Women's Work II

September 1, 2018

Broadside against coffee, one of many from the 1660s and 70s. Houghton Library, Harvard.

 

The 1660s were a busy decade for writing about chocolate in England and in English. No fewer than 10 broadsides, commentaries, and treatises were published. If people worried about coffee and its desiccating effects (see above), they looked to chocolate as an energizer. Women weighed in on both sides. After Hannah Woolley kicked off the trend of adding chocolate to recipe books, many more ways to enjoy it entered the household repertoire. The next two mini-posts offer those recipes in (presumed) chronological order.

 

Anne Fanshawe, “To dresse Chocolatte,” 1665

 

Lady Ann Fanshawe, a favorite on this blog, famously crossed out her own recipe for “dressing” chocolate. As excisions are rare in hand-written cookbooks, her habit of changing her mind about a dish makes her stand out in the tradition. Critics have not quite deciphered her recipe and offer a reason for its removal: displeasure. Another explanation may be the availability of ingredients in England in 1665 when very few water holes sold chocolate in the form of already sugared and spiced tablets to be brewed at home.

 

And a few other things about the wording of the entry stand out. Fanshawe uses the verb “to dress,” a term referring primarily to seasoning or cooking meat and fish. She construes chocolate as a food. Wisdom of the day indeed promoted it as a meal substitute or to tide the body over between meals. As Philippe Hecquet put it at the end of the century, when debates about whether chocolate was a drink or a food still raged around the time of Lent, “we do not drink chocolate, we sip* it” (On ne boit pas le Chocolate, on le hume, sorbetur, non bibitur, 541).

 

Further, she logged this entry on the 10th of August, 1665 in Madrid. Could it be that upon returning to England, she caught wind of the criticisms—Thomas Gage, William Hughes, etc.—against drinking chocolate in cold climates? It is possible that what seemed a sound addition to the diet in Spain held less interest under the northern skies of London.

 

Rebeckah Winche, “Chacolet,” circa 1666

Ingredients: Cacao, Cinnamon, Spanish pepper, Sugar, Vanilla, Musk & Ambergris

 

Aside from using the most unusual English spelling of chocolate on record, Rebecca Winche does something rarer still for the period: she includes measurements of the ingredients. Both of these details bear discussion.

 

This recipe does not result in chocolate, the drink but what William Hughes called rolls or balls of the chocolate mixture, the aforementioned tablets, that could be stored and purchased for later use (1672). Hughes argues that British consumers should simply buy balls made in the colonies rather than preparing the ingredients themselves, since importing them was the best guarantee that the beans used were high quality. One reason for this assertion is that beans did not travel well. The months long trip across the ocean could, and often did, spoil them, whereas processed cacao that had been dried into balls with other ingredients lasted for months. Winche points out too that the drying process was long: 3 months before they can be used, she says. I could be that her name for this recipe signals that it does not result in the chocolate drink but the chocolate bouillon cube.

 

Her ingredient list and amounts make chocolate a luxury concoction. Possibly the least appealing of all the many ingredients to be found in chocolate history, ambergris derives from a secretion of the sperm whale’s intestines. Not only did Winche have the means to procure healthy beans—a financial feat in the 1660s—she writes for cooks and home apothecaries with the cash flow to procure even this secondary, hard-to-get additive; and the palate to stomach it flavored with musk!

 

(Curiously, musk, by which she means likely means nutmeg (nux muscata), gets its name from the antique source of the odor: secretion of the preputial gland of the musk deer. Musk gland would still have been used to make perfume.)

 

She may well have created this recipe from advice given by Henry Stubbe (1662), as he lists both musk and ambergris among a dozen possible ingredients (14). Stubbe had also pointed the reader—perhaps Winche herself—to Richard Mortimer’s “in Sun-Alley in East-Smith-Field” for two different types of prepared chocolate balls, the more elaborate and expensive Chocolata-Royal and more affordable Chocolata, both made with mild Chili pepper.

 

They could also be had closer to central London at Captain Beckford's Custom-house-key, which also sells “the best Cacao-nuts, which I could yet ever see in London; and also with Iamaica-Pepper [sic]” (Preface). He offers no help with acquiring the ambergris. Incidentally, Thomas Gage first lists ambergris in (1648) and may have learned of that exorbitant flavoring from Paulus Zacchias, Quaestiones Medico-Legales (1621-51). In any case, the addition of such luxurious ingredients to an already costly pharmaceutical happened in Europe.

 

On a side note, the only name more curious than the one Winche uses here, Chacolet, would be the Latin translation of chocolate recorded by Stubbe: succulata. He credits that word to Adrian von Mynsicht, whose Thesaurus & armamentarium medico-chymicum (Leiden 1645), contains an entry on chocolate under the name succulata, which he invented for this Latin edition. Since the English translation of von Mynsicht’s dispensatory did not appear until 1682, wider London learned of the Latin name through Stubbe in 1662.

 

Stubbe lifted a related detail, one he does not formally credit to von Mynsicht: the link between chocolate and erectile health.

 

This Medicine is a great Arcanum for the weakness and impotence in the virile parts, and hath been hitherto reserved for my Friends only. It restores impaired and lost Virility, it stirs up Venery in those who have lost it, by taking away the cold impediments of the Testicles and Seminal Vessels, and increaseth Seed in both Sexes, it doth in a short space reduce the weak, old and impotent persons to their pristine pleasure again. (von Mynsicht, 176-77)

 

Stubbe goes further, connecting this argument to St. Augustine’s account of the Fall, which caused naturally virile man to lose this complete control of his erectile function and depend upon arousal and down time to have sex. Chocolate, Stubbe proclaims, provides the antidote. If it cannot erase original sin, it can make men a lot happier here on earth.

 

As Fanshawe ceased to make chocolate and Winche betrays none of its sexual applications while, on the contrary, promoting the revolting and expensive ambergris, we may conclude that the women ranked taste and home pharmacy uses over chocolate’s venereal proclivities.

 

*The verb humer can also be translated “to suck down” and period dictionary examples limit use of this verb to taking liquids like broth and raw egg. As Hecquet is talking about chocolate, coffee, and tea, drinks taken as liquors for pleasure, the word sip seems more appropriate in this case.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Fanshawe, Lady Anne. “To Dresse Chocolatte.” “Mrs. Fanshawe’s Booke of Receipts of Physickes, Salves, Waters, Cordialls, Preserves and Cookery,” 1651. MS7113 in Recipe Books Project, 332. Wellcome Library.

 

Hecquet, Philippe. Traité des dispenses du Careme.... Paris: Frederic Leonard, 1709.

 

Stubbe, Henry. The Indian nectar, or, A discourse concerning chocolata the nature of cacao-nut and the other ingredients of that composition is examined and stated according to the judgment and experience of the Indian and Spanish writers… London: Andrew Cook, 1662.

 

von Mynsicht, Adrian. Thesaurus & armamentarium medico-chymicum, or, A treasury of physick with the most secret way of preparing remedies against all diseases: obtained by labour, confirmed by practice, and published out of good will to mankind: being a work of great use for the publick. Trans. John Partridge. London: Awnsham Churchill, 1682.

 

Winche, Rebeckah. “Chacolet,” Receipt book of Rebeckah Winche. Circa 1666. V.b.366 p.123. Folger Shakespeare Library. See the handy transcription of this recipe by Marissa Nicosia and Alyssa Connell in The Collation, newsletter of the Folger.

 

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