“New World’s Spicy Chocolate,” in Megan Elias’s “Growth of American Civilization, 1600-1877”


4 cups milk

1/4 cup  unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. chili powder

pinch of nutmeg

optional toppings: whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate syrup, and/or chocolate shavings



Mix all of the ingredients in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat until it boils or bubbles, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and serve with any of the optional toppings I listed.

“Chilies, Chocolate and Race in New Spain”

I couldn’t think of a better recipe for this reading, not just because of the title, but because of what the ingredients chocolate and chilies represented for the natives in New Spain at the time. The Colombian Exchange brought about many changes to the culinary arts. Spaniards and Creoles were distinguished by society according to what they ate. As a result, Spaniards and Natives tried to stick to their culture as much as possible; however, this did not stop the inevitable combination of their individual lifestyles. Change was brought about by thriving culture in New Spain, as well as changes in Spain. Creoles, during this transformation, established their own status with flourishing native innovations.

One of the most prestigious products for the natives of this period was chocolate. This recipe combines Old World spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, which were already adopted by the European culture from India, as well as New World produce like chocolate and chilies. When Spaniards arrived to the  Americas they where surveying food that might serve as substitutes for the spices they hoped to find. They found chocolate beans and they ground them over a warm grind stone and made into hot drinks. This was the Natives prestigious version of chocolate. The chocolate in this recipe differs from that, but is incorporated to represent that prestige in New Spain. Chile was a local vegetable that was also used in a variety of Creole dishes. Milk and sugar was imported from the Spaniards. Milk was brought with them, and sugar was also brought with the exchange but it was being grown in the Caribbean. This recipe represents the culture of New Spain that not only adopted Old World cuisine, but also had native innovations which established their status.

About meganelias

I am a cultural historian who writes about American food. I am the author of Food on the Page: Cookbooks and American Culture (Penn Press, 2017), Stir it Up: Home Economics in American Culture,(Penn Press, 2008), Lunch: The History of a Meal (Rowman & LIttlefield, 2014) and "Food in the United States, 1890-1945," (Greenwood Press, 2009). My favorite food is toast.
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