Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Yet More on Mocha.

I think we need something a little soothing after the traumatic topic of yesterday’s post, and where else would we go than to chocolate?

We had a little fun some months ago with the history of the chocolate-coffee combination known as ‘mocha.’ The original post is here, if you want to re-read it, and story of the patent granted in 1867 for this for this ‘Improved Edible Composition’ (which turned out to be a mocha mix) is here. I have turned up some new-old information on mocha which I want to share with you today.

It seems that although a patent for it was granted in 1867, the mocha concept was not new. Our old friend, the Victorian celebrity chef Alexis Soyer, had tasted it, and had quite a few theories as to its origins. He explains it in one of the letters to the fictional ‘Eloise’ which are included in his book The Modern Housewife (1851)

Letter XXV

Here, dear Eloise, is an entirely new aliment, which has never yet been introduced to this country. A semi-epicure of our acquaintance, on returning from his visit to the National Guard of France, presented me with a pound of it, which he purchased in Paris; but even there, said he, it is almost in its infancy: you may fancy, if I were not anxious of making an immediate trial of it; but before I give you the receipt how to use it, let me tell you I have found it most delicious. Mr. B. has not yet tasted it, being for a week in the country, but I am confident he will like it, especially for breakfast: but the puzzle is, after my pound is used, how we are to get more? Time, I suppose, will teach us. It appears that we are indebted for it to a celebrated French gentleman, M. le Docteur Lamolte, the inventor of the electric light, who ingeniously, though oddly, named it Cho-ca, being a scientific composition of chocolate and café, the alliance of which balancing admirably their excellence and virtue, and partly correcting their evils, the first being rather irritable, the second heavy. But I think, if my recollection serves me rightly, the idea of this compound must have originated from that great French philosopher, M. de Voltaire, who constantly, for his breakfast, partook of half cafe-au-lait and half chocolate, which were served at the same time in separate vessels in a boiling state, and poured from each slowly, about eighteen inches in elevation from his cup, which, he said, made it extremely light and digestible.

Years after, that still more extraordinary man, Napoleon Bonaparte, became so partial to it, that he made a constant use of it, and it has often been remarked by those who surrounded his person, that after the great excitement and fatigue of a battle, he has often partaken of two or three cups, which seemed to restore all the strength and energy which used to characterise that great man; on ordinary occasions one cup would suffice him, but served more à la militaire, not being poured so scientifically as did the Fernaise philosopher.

The approval of this mixed beverage by two such eminent characters speaks volumes in favour of the Cho-ca, which ought to be immediately introduced in England. It will also, no doubt, interest you to learn that the first cup of coffee ever introduced in Europe was made and presented to Louis XIV., at his magnificent palace of Versailles, by the Ambassador from the Sublime Porte in the year 1664, when the noble potentate, whose palate was as delicate as he was himself great, pronounced it excellent; and immediately perceived the immense advantage it would be to introduce such a delicacy into France as food, which a short time after took place, and was very successfully received there; also the chocolate, which is made from cacao, was first introduced to the Cardinal Mazarin, who having partook of the first cup like Louis XIV did of the coffee, and not a worse judge than his illustrious master, remunerated with a handsome reward its inventor. It is much to be regretted that such interesting and useful subjects have never yet attracted the attention of our great Painters, instead of continually tracing on innumerable yards of canvass the horrors of war, the destruction of a fleet by fire and water, the plague, the storm, the earthquake, or an eruption and destruction of a city by an avalanche or an inundation; if we cannot do without those painful historical reminiscences, why not add to those mournful collections a group of Louis XIV and his court of Versailles, where he, magnificently dressed, was receiving from the hands of the said Pacha, not a cup of coffee, but a branch of that plant covered with its precious berries; and why not also, as a pendant, Mazarin surrounded by his satellites, taking the first cup of chocolate; or the characteristic Voltaire pouring a cup of Cho-ca to Frederic the Great in his tent on the field of Potsdam? These subjects seem to have been entirely neglected in being immortalised on canvass - why? because they have never done harm or evil to any one; but, on the contrary, have, are, and ever will prove to be, among the greatest boons ever conferred upon humanity: it would also engrave in our minds, as well as in our history, to what mortals we are indebted for the importation and introduction of such important productions, which daily constitute a part of our comforts, and have conferred an everlasting benefit on mankind; but, as usual, dear Eloise, you will no doubt reproach me for having so much enthusiasm; however, as on this subject you have been tolerably quiet lately, I not only here inclose you the receipt, but also two of the thin round cakes of this new aliment, the Cho-ca, which will produce two cups by making it as follows:—

CHO-CA. -  Scrape or grate it; put a pint of milk in a stewpan or chocolate pot, and place it on the fire, with two ounces of sugar; boil it, put the Cho-ca in it, and stir it well for two minutes, and serve.

As the recipe for the day – for we can hardly count the instructions above on the use of the Cho-ca tablet, I give you Soyer’s method for making chocolate (the beverage) in the Italian manner.

Chocolate Made in the Italian Manner.
Procure a regular chocolate-pot with a muller, the handle of which comes through the lid; one might be procured at any brazier’s; put in two ounces of chocolate (scraped), over which by degrees pour a pint of boiling milk, put on the lid with the muller inside, which keep well moving, setting the pot on the fire, and when very hot and frothy, serve.


fortywinks said...

Ooo! I can't believe I haven't come across your blog before - I'm very excited to explore the archives, and I'm looking forward to new posts! Traditional recipes are fascinating and (mostly) delicious!

The Old Foodie said...

Welcome aboard, fortywinks!