|A cup of Californio-style Chocolate.|
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Foodways from the Spanish and Mexican colonization period of California’s history is not a very widely-talked about subject. The documents that contain the information about food during this period are largely still in 18th century/early 19th century Spanish, although some of them have begun to be translated into English and other languages in the past few years. The available documents are also mostly from the very beginning of the Spanish colonial era (begun in mainland Mexico in the 16th century) or from the very end of the Mexican colonial era – or even afterward, in the later memories of the people who lived in California during that time. Therefore, a fair amount of extrapolation is necessary to re-create foods that would have been familiar to the Californios – people of Hispanic descent who lived in California before the Gold Rush.
Chocolate began as a bitter, spicy beverage among the Aztec elite. They drank it for religious/ceremonial purposes as well as ordinary ones and incorporated many local flowers and spices in its manufacture. They used cacao beans and pods as a form of currency and presented it as gifts to other rulers, including the Spanish conquistadors, when they first arrived.
“To every 100 Cacaos, you must put two cods of the long red Pepper, of which I have spoken before, and are called, in the Indian Tongue, Chilparlagua; and in stead of those of the Indies, you may take those of Spaine; which are broadest, and least hot. One handfull of Annis-seed Orejuelas, which are otherwise called Vinacaxlidos: and two of the flowers, called Mechasuehil, if the Belly be bound. But in stead of this, in Spaine, we put in sixe Roses of Alexandria beat to Powder: One Cod of Campeche, or Logwood: Two Drams of Cinamon, Almons, and Hasle-Nuts, of each one Dozen: Of white Sugar, halfe a pound: Of Achiote, enough to give it the colour. And if you cannot have those things, which come from the Indies, you may make it with the rest.”