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.
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?