Jean-Etienne Liotard, c. 1744
Chocolate was sold in the form of blocks, sticks, small rolls, or cakes wrapped in paper. These blocks or sticks were ground to powder and added to the chocolate pot with hot water. The moussoir or molinet was used to froth the chocolate which sometimes had spices added to it such as anise seed, pepper, ambergris, and cinnamon. Elizabeth Raffald, an English businesswoman and author, wrote in her book The Experienced English Housekeeper in 1769 on how to make hot chocolate, "Scrape four ounces of chocolate and pour a quart of boiling water upon it, mill it well with a chocolate mill, and sweeten it to your taste, give it a boil and let it stand all night, then mill it again very well, boil it two minutes, then mill it till it will leave a froth upon the top of your cups."
Chocolate was not just commended for its ability to satisfy one’s sweet tooth but also was seen as good for one’s health. People drank chocolate as a medicine, known as a “confection.” An English physician stated in 1662 that made up chocolate blends that could be taken as medicine and one ounce of chocolate had more fat and nourishment than a pound of meat. Another physician from Holland, Amsterdam wrote, “Chocolate is not only pleasant of taste but is also veritable balm of the mouth, for the maintaining of the glands and humors in a good state of health. Thus it is, that all who drink it, possess a sweet breath.” In fact, it was a physician who began the giant chocolate industry of the United States. It was Dr. James Baker of Dorchester, Massachusetts joined with chocolate maker John Hannon of Ireland in 1765 and sold chocolate. Dr. Baker put up money to rent space in a gristmill where Hannon ground cocoa beans using water power. A customer could buy their chocolate with cash or the factory would make it out of the customer’s cocoa beans.
However, not everyone could afford chocolate. One historian agrees, “Chocolate, always expensive, was taken at breakfast by fashionable society.” The Chocolate Girl was done by Swiss artist Jean Etienne Liotard who had a chambermaid bring his morning chocolate and, impressed by her beauty, had the young lady pose for this painting. The chocolate houses which opened in London in the 17th century never took hold in America, but as one historian states, “the leisured classes in Virginia took their chocolate at home.” So it would not be at all surprising if as a guest of Mrs. Randolph, you might have been offered this “divine drink” which she would have served in a chocolate pot much like this one.
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