The Original Chocolate Drink: Why You Should Skip The Milk
Make some “Chocolate Caliente” the way that the original inventors of this beverage enjoyed it, with absolutely no lactose. There were no cows roaming about in the Aztec and Mayan empires of Mesoamerica, where chocolate has its origins and was first enjoyed.
The earliest use of cacao beans has been found to be about 3,500 to 4,000 years ago in the coastal plains of the Mexican state of Chiapas and Guatemala. The word cacao is derived from cacahoatl or cacahuatl, meaning bitter juice in the Nahuatl language that is spoken in that region, southern Mexico and Central America.
Our English word, chocolate, comes from xocoatl the name of the hot beverage made with the cacao seeds. Christopher Columbus returned to Spain in 1528 with a shipload of xocoatl and by 1615 it made its way to France, and everywhere in Europe thereafter. Every language has modified the original word so that in Catalunia the name is xocolata; in France: chocolat, English: chocolate; Swiss: choklad; and Polish: czeskolada.
Our American ancestors in Chiapas first roasted the seeds, then mashed them and cooked them in water to remove the fat (what we call white chocolate). They then sometimes added honey and flavorings like vanilla and even chiles.
This original Nahuatl drink, “xocoatl,” is superb as an after dinner dessert. It’s an effective stimulant and rich in antioxidants. When I serve it, my guests are at first chary about milk-free chocolate. But once they taste it, it’s a revelation.
Today the most convenient thing to do is to buy one of the commercial brands of Mexican chocolate that are sold in tablets or round wafers in most stores. Among the brands are “La Abuelita,” “Ibarra,” “Popular,” and others. My brothers and sisters have fierce taste preferences, to the point where they won’t even consider ever tasting brands that in their culinary judgment are inferior to their favorite.
Make this holiday drink and celebrate our American heritage. I hope you’ll agree that there’s no need for cows this time.
Recipe (serves 4) Excerpted from the book, Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage, available online.
6 cups water
6 ounces Mexican chocolate (2 round tablets)
1. In a saucepan or clay pot, bring the water to a boil.
2. Add the chocolate and simmer for 5 minutes to develop the flavors. There will be a nice broth.
Before serving, if you have time, you can whisk the chocolate and make more tantalizing froth.