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Warm Memories of Hot Cocoa

November 27, 2021

When I was born, my family lived in a run-down shack on the outskirts of town. My bed was a drawer in my mother’s dresser. It had also been the bed for the brother who had been born 23 months before me and the brother born 15 months after me.

The shack, as my parents referred to it in later years after we moved into the house my father and old brothers had built on the same piece of property, had four spaces. I say spaces because while I don’t recall living in the house, my mother described it in a similar manner. It had a living room and kitchen combined. My parents had a bedroom that had room for their double bed, a dresser and a crib. The other ‘room’ was a space off the living room and kitchen, but there was no wall separating it. My mother had put up a curtain to create privacy and to block light from reaching the children as they slept.

A cinder block basement provided additional space for storage and beds for the four oldest boys. The outhouse was out back down by the large birch tree.

Soon after my family moved in, my parents discovered the well on the property was bad. Our new neighbour, Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman, at the end of the dirt road half a kilometre away offered us water from their well. They had two. One on entering the property on this side of the barn and another farther along in front of the house. Mr. Hoffman had geared up the second well and had plumbing in his house.

No, not a picture of the shack, but it would have been around the same size.

By the time we moved into the large house, there were 12 people living in the shack: my parents and 10 kids. My father drove for G. H. Wood and Midland Transport during my early years. This was the only income, so my mother took his pay cheque and stretched it as far as it would go. That didn’t leave anything for extras. One might think it impossible for a young girl like myself to enjoy the luxury of real cocoa powder to make hot cocoa. But I did.

You see, sometimes when damaged goods were turned away from delivery, my dad was able to bring them home. I still recall the day he walked into the house with a large thick garbage bag and set it on the table.

I peered into the bag and the most wonderful smell filled every cavity of my face: cocoa! To my good fortune, no one else in the house liked hot cocoa. My mother used some of it for baking but the bulk of the cocoa was used by me. The cocoa stayed in the bag for a long time because we had no containers for it. I’d fill a small bottle and keep that in the kitchen and when it emptied, I’d go to the bag and fill it again.

Almost every morning for a few years, I had a small cup of cocoa and toast for breakfast. I was a dipper, dipping the edge of my toast in before eating it.

Back then, I was taught to make cocoa from hot water. I thought that’s how everyone did it. Then something miraculous happened. In the summer of 2021, I watched Chocolat (the Trailer) starring Johnny Depp and Judi Dench and learned real hot cocoa was made with milk, not water.

I searched the Internet for recipes and discovered several. The one I settled on was:

  • 2 cups of milk
  • 3 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Warm all this in a sauce pan and pour into a mug.

After making this for a few weeks, I switched out the brown sugar for a teaspoon of honey and added two large marshmallows.

I drink this every night instead of a cup of tea while working on the computer. To my surprise, this affected my sleep. While I slept relatively well beforehand, once I started drinking cocoa in the evening I stopped getting up around midnight to use the washroom, and I slept deeper.

How about you? Do you like hot cocoa? If so, do you make it with water or milk?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2021 1:35 pm

    I love the movie Chocolat, and hot chocolate. I like it with milk…and sometimes just plain (unsweetened) dark chocolate warmed up. And, again, always with milk! Coconut milk makes a very rich hot chocolate. Yum!

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 28, 2021 10:48 am

      I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, too. It had a whimsical vibe. Thanks for the tip on coconut milk. I’ll have to try it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. November 27, 2021 2:01 pm

    I love hot chocolate and I make it with milk. I love your story. We lived in a very small house as well but I only had three siblings so not too crowded.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 28, 2021 10:53 am

      Perhaps it is Nova Scotia that pushes hot chocolate with water. Obviously, it is cheaper to use water. Every winter event I’ve attended used water, not milk.

      I suppose my older siblings felt crowded, but as #10 of 11, by the time I was 10, four had already moved out and were married. Maybe because I was small, the bedroom felt big in the new house. There were two double beds. I slept with my sister, who married when I was 7, and my little brother slept with another sister.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. November 29, 2021 6:37 pm

    I always have my hot choc with milk. And when I was a kid, loved dipping buttered toast into it. That’s quite a story about the shack you were born in. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 30, 2021 11:42 am

      Toast dipped in hot chocolate. Mmm. Sometimes I crave it. However, I don’t have any bread made, so that’s not going to happen today.

      One might think I had a horrible childhood, but I believe I had the best. It suited me fine because I loved our close-knit family life.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. December 5, 2021 8:47 pm

    When we were kids, we used to mix cocoa, sugar and a little canned milk in our mugs, and then filled it with hot water. It’s how my mother always made it. We always liked it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • December 6, 2021 7:22 pm

      Yes, that’s how I was taught, too. I would stir up the cocoa, sugar and canned milk into a thick liquid, then add the milk. It must be Nova Scotia thing. I loved it, too. However, the milk makes it smooth and rich. Also, I’ve heard some drink warm milk to sleep better. Perhaps that has improved my sleep.

      Like

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