Month: April 2014

I LOVE CHOCOLATE – The Search for the Old Fashioned Easter egg.

 

I LOVE CHOCOLATE  - A Belgian Chocolate Easter basket and bunny with eggs

I LOVE CHOCOLATE – A Belgian Chocolate Easter basket and bunny with eggs


When I stepped through the door of I LOVE CHOCOLATE I became a child again; in my Easter bonnet, new dress and carrying a straw Easter basket. In the basket was a big chocolate Easter egg with and my name was printed neatly in icing. Easter is here and in my search for chocolate egg history, I asked the question,“Does anyone make Easter eggs and Bunnies – the old fashioned way?

 

 

My search for Easter egg history wowed me with information about traditions and the many people that are needed to harvest and produce chocolate. Easter will never taste the same.

Krista Byers has been making chocolates for her shop, I LOVE CHOCOLATE, in Fergus, Ontario, Canada, for 20 years. She told me that Easter is the second busiest season for her shop. She uses Belgian chocolate and her attention to high quality explains why the store was full of customers. A huge chocolate rabbit with a loaded basket stood high above all else in the shop and would be a prize for a child who won this years colouring contest. It held magic for a chocolate lover – a pure Belgian Giant Easter Rabbit. On one wall were baskets were full of filled chocolate Easter eggs, decorated with small icing ducks, reminding me of the large hollow chocolate eggs we used to love as children. http://www.ilovechocolate.ca

I LOVE CHOCOLATE owner Krista Byers stands beside the mold used to make the giant  Easter rabbit in her chocolate shop in Fergus, Ontario

I LOVE CHOCOLATE owner Krista Byers stands beside the mold used to make the giant Easter rabbit in her chocolate shop in Fergus, Ontario

WHY BELGIAN CHOCOLATE?

I LOVE CHOCOLATE uses Belgian chocolate for its confections, so I researched a bit of the history of chocolate made in this country. When Belgium colonized Congo, they began shipping cocoa beans from that country. Belgium became particularly famous for their chocolates in 1912 when they began making PRALINES – chocolates filled with a creamy white filling. Belgian chocolate continues to be famous for high quality. There are thousands of chocolate makers in that country who continue to making chocolate by hand, using old traditional equipment. The various mixtures made by Belgian chocolatiers result in rich, dark, flavourful chocolate, with a distinctive taste from Swiss and German chocolate. The difference in taste is in the beans and the blending ingredients used. Belgian chocolate has become popular worldwide.

A TASTE OF EASTER EGG HISTORY 

The eggshells of different birds have been adorned as a form of art long before the time of Christianity and adorned eggs have been found all over the world. The French and Germans introduced chocolate Easter eggs to Europeans in the early 1900’s, after a new mixture became available that could be poured more easily into molds. It was originally popular to mold a hollow chocolate egg and fill it with sugar covered almonds. Eggs were later decorated with marzipan and icing piped into ornate decorations. Easter eggs evolved through the years and changed in style, from ornate Victorian decoration to more whimsical designs. Now even chocolate dinosaur eggs have become trendy.

THE HISTORY AND MEANING OF EASTER  SYMBOLS 

There are many explanations for the symbolism of the Easter egg and rabbit. Here are a few facts that I found. Some believed the egg represented the stone that blocked the tomb of Jesus as well as the life within the egg, as new life. Easter, however, was an ancient pagan celebration of Eostre, the Anglo Saxon Goddess of Spring. Eostre befriended a hare, so rabbit symbolism existed long ago. Rabbits have traditionally been a symbol of spring and fertility. Eggs became popular fare at Easter because many years ago, they were on a list of foods that were forbidden to eat during Lent. Easter has many different animal and bird symbols in other countries. In Switzerland, a bird delivers Easter eggs rather than a rabbit. Easter, I learned is not a recent and Disney designed holiday. The roots of this celebration are ancient and meaningful. People celebrate Easter in many ways, but it remains an important holiday for many in Christian countries across the world. It is said that German immigrants brought the concept of the Easter bunny to America in the 1700’s, telling children to set out their hats and the bunny would bring them eggs on Easter morning. To learn more about the history of Easter celebrations and traditions visit the site www.history.com   At the White House, Easter is celebrated with the public in THE WHITE HOUSE EASTER EGG ROLL. This party has been celebrated for 136years, and in one of the events children to roll decorated Easter eggs across the White House lawn. To learn more about this event see: www.WhiteHouse.gov/EasterEggRoll

