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Women's Work I

Pieter Boudewyn Van Der Aa, Manière dont les habitants de la Nouvelle Espagne préparent le cacao pour le chocolat. Galerie Agréable du Monde. Leiden, 1728. BNF, PET FOL-VX-113

In spite of the masculinity of the preparers of cacao in the above 18th-C image, by all early-modern accounts women were the crushers of beans, keepers of recipes, and purveyors of the chocolate drink in the Aztec and then the newly settled Spanish New World empires. They were equally responsible for setting down methods of preparation for Europe, though they are not often celebrated for that service. Outside of the few medical treatise that were written and translated before 1670, family recipe books are among the rare testaments to chocolate's preparation in the home kitchen. The next four mini-posts (July - October) showcase the ingredient lists they put down for posterity.

This week's samplings both come from Hannah Woolley, the first woman and among the first Europeans in general to publish books on cookery and home economics.

Hannah Wooley's recipe "To make Spanish Chaculate," The Ladies Directory in Choice Experiments and Curiosities (London: T. M. for Peter Dring), 1662

Boile some water in an earthen Pipkin a quarter of an hour; then sweeten it with Sugar; then scrape your Chaculate very fine, and put it in, boil it half an hour; then put in the Yolks of Eggs well beaten, and stir it over a slow fire till it be thick.

Hannah Wooley's recipe "To make Chaculato," The Queen-Like Closet; or Rich Cabinet (London: R. Lowndes), 1670

Take half a pint of Clarret Wine, boil it a little, then scrape some Chaculato very fine and put into it, and the Yokes of two Eggs, stir them well together over a slow Fire till it be thick, and sweeten it with Sugar according in your taste.

Readers of the blog and fellow early-modern cacaosophers will remember that Thomas Gage also advocated for eggs in the chocolate drink, the very same year of Woolley's first publication. Note too that a crucial ingredient changed from 1662 to 1670, which makes her second recipe as inaugural as the first: now she makes chocolate with wine instead of water.

While it may be argued that the choice of wine is as biblical as the choice of water, there is no denying how odd and expensive this recipe sounds. Of course, the "queen-like closet," Woolley's metaphor for the creative kitchen of "ingenious persons of the female sex," would necessarily contain gems of which the average household could only dream.

As a bonus, we also learn that cooking with wine has deep roots. This is the earliest chocolaty wine recipe of which I am aware. Lest it sound archaic, it has had an unlikely renaissance in 2014 thanks to the apparent illumination--she does not cite Woolley--of the food blogger behind IMMAeatTHAT (see the NYT account of the recipe's furor by 2016) and in the form of Justin Chapple's "Red Wine Chocolate Snack Cake" featured in Food & Wine.

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