|Available at AmazonAmazon|
First of all, Maria, I'm so relieved to know you and your family are safe and that your house didn't flood either. You have been in my thoughts and prayers. With all the devastation everywhere in the area, I know you must be terribly thankful. I did hear that you had to evacuate your home. I bet that was unnerving and scary. I cannot imagine the fear of returning and not knowing what you would find when you arrived. I'm sure the point that overrides everything...you're safe! We are thankful too.
It is such a pleasure to have Maria Grace visit More Agreeably Engaged. I always look forward to the delightful posts that she does. This one is no exception. It has to do with chocolate...hot chocolate to be exact! Yumm! Enjoy!
Welcome back, Maria!
Sometimes it’s the little details that can make a scene come alive. Period appropriate food and drive are one place what that happens for me, so I like to include that in scenes wherever I can.
During the regency era, there were three particular luxury drinks: tea, coffee and chocolate. They were in high demand, but expensive to acquire and, in the case of chocolate, difficult to make. Now of course luxury drinks needed accessories to go with them, just like our iphones need fancy cases—gotta show off the bling, right?
Proper hostesses would do exactly that with specialized cups and pots for each beverage. The differences between the pieces were not random though, they was based on the way the drinks were created and enjoyed. Rather scientific if you think about it.
Drinking chocolate was often prepared in a large saucepan and then poured into special pots, known in France as a chocolatière, designed just for serving it. At first, when chocolate was a luxury limited to only the most elite, chocolate pots were made exclusively of silver with fine hardwoods or ivory used for the finials. In the early 1700’s, porcelain chocolate pots were made in China for export to Europe. Later, sturdier (and less expensive) pots were made of pewter or earthenware.
Chocolate pots tended to be tall and relatively slender, looking a lot like coffee pots, but with a few significant differences in the lid, the spout and the handle.
Drinking chocolate was very thick and tended to settle, so it was essential to continue whipping it with the molinet. To accommodate the molinet, a chocolate pot had a very distinct lid. The top of a chocolate pot had a hole for the molinet handle to extend from, allowing the hostess to stir the chocolate without splashing herself or her guests. The hole might remain uncovered, but in many cases a special hinged or swiveling finial would cap the hole and help preserve the heat in the chocolate. Sometimes the finial might be attached by a chain to the pot so it would not get lost.
Spouts on chocolate pots were wide and set high on the pot. Both qualities relate to the froth on the top of the chocolate. Since the froth floats on top of the chocolate, locating the spout high helps to capture the foam. Similarly, a wide spout facilitates getting it into a serving cup.
A high spout also helps to keep the undesirable sediments that settled to the bottom out of the serving cups.
The earliest chocolate pots had handles set at right angles to the pot. Usually these were made of wood, with a bit of a knob at the end. After the later part of the 1730’s chocolate pots with looping handles in line with the pouring spout were produced.
Drinking chocolate was thick, even syrupy, very different from tea or coffee. Its thickness, and the need to preserve the froth on top meant that special cups were required to properly enjoy sipping the chocolate through the milky froth on top. Here's where it gets particularly interesting--to me at least.
Chocolate cups were taller and narrower than coffee or tea cups. This would force the foam into a thick layer on the top and keep it from dispersing so quickly. Their unique shape also gave them a high center of gravity, which in English means it made them more likely to spill, especially if one's hands were less than steady.
That problem gave rise to a whole new style of china.
The trembleuse or tasse trembleuse originated in Paris in the 1690's and was designed to allow those with trembling hands to drink with greater ease. It consisted of a cup, often with a lid and two handles, and a saucer with ether a deep well or a raised rim that steadied the cup and kept it from tipping.
In contrast, teapots tend to be short and stout (remember the kids’ song?) The round shape allows room for the tea to move in the pot, allowing it to seep more effectively. Their short spouts come from the center of the pot and sometimes have a grate behind to keep the tea leaves from clogging the spout. The short length makes them easier to clean if leaves get trapped inside the spout.
Because tea steeps near boiling, it must be slightly cooled before drinking. A tea cup has a wide open rim that tapers down to a smaller base and a handle designed to hook a single finger, all purposed to help cool the tea and prevent burns.
In many ways, coffee serving pieces do the opposite. Coffee pots are designed to help maintain the heat of the beverage, which preserves its flavor. The taller, narrow shape helps minimize heat loss. The longer, low-mounted spout helps keep cool air from circulating into the pot.
On the other hand, coffee tastes best when served hot. Since it brews at around 180F, burns are not as much a concern as keeping the beverage hot. So coffee cups have a more vertical, cylindrical shape and bigger handles to accommodate two or three fingers which helps them conserve the beverage's temperature.
A proper regency hostess would have had all three sorts of china in her collection and been able to identify these pots at just a glance. In all likelihood, she would not have considered serving chocolate from anything but a chocolate pot. For the rest of us though, chocolate served from another sort of pot would still be chocolate, right? And that has to be a very good thing indeed.
Deitz, Paula. "Chocolate Pots Brewed Ingenuity." The New York Times. February 18, 1989. Accessed May 24, 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/1989/02/19/arts/antiques-chocolate-pots-brewed-ingenuity.html.
Kane, Kathryn. "Regency Chocolate: The Correct Accoutrements." The Regency Redingote. August 02, 2011. Accessed May 24, 2017. https://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/regency-chocolate-the-correct-accoutrements/.
Righthand, Jess. "A Brief History of the Chocolate Pot." Smithsonian.com. February 13, 2015. Accessed May 24, 2017. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/brief-history-chocolate-pot-180954241/.