THE WORK BEHIND CHOCOLATE MAKING 

The creation of high quality Easter eggs and bunnies starts with the farmer in Africa or Central America who harvests the cocoa beans from trees. The growers and harvesters are the unsung heroes of the chocolate world. There are so many steps between picking the pods to the molding of the Easter delights that we take for granted with our “grocery shelf” mentality. The steps include: growing the cacao trees, harvesting the pods, fermenting pods, extracting and shelling the beans, roasting and grinding the nibs, (parts of the bean used to make chocolate) extracting the chocolate “liqueur,” and mixing other ingredients to make the chocolate creamy and smooth. That all happens before the chocolate is molded into shapes to decorate.

I learned so much after stepping through the doors of the I LOVE CHOCOLATE shop.  My Easter bunny is Krista Byers, chocolate maker.

Every time I take a bite of chocolate at Easter, I will remember the holiday’s roots, and all the people who have worked to bring the chocolate from the ground to make my Easter special.  

I LOVE CHOCOLATE BUNNY

I LOVE CHOCOLATE BUNNY

I LOVE CHOCOLATE  filled Easter egg

I LOVE CHOCOLATE
filled Easter egg

Dining Mumu Style in Papua New Guinea

Cooked food in the firepit

Cooked food in the firepit

Hungry boys watch the Mumu cooking

Hungry boys watch the Mumu cooking

Many thanks to Ben Smith of Philadelphia for contributing this piece of historic cooking information, that is still commonly done today for special feasts.

“Cooking food in the earth,” that sounded like an interesting article for Dining Out With History.

Last summer, my niece Brianna Ralston and her boyfriend Ben Smith travelled to Papua New Guinea, where Ben grew up with his family.

He told me an interesting story about a Mumu feast, where all the food was cooked in a rock lined pit in the earth. They felt so privileged to share food with their friends from Papua New Guinea that was cooked in this traditional firepit method of cookery. Food has been cooked this way for the past 300 years and it is a custom that has been preserved to the present day.

A good series of photos is available on the Smith College Museum of Ancient Inventions, website. www.smith.edu/hsc/museum/ancient_inventions/hsc22b.htm

Families were and some still are, lucky to own even one pot, so this method of cooking has been used as a way to cook meat ( traditionally a whole pig,) along with vegetables.  Now different types of meat are added.  Since many families continue to cook their meals over the open fire, this method of cooking works well for bigger groups of people as the meal can be cooked with no pots, only using a fire and leaves.

Ben was kind enough to share the technique with me, as he experienced it at the Mumu feast he attended. The photos were taken by his group and show the delicious food as it is cooked in the ground. Here is the description as shared by Ben Smith :Here is the process our host, Enoch, described to us for hosting a mumu(he’s the fellow in the purple shirt):

Preparing the Mumu

Preparing the Mumu

  • Dig a shallow depression into the ground, and build a wood fire in it
  • Add stones to the fire (but NOT river stones!  Those will start to shatter and explode when in a fire, shooting rock shrapnel!  This happened to us at our BBQ on the river…)
  • Once the stones are heated through, then cover over the fire and the wood with a few layers of banana leaves.  You can remove the wood if you want and leave just the hot stones, but it’s kind of a pain to do that and Enoch said you don’t have to.  In different kinds of mumu, they actually added green guava tree leaves to add smoke.
  • Pile all your food in!  They pile in lots of sweet potatoes, taro, greens (all sorts of random greens), chicken or lamb chops, hot dogs, corn, cooking bananas, pithy grass stalks called “pit-pit” (somewhat like baby corn?), green beans, tapioca root.  There were also bits of powdered tapioca starch and water stuffed into green bamboo, so it steamed into gooey, starchy globs.

    Covering the food with leaves while cooking

    Covering the food with leaves while cooking

  • Cover over all your food with lots more banana leaves, to seal them in.
  • Our feast cooked for maybe 4 hours.

When it’s time to eat, uncover the food and separate it out into bowls for serving, buffet style. You may want to cover the bowls with more fresh banana leaves to keep off the flies.  Also, beware of hungry village dogs that may snack on anything you leave unprotected!

Also, beware of hungry village dogs that may snack on anything you leave unprotected!

 

Preparing a Mumu in Papua New Guinea