It’s fall. And that means…not 100 degrees…and a little less green here in Florida. But that is NO reason to refrain from enjoying tradintional cold weather fair! Like close-toed shoes and pants! Fall is when the cereal goes to those Canadian geese that fly down from Canadia and hiss at you even as they scarf down your offerings. Did you know they have teeth? Oatmeal, instead, with all kinds of mix-ins and toppings. Like Blizzards! Only warm, gooey and far healthier. Fall is when Starbucks, bless their hearts, maintain their seasonality despite the lack thereof and put forth pumpkin spice everything. And fall. Is when. There is. Hot. Chocolate. And that season won’t end until February.
Yes, hot chocolate bespeaks the cold and lasts until the cold ebbs into blustery fragrant breezes, Jacaranda blossoms and strawberry festivals. It has more body than coffee, and elicits more smiles than hot cider. It can be white, milk or dark, peanut butter, Nutella or mint, virgin or spiked…but it’s always that respite after a long walk through the…sunshine. Or snow. Snow makes it better. It coats your tongue and glides down your throat like silk caresses the skin. You have to lick your lips to get every last drop of every sip; and close your eyes to block out any other stimulus that might detract from the experience.
The wind cut through my inadequate Florida-bought jacket while trudging up Grandfather Mountain. The rental car’s thermometer read 40 degrees when we arrived at the trail head that morning, and between the ascension and the over-cast skies, I didn’t think it had gotten any warmer as the day wore on. I was twelve and marveling at the views from the ridge line as we made our way toward the summit, my little brother sprinting ahead, or lagging behind as his whims took him, and my big sister assuming the lead. The parents strolled at their leisure and I was in the middle, acting as the link that kept the adventurous big sister and meandering parents together. Joe was a lost cause. When we reached the summit, we were literally on the top of the…North Carolina, and all that separated me and the summit lodge was a bridge. A cable bridge. Over a chasm. Of doom.
But there was warmth on the other side, and I’d be damned if I sat out in the cold and wind waiting while the rest of the family enjoyed the comforts. Across I went, head held high (mostly to avoid looking down), frozen fingers grasping the railings, one step at a time. Then I was staring at a weathered wooden mountain lodge, chimney steaming, with smells of chili and doughnuts wafting from the oft-open doors.
Upon entrance, was when I saw it: a kiosk with three vats emitting the sweetest, most unctuous perfume I’d ever experienced. I edged closer. They were full of hot chocolate. Not cocoa, no. But the beverage that only comes of mixing melted chocolate with cream. It looked like liquid velvet. As though he read my mind-pleas, dad was behind me with the dollar that would make my impulsive dreams come true. “which one would you like, honey-pie?” Asked the homely woman with the warm smile. “White chocolate,” I answer. She ladled the liquid yum into a styrofoam cup and handed it to me while my dad set the dollar on the kiosk counter. It. Was. Ambrosia. It was everything hot chocolate should be-so thick you could eat it with a spoon. It coated my top lip, leaving me with a frothy mustache.
This, my friends is a hot cocoa recipe. Sorry. Look for actual hot chocolate later on, but I can’t go about drinking the real stuff everyday (like I do this) without having to buy new jeans.
Hot Buttered Cocoa
1 cup near-boiling water
1 tablespoon Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
3 packets Stevia (or 1 tablespoon sugar)
1 tablespoon honey
Pinch of salt
1 tablspoon Half n’ half
2 tablespoons Almond milk
1 teaspoon butter
1. Combine the cocoa, honey and salt and stir…vigorously…to combine