onto my head.

Love you too, Auckland.
Right, so it's decided. Cocoa is on the menu. But to placate Mr. Chesterton, I shan't use that wimpy Cadbury powder. Instead, I'll use my trusty mulled wine recipe, but rather than using wine as the base, I'll use milk and chocolate melts. Then I'll add the nutmeg, cinnamon quills, orange zest, and other tasty bits that make mulled wine so... mully (in a non-X Files kinda way.)


Finally, I'll add a few flakes of dried chilli for warmth, and some salt to set the whole recipe into overdrive. See Chesterton? In 2013, cocoa is neither cad nor coward.

In this form, though, you might be right about the 'vulgar beast' bit. Mmmm, sweet vulgarity.



Mulled Hot Chocolate

Serves 2-3

Ingredients
1/2 C dark chocolate melts
2 C milk
2 cinnamon quills
Peel of 1/2 an orange, in large strips
Fresh nutmeg
Pinch chilli flakes
Pinch salt

Method

Warm the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chocolate melts and orange peel. Grate in some fresh nutmeg to taste (I use about 1/4 tsp.) Grate a little off the end of one of the cinnamon quills, and drop both quills plus the gratings into the saucepan. Add a tiny pinch of chilli flakes - about 3 flakes. This is just enough to ensure warmth, without making the finished product taste like chillies. Add the salt and stir with a wooden spoon.

Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate has melted and the flavours have mingled, about 10 minutes. Before serving, strain the mixture through a fine sieve to remove any large flavourings. Serve in small shots as this is very rich. (Then have seconds because it's delicious.)
 

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