FAN FOODS: CHOCOLAT Closing Scenes and Historical Hot Chocolate

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It only makes sense that we should end our series on CHOCOLAT in line with the close of the film. And the very last page of the script, the very last bit of chocolate to make it onto the screen is hot chocolate. It signifies the balancing of Vianne’s life, the end of her wandering and the solidification of her and Roux’s relationship.

Hot chocolate also features in Armade’s introduction to the chocolaterie. And even beyond the characters, harkens back to the early Mayan and Aztec cultures – Vianne’s roots – in which chocolate, in its unrefined state, played key roles in ritual sacrifice, mythology, the lives of the royalty, and everyday currency.

It also was most often, in its earliest form, a drink.

Armande Hot Chocolate

“When we modern Westerners think of chocolate, we think of it in its solid, sweetened form, and this is reflected in the undue emphasis which much food writing gives to solid chocolate. Yet during nine tenths of its long history, chocolate was drunk, not eaten,” explains one of the books used in the research and writing process of the screenplay, the charming True History of Chocolate by Michael D. Coe and Sophie D. Coe.

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The decision to infuse Vianne’s background with Central American roots put new emphasis on her character’s journey and her role as a healer. In the writing, Jacobs gave himself “permission to say, ‘well what if the traveling angel needed to change herself? And that she’s not only healing this village but that the village is healing her.’”

This beautiful theme of redemption delivers to us “a lift” just as Vianne promises Armande in her hot chocolate.

Roux Hot Chocolate

We’ve had such a fantastic time diving into the CHOCOLAT materials, which are available here in our very own WGF Archives. We owe a huge thank you to Robert Nelson Jacobs for donating said materials and obliging us in our love of all things chocolate and social media. We also owe huge photographic credit to Garlic, My Soul, their photos being light years ahead of our shaky hands with damaged iPhones.

Stay tuned because we already have another Fan Foods series in the works that we’re completely nerding out about.

And be sure to check out the first and second posts in the CHOCOLAT series.

RECIPE:

Ingredients
2 3oz bars dark chocolate (70% or above)
2 cups 2% milk
1 tablespoon agave
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon cinnamon
A few drops of vanilla

Directions
1. Roughly chop the chocolate into small squares.
2. Using the double boiling method (mine included a large bowl over a skillet of softly boiling water), melt the chocolate and stir until smooth.
3. Slowly stir in milk until you have your desired texture.
4. Stir in spices and lastly add vanilla.
5. Best consumed at a chocolaterie café counter or with your food blogger friends in the 90 degree LA heat. Still good.

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Fan Foods: The Continued Celebration of Chocolat – This Time With Cake

My feelings about chocolate cake are deep and visceral. Throughout my early childhood, my namesake great-grandmother made a ritual of baking the most shockingly decadent chocolate cake for our visits to the remains of her southern farm. To be sure she was always present to watch our complete enjoyment of her culinary endeavors, she would squirrel the cake away in the largest circular green tin I had ever seen (and have ever seen since).

She was known to hide the tin on top of book shelves and under beds so she alone was the dispenser of such delights. Although never, as one might think, was she ever stodgy about its dispersal – I can’t guess the number of times my mother found me and my sister at Grandma Eva’s worn-out kitchen table eating chocolate 1-2-3-4 cake first thing in the morning. Chocolate cake will forever signal to me the rebelliousness in celebrating mundane and ordinary mornings.

It’s through this lens of quirky, resolute matriarchy that I understand Armande Voizin, Judi Dench’s character in CHOCOLAT. Watching for the first time, I felt like I already knew her character. Her temperament. Her deeply rooted sense of identity and interwoven culinary life. In an incredibly heartrending sense of the phrase, she is what she eats.

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Her story arc is simultaneously lovely and tragic. “Bittersweet” in screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs’ words. Harkening back to the power of comestibles, Armande’s story arc culminates in what Jacobs’ handwritten notes describe as a “last supper” – despite her diabetes, Armande convinces Vianne to throw her an elaborate birthday party to include the most sensual and extravagant of her ancient chocolate recipes.

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Inspecting his notes from an initial meeting with Director Lasse Hallström, Jacobs reminisced about the process of writing that vital scene. He pointed out wisely that often celebratory scenes in film leave a rift between character and audience.

“Don’t assume the audience is going to be as happy as the characters are. The audience might be bored watching them have a good time,” Jacobs advises through Hallström’s sentiments from those early meetings. “Find what’s actually not happy about the scene, find the grain of sand in there that’s going to wrinkle and somehow build the scene around that. And I just thought that was a gem of advice that he gave me.”

Not only is that grain of sand related to Armande’s health issues but it also harkens back to the profound, underlying turmoil of the town. Next week, in our last Chocolat installment we’ll look at that deep seeded unrest as well as the powerful theme of healing (doled out by Vianne or otherwise). But for now let’s settle into Armande’s Last Supper and the rebelliousness in a proper chocolate cake.

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This recipe is neither my grandmother’s nor Vianne’s – but a hybrid twist on both. It has the delicate yet hearty almond flour of many French recipes, the butter content of a true southern confection and the newer scