Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Second Day of Christmas.

December 27 …

“On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me … two turtle doves …”

There seems to be something very Un-PC about the idea of eating turtle doves, even if they are glorified pigeons – which are certainly very OK to eat. Apart from Mrs. Chiang-Kai Shek, who attributed her good health to the regular eating of a restorative soup made from white doves, I can find hardly a reference to them appearing on the table. Perhaps we are reluctant to eat them because we have appropriated the species to our coo-ing love-bird selves?

Turtle doves coo over ….. bird seed I suppose? Human turtle doves gift each other … chocolate! Chocolate may well be the most coo-ed over food for all humans, lovers or not, so on this second day of Christmas we are going to have TWO chocolate tarts!

Chocolate, for most of its life, has been a beverage. It was introduced to Europe in the mid-sixteenth century by the Spaniards, who came across its use by the Aztecs (who had gotten it from the earlier Maya who got it from the even earlier Olmecs). It was a spicy drink back then – with vanilla and chilli and all sorts of other ingredients added, but was not sweet. It appears that it was the Spanish who added the sugar, and once that was done, its success in Europe was certain. It took several technological developments in the nineteenth century to make it the solid eatable confectionary that we know today.

In between chocolate as a bitter, spicy drink and chocolate as a sweet, smooth, biteable confection, chefs and cooks discovered its value as a cooking ingredient. It was usually partly processed into solid cakes of coarse “cocoa” which had to be grated or pounded up before use. The first I have been able to find are in François Massialot’s Le nouveau cuisinier royal et bourgeois, ou cuisinier moderne (first ed. 1691) there are two recipes in which chocolate is an ingredient: in a sauce for “sea-duck”, and in a sweet custard. (This recipe is given in an earlier story on chocolate history).

The earliest known written version of our theme song is from 1780, so I am going to give you a recipe from that year. It is a chocolate cream recipe from Susanna Kellet’s book A complete collection of cookery receipts, (consisting of near four hundred,) which have been taught upwards of fifty years…. With a little adaptation it would make a fine filling for those chocolate tart shells that I am sure you can whip up in a jiffy.

Chocolate Cream.
Scrape two ounces of chocolate in a pint of cream, set it on, and let it just come a boil; then mill it up, put in a little perfume, and steep it in rose water. Sweeten to your taste and put in a china dish, and lay froth upon it.

“On the second day of Christmas, my good friend sent to me
Two chocolate tarts
And a partridge in a pear tree.”

Tomorrow’s Story …

The Third Day of Christmas.

Quotation for the Day …

If I were a headmaster, I would get rid of the history teacher and get a chocolate teacher instead and my pupils would study a subject that affected all of them. Roald Dahl.


T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Chocolate is a fine replacement for the turtle doves! The chocolate cream reminds me of a chocolate granache preparation. By the way, the confusion over when the first day of Christmas starts is magnified by the fact that you are 12 hours ahead of me ...

Unknown said...

What do you think she means by "put in a little perfume"?

The Old Foodie said...

Hello nbm. I think she just means "flavoring of your choice" - eg vanilla or some such.
We can only guess of course.