Monday, October 14, 2013

In With The Old Out With The New, the quotation mark quotient, or wtf pumpkin spice?!?!?!

Apparently pumpkin spice everything is a fall-thing in these United States. Allow me to go on record to say that I only have a really vague idea on what pumpkin spice (it's not like the flavor of pumpkin right?) is and absolutely no idea as to why you would put it on a latte, let alone anything else.

And while I'm spouting my dubious truths about American culture, allow me to puzzle over why it is that you people decided to stick the two most important food holidays of the year within a month of each other? It seriously takes away from both. Wouldn't it be so much more fun if there was a big food fest in the dreary late-winter months? I mean I'm all stoked on having some sort of acknowledgement for the harvest and Solstice, even if it's rather token, but boy, could there be a little more originality in the food department? Sometimes, it seems folks even seem to serve the exact same meal at both of these occasions. The whole pre-Christmas holiday season thing, that so tightly ties into the pumpkin spice craze, has so far caught me by surprise every fall. What? It's Halloween? Wait which Thursday is Thanksgiving again?

I hope this inability to appreciate all things pumpkin and my disdain for the fact that Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to only be separated by the rampant consumerism of one and the widespread misreading of history of the other, doesn't render me ineligible to become a patriotic American someday...

So, like most first generation immigrants I'll just stick to my own backward old-world customs.  There's this thing, you guys, that my people call "hot coco", made from the native cocoa bean of Finland, and I like to add delicious indigenous Finnish spices like cinnamon and cayenne pepper.

An honest to goodness recipe? One of the reasons I hardly ever post recipes, even though I love to cook and make at least one, or two meals a day from scratch, is that I never really use recipes and usually don't make the same thing twice the same way.

Every fall and sometimes in the winter though, if I have access to fresh milk, I make this hot, spicy drinking chocolate. Which by the way, is an entirely "new world" drink. (By the way Charles C. Mann has some interesting things to say about where the "old" and "new" worlds might be located. I highly recommend his book 1491 if you're interested in "American" history. )

Heat a cup and a half of milk (I used goat milk from some "American Alpine Goats") on the stove. Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of coco powder. Yeah, that's right, you heard me, this is drinking chocolate, you want it to be thick and oozy. I use a lighter and a darker coco powder with emphasis on the light, 'cos you know, I'm European. Stir vigorously. Add 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

Drink outside while you wait for the sun to warm the air to a short-sleeves temperature.

While I'm not really that into drinking milk, it seems like the warming spices and the mood-balancing cacao more than outweigh any imbalance it might create. And then there's the uplifting effect of total deliciousness to consider too.

Oh and Happy "Columbus" day everyone! If you go out to sea today try not honor him by getting totally bugf***ing lost like he did, 'k?


  1. Yummy, the first shot. I gotta make it over to your place soon, it looks so sweet. Already filled with Milla's sweet taste and charm!

  2. Milla you have me laughing out loud. I love the perspective you bring to things I have never really questioned, and the dry humor you express it with. I absolutely love pumpkin or pumpkin spice everything, but you're entirely right, pumpkin spice is not make out of pumpkins; just of the spices used in pumpkin pie. And holiday season does indeed pile up. I find it silly how "holiday stress" is a typical and accepted thing. The "Oh no, I have to see my family and buy them presents and cook food and make my kid a halloween costume!" anxiety reflects aspects of the place and time I'm living in that disturb me.

    About your hot cocoa: my Mexican family makes a similar drink, and it is not something my non-Mexican acquaintances have ever warmed up to. I'm sure you're well aware (especially based on your book recommendation) that chocolate wasn't sweetened 'til it was brought to Europe, and we keep it bitter and spicy, the Aztec way. Here it's all milk and sugar and whipped cream. Which has its place, sure. But it's nice to have something that reminds me of my roots/family/most of all my mother.

    To wind up my extra long comment with a superficial note, your flannel/moccasins/tights/beanie outfit is so wonderfully autumn.


