"Chocolate" came into the English language via the Spanish word, chocolate (chuck-o-LAH-tay). (Click on the colored words in this paragraph to hear the native pronunciations.) The Spanish pronunciation of the word differs quite a bit from English, even though the two share the same spelling.As we travel back further into the history of the word, we discover that the Spanish in Spain got both the word and the actual product from the early Spanish explorers who visited what is now modern Mexico. The Spanish explorers, in turn, got the word from the indigenous Aztecs, who called it xocolatl (shuck-O-lahtl) in their native tongue, Nahuatl (NAH-wahtl), still spoken by several million Mexicans today. Xocolatl is a compound word composed of xocolli, meaning "bitter", and atl, meaning "water".
The Cacao Tree
While this Aztec derivation of our modern word "chocolate" certainly sounds plausible, some linguists beg to differ. They
believe that the first part of the compound word above, xoco-, came from chocol-, a special wooden stick used to prepare an unsweetened chocolate drink. To muddy the waters further, others believe that xoco- is actually a loanword from the Mayan language, where it means "hot," thus giving the compound word the meaning "hot water," rather than "bitter water." Both meanings make sense, since the drink was both hot and stirred with a wooden stick. And unsweetened chocolate, as you well know if you've ever tried to eat it, is very bitter.
So who's right? As you may already have surmised, we'll never know. Then again, perhaps someday the time travel of science fiction will become science fact, and we'll be able ask the 15th century Aztecs and Mayans in person. But I'm not holding my breath!At the beginning of our brief journey, I promised you some chocolate sustenance. Here are three of my own unpublished recipes that I enjoy making for family and friends:
xocolatl xocolatl xocolatl
|Larry's Chocolate Tea||Larry's Chocolate Cookies||Larry's Chocolate Turtles|
1 Bigelow Earl Grey tea bag
Brew tea for 5 minutes. Add honey, stirring well. Add chocolate chips and stir until chips are melted and fully blended (about 1 minute). Some chocolate dregs will accumulate at the bottom of your mug/cup as you drink. This will make for a wonderful, chocolaty conclusion to your chocolate tea experience.
1 cup butter (no substitutes)
Melt chocolate chips and set aside to cool. Cream butter, sugars, and cream cheese. Add eggs and beat until well blended. Add melted chocolate chips and flour and mix well. Fold in Cool Whip and mix until just blended. Drop teaspoonfuls of dough on greased cookie sheets. Top with chocolate chips. Bake at 350o for 5-7 minutes. Cool thoroughly before removing from sheet with spatula. Cookies should be thin, delicate, and light, with a crispy bottom. Do not stack cookies. Letting the cookies age several days makes them even tastier. Makes 4-5 dozen.
1 cup butter (no substitutes)
Melt butter in heavy 3-quart saucepan. Add brown sugar and salt, stirring until well-combined. Add corn syrup, mixing well. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly. Cook and stir over medium heat to firm ball stage (220o). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Add pecans and mix well. Place tablespoons of the mixture on well-greased cookie sheet (takes about 4 cookie sheets). Put in freezer until hard (about 30 min.). Melt chips and paraffin in double boiler, stirring to blend. Using tongs, dip frozen caramel-nut lumps into chocolate mixture until well-coated and return to cookie sheets. Allow to cool thoroughly before serving.
To View a photo of Citrus aurantium ssp. bergamia, click here
|Links to related DG articles|
Chocolate and Cocoa
Hot Chocolate? Hot Cocoa?
Yet to come:
Inspiration in the Chocolate Garden
The Chocolate Mimosa
Searching for Chocolate Daisy
Chocolate Lily Is a Wildflower Treat
A Chocolate Garden
*A further complication is the word 'Xocoatl,' which some sources use in place of 'Xocolatl.' Other sources ascribe to 'Xocoatl' the meaning "a beverage made from maize.'
© Larry Rettig 2009