Here’s a peek at a scene featuring a bit of morning chocolate:
The morning room faced east, sunlight pouring in through two large windows onto blue-green walls. Flower vases stood on dark painted half-tables in three corners, filled with sweet-smelling garden flowers. The chairs around the table bore floral embroidered cushions, and a still-life painting of flowers hung over the flower-painted sideboard. At least flowers were not as garish as an overabundance of ormolu.
Mary looked up from her seat near the windows, the letters she had brought with her from Rosings tucked into the ribbon-tied notebook on her lap. Charlotte settled into the seat at the round table nearest the door. Mrs. Hill trundled in a few moments later with a pot of chocolate and fresh toast, nearly burnt. Neither the overcooked toast nor the bland chocolate were to Mary’s taste, but it seemed the kitchen had no coffee, so she drank the chocolate anyway.
Longbourn had a lovely set of chocolate cups, commissioned lately by the previous owner’s wife. The saucers sported little braided rails to support the tall, narrow cups covered in blue and yellow flowers, with gold-overlaid lids. They were a bit fancy to Mary, but pleased Charlotte very much.
Mrs. Hill handed Charlotte a tattered-around-the-edges leather-bound journal to review—the household accounts and menus for the next week.
“Pray come sit with me, Mary, and help me examine these. I do so value your opinions.” Charlotte poured a second cup of chocolate and pointed to the chair beside her.
Mary refolded her letter and tucked it and her pencil into her notebook and tied the dainty ivory ribbon around it. Charlotte raised her eyebrow.
Yes, the hint was a bit obvious, but they had been in close quarters recently. Hopefully a few subtle gestures would help change that.
Charlotte pulled the chair beside her out just a bit. “What do you think of the morning room?”
“Very charming and, if you will forgive me, more agreeable than the one in the parsonage. Perhaps simply because, here you are free to arrange things to your liking.” Mary set her notebook on the table and rose.
“It is a pleasing situation, I must agree. Would you believe though, I am reluctant to alter anything, wondering what Lady Catherine would say if I did?”
Mary chuckled as she sat in the chair Charlotte insisted she use. “I can well imagine, but I think it is safe to say, Lady Catherine is unlikely to arrive unexpectedly and offer her opinions on your housekeeping.”
Charlotte’s face fell. “I feel sorry for her. How difficult it must be to lose a child. I have been a mother only a month, and yet …”
Pray not this maudlin discussion again! “I am sure such thoughts cannot be at all beneficial to you.”
“Forgive me. Surely, you have no desire for such mawkish companionship.”
She was right.
“Do not be so hard on yourself.” Mary forced a smile. Hopefully that would not encourage her to continue.
Charlotte sipped her chocolate and spread jam on her toast. “Tell me, what do you think of what Hill has brought me?” She pushed the book toward Mary.
Did she believe it escaped Mary’s notice that she had not even looked at it herself? Mary pressed her eyes with her thumb and forefinger and held her breath, so she would not sigh.
Hill had a neat hand and kept her accounts well. Mary leafed through several pages—each supplier had a set of dedicated section. Six years of butcher’s orders took four pages. The prior Longbourn family seemed to have a taste for pork.
And a taste for sweets.
But that was not what Charlotte was asking. No, she wanted to know what style of housekeeping she would be expected to maintain in order to be considered appropriate for a house such as this. Why did she not consult with her mother on the matter?
Just why was Charlotte Collins asking such questions of Mary Bennet rather than Lady Lucas? Check out A Less Agreeable Man for the answers.
Dull, plain and practical, Mary Bennet was the girl men always overlooked. Nobody thought she’d garner a second glance, much less a husband. But she did, and now she’s grateful to be engaged to Mr. Michaels, the steady, even tempered steward of Rosings Park. By all appearances, they are made for each other, serious, hard-working, and boring.
Michaels finds managing Rosings Park relatively straight forward, but he desperately needs a helpmeet like Mary, able to manage his employers: the once proud Lady Catherine de Bourgh who is descending into madness and her currently proud nephew and heir, Colonel Fitzwilliam, whose extravagant lifestyle has left him ill-equipped for economy and privation.
Colonel Fitzwilliam had faced cannon fire and sabers, taken a musket ball to the shoulder and another to the thigh, stood against Napoleon and lived to tell of it, but barking out orders and the point of his sword aren’t helping him save Rosings Park from financial ruin. Something must change quickly if he wants to salvage any of his inheritance. He needs help, but Michaels is tedious and Michaels’ fiancée, the opinionated Mary Bennet, is stubborn and not to be borne.
Apparently, quiet was not the same thing as meek, and reserved did not mean mild. The audacity of the woman, lecturing him on how he should manage his barmy aunt. The fact that she is usually right doesn’t help. Miss Bennet gets under his skin, growing worse by the day until he finds it very difficult to remember that she's engaged to another man.
Can order be restored to Rosings Park or will Lady Catherine’s madness ruin them all?
About the Author
Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.
She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.
She can be contacted at:
Well, I would like to know the answer to that question myself! Just why was Charlotte asking Mary Bennet? Hmmm? The excerpt was lovely and very appropriate, but posed more questions than it answered. (Guess that's what it is supposed to do) The blurb has me quite intrigued. It sounds as if the Colonel may be struggling with feelings for Mary! I must find some time to read this sooner rather than later!
Thank you, Maria Grace, for visiting and sharing the wonders of chocolate, china, tea, and coffee. It was interesting reading but then your posts always are! :)
Now it's giveaway time! There is one eBook of A Less Agreeable Man to give away and the giveaway is international! What do you think of chocolate and the special china? Why do you think Charlotte is asking Mary for information on the household accounts and menus? Questions, questions, and more questions. Well, one of you will have the chance to find the answers. Leave us your comments to have a chance to win. Don't forget your contact info. Good luck to each of you. The giveaway will end at 11:59 PM on the 10th of September!