  3. that moment when the sun warms the air to a "short-sleeves temperature" (what I call "the cardigan threshold") is definitely the golden crowning glory of autumn days :)

  4. Well, as a fellow European, I totally agree with you on all of this! I celebrate winter and summer solstice instead, mostly through watching the deep sky and the glorious light around me, and by lightning candles.

    In fact cooking delicious healthy food is a weekly, if not daily treat for me - not a seasonal one. The one thing that depressed me in Christmas as a kid was the fact that we had several nourishing meals in a few days. Au secours !

    I still don't know exactly what pumpkin spices are (after 15 years in Canada), but I think they involve nutmeg, which - in fact - might be a great addition, now and then, to my everyday homemade "chai" hot cocoa: almond and/or soy milk + 1/4 (light) coconut milk; unsweetened organic cocoa, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom.

    With goat milk, it must be delicious indeed - and I love seeing you around your new place. Particularly with braids :o)

  5. This post made me laugh on all points - pumpkin spice, Thanksgiving/Xmas and Columbus Day. I totally agree about the holidays - why can't we have something Feb or March?! I think this is why so many people make a big deal about Valentine's Day.

  6. Oh we're totally going to test this little recipe out!

  7. I did. I got sucked into the pumpkin spice latte craze. I stood in that long line and ordered mine without the whip.
    That was two years ago. I don't buy them anymore. They're too sweet & expensive. I prefer a Chemex cup of joe from my own kitchen.
    Okay, I add pumpkin spice and cinnamon sometimes...but only when it's snowing. And I'm feeling festive. ;)

  8. we just made hot coco the other day, the kids love it. but cayenne...i'm totally adding that next time! sounds really good and so european :)

  9. In Mexico they drink chocolate really really thick. I had hallucinations after having a very strong cup of chocolate there once. True story. You know what's really good though? Pumpkin spice hot cocoa :) (This is my attempt at a joke). Pumpkin spice is simply cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger--spices traditionally used to flavor a pumpkin pie. I am a bit partial since cinnamon and pumpkin are both truly indigenous to the Americas. But despite your disdain, I will take it as a compliment because you seem to be indicating that we Americans actually have some food culture?

    I have to agree about the Thanks/Christmas proximity issue... but it surely makes my most favorite season of the year all that much more special since its kind of like two whole months (three for me, because I kind of start getting in the spirit of the season around early Oct) of preparing, planning, and nostalgia. As far as food goes Oct-Early Nov is "pumpkin spice" season, and then mid-Nov to post New Years is "chocolate mint" season. A great blend for hot cocoa btw :)

    Happy chocolate drinking Dear Milla :)

  10. i can't get over your space! and i agree! i wish our thanksgiving coincided with the canadian thanksgiving

  11. Yay! I'm definitely going to try this :-)

  12. That sounds amazing. I'm with you on the fall/early winter holidays being too crammed. This is why Carnivale is the best holiday - by Feb/March you NEED all that costuming and reveling and parading! Too bad they don't celebrate it more places, but I guess that makes it more special where they do.

  13. Hi Milla,

    I want to make your drinking chocolate asap. Is the coco powder sweetened or unsweetened? Thanks so much :) I can't wait!

    1. They're both a bit sweetened dear. When I use "real" unsweetened powder, I add honey! Also, will you need a hot drink where you're at?!?!? You could probably make this cold ;)

  14. Thank you, sweet Milla. :) I can't wait to try it! The NW girl in me thinks it's time for hot drinks...ha ha!

  15. Ha! I complain about the inexplicable nearness of Thanksgiving and Christmas in the USA quite regularly. Canadian Thanksgiving falls in early October, which makes so much more sense with regards to the bounty of harvest and such (which is what Thanksgiving is all about, for me, a Canadian with deep roots in Saskatchewan). By the time American Thanksgiving rolls around it feels like the stone cold heart of winter is already ruling these lands...

    By the way, I'm here because of the comment you left on my blog a few weeks ago. I was glad to see you! Believe it or not, I found YOU a few years ago and avidly read this blog of yours until I switched my space over to wordpress and stopped looking at my Blogger blog roll! Nice to be here again, under your wing.