The first freeze of the season hit us this morning in Abilene, Texas. The cold snap reminds me that winter is fast approaching. Those blue northerner winds that cut through you like ice shards, sweaters, fuzzy socks, and lots of snuggle time with loved ones. Like any season, there are things to look forward to with excitement and things we tend to dread. One thing that I enjoy about the cooler temperatures, however, is the excuse to drink hot beverages. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I love hot tea sweetened with honey or even better . . . hot chocolate.
Hot chocolate makes me think of the ski lodge at Tahoe where my family used to go for our annual ski trip at Christmas. It makes me think of my mom and me huddled on the couch watching movies. It makes me think of my daughter who inherited my sweet tooth. But it also makes me think of my first heroine, Hannah Richards, in A Tailor-Made Bride. She couldn’t start her morning without a cup of hot cocoa.
Hannah mastered her sewing skills while working under the tutelage of an established dressmaker in San Antonio, but before coming to Texas, she lived with her mother and younger sister in Dorchester, Massachusetts. To support her girls after her husband died, Mrs. Richards took a job in the Baker Chocolate Mill where she was rewarded for her diligent work with discounts on their products. So instead of coffee or tea, the Richards women drank cocoa.
Not knowing how available breakfast cocoa would be in Coventry, Hannah made sure to pack one of the large five pound canisters in her trunks. And upon arrival, her first order of business, beyond finding her shop and unloading her belongings, was to arrange for a daily delivery of milk. One couldn’t drink breakfast cocoa without milk.
To prepare her morning cocoa, Hannah would first need to boil 2 cups of water in a kettle. While the water heated, she would take a small pan and mix 1 ½ tablespoons of her Baker’s Breakfast Cocoa, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and a few grains of salt. Once the water boiled, she would add ½ cup to the cocoa mixture and stir until it formed a paste. Then she pours the rest of the boiling water into the pan and lets the mixture boil for one minute. In the meantime, she is also scalding 2 cups of milk in a second pan. When the mixture has boiled for a minute and the milk is ready, she turns the chocolate mixture into the scalded milk and beats it for two minutes with a hand-held egg beater. Not quite as convenient as the instant packets we have today, but something tells me it would taste much better Hannah’s way.