Chocolate Caliente, Steeped in Memories

cup of hot chocolate with marshmellows

For my six-year-old, it was all about the creamy, sweet, warm yumminess of some homemade hot chocolate. For me, it was all about channeling my grandmother.

When I was a kid and my grandmother was still alive, my brother and I would spend part of our summers in Puerto Rico with her in her breezy 10th floor apartment in metropolitan San Juan. Why we would need hot chocolate during the summer in a place that rarely dips below 80°F is an abuela’s own private mystery, but it may be a legacy of the Spanish colonial days when liquid chocolate — a New World treasure — would have been a favorite beverage.

bars of Cortes chocolate

All I know is I have delicious memories of the lovely Old World style package of Chocolate Cortés, a big bar of dusty brown chocolate and my grandmother breaking off sections and dropping them into a bit of milk. I can still hear the metal spoon swirling against the metal pot as she melted the chunks of chocolate and milk until it was a thick syrup and then added more milk and served it up in little tea cups with tiny teaspoons.

Amazingly enough, in my local suburban Long Island supermarket they sell Chocolate Cortés — which, as it turns out, is a company in the Dominican Republic that began exporting chocolate to Puerto Rico in the 1930s — in the international section, somewhere between Coco López and dried lentils, and so today when my son got home from school we made hot chocolate the way my grandmother used to do, me stirring up that same sound and those same memories and noticing, not for the first time, that I have her same hard-working stubby-sturdy fingers.

“This is the best hot chocolate ever!” said the little man with his chocolate mustache.

And yes, although I didn’t have more than a tiny teaspoon to taste, I have to say it was.

We’ve been collecting hot chocolate recipes this year; check them out here.

Natalia de Cuba Romero blogs at Hot, Cheap & Easy.