Those of us who grew up in the 1970s know that it was not an era of of high taste — be it in food, fashion, or home decor. The latter brought us avocado green appliances and brown and orange plaid sofas. As far as “fashion” went, there were bell bottoms. Case closed.
And for “food,” we entered the era of boxes and pouches with a vengeance. My mother’s favorite product to attack was the box that promised dinner in no time — all she had to add was the hamburger or chicken. “So inside this box is basically a little pouch of noodles?” she demanded. As years went by and grocery shelf space for these products increased, she’d give a little sniff of approbation every time she walked through that aisle.
“People are losing their commonsense,” she observed.
(That’s for sure — and not only in their unwillingness to cook. As a Christian, I throw my hands up in the same frustration my mother did over a small bag of noodles in a box, when I see the packaged products of the pews that too many Christians accept as a substitute for the real thing. You can find my observations on this in my BeliefNet column, Commonsense Christianity.)
Back to things in boxes, bags, and pouches. The 1970s, too, was the time we began to fall in love with instant hot chocolate — which is basically a mixture of a little cocoa, some dry milk powder, lots of sugar, and the usual list of unpronounceable ingredients one finds in packaged food. The few times it was allowed into my childhood home — not through the instrumentation of my mother, I assure you — I was fascinated by how fast it was. I don’t believe I noticed the flavor, which isn’t surprising since there pretty much isn’t any flavor. It’s just sweet.
Years later, instant cocoa is considered the norm, and a generation of children is growing up without any idea of what the real thing can taste like. Worse, when they do taste the real thing, they reject it because its primary flavor is not sweet, it’s . . . chocolate. But you’re a grown-up, with tastes that can go beyond sweet, and I encourage you to make the real thing — which uses four ingredients and takes 10 – 15 minutes — and shake up those taste buds.
That’s what good food does, you know — shakes up our taste buds, intrigues our brain, demands our attention.
Let’s make hot chocolate — the real stuff:
Hot Chocolate — makes 6 cups
6 cups milk
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I buy organic, fair trade cocoa in a 5 pound bag through Azure Standard, but you can get the usual stuff in the 8-ounce brown container in your grocery baking aisle)
1/4 cup sugar (my favorite: Wholesome Sweeteners organic fair trade)
1 Tablespoon real vanilla
In a 3-quart saucepan or larger, start warming the milk over medium heat. As it’s warming, add the cocoa and sugar and whisk them into the milk with a whisk; if you don’t have a whisk, use a spoon — it’s just a bit more difficult.
Now it’s going to look lumpy and disheveled at first; the cocoa powder does not mix in smoothly instantly (which is why people were fascinated by the little pouches, perhaps). Just keep whisking over the next 10 – 15 minutes as the milk mixture warms up, and eventually, the cocoa powder will give a little sigh and dissolve into the warmed liquid.
Keep whisking and warming until the cocoa is as hot as you want it. Sometimes, a little “skin” develops on the top; this is normal and the skin is actually edible, but if it grosses you out, toss it out.
When the cocoa is as hot as you want it, pull it off the burner and stir in the vanilla. Pour into cups and serve.
This particular recipe makes an extremely chocolate flavored beverage, mildly sweet. Feel free to add more sugar, but give it a try, first, with less, and shake up those taste buds.
By the way, hot chocolate would pair well at breakfast with Pancakes, another simple, good food that doesn’t require a mix to make.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I talk about simple food and recipes on Tuesdays.
Those of you who read me know that one of my favorite mantras is this: if you want to save money, one of the first and easiest steps you can make is to learn to cook for yourself.
Another thing you can do is look at my book, Live Happily on Less. Living on less, whether we like it or not, is a lifestyle being imposed upon us by financial and political powers who think that they are greater than they are. The first step is to not allow people to control and dictate our lives — so we stand up, speak up, and speak out. The second step is to learn to stop being so profligate with what money we do have: the more control we have over our own lives, and our finances, the less control others can exert over us.
I bet you never thought that cooking could be such a political subject. But it is — anything that empowers us and promotes our individuality, protects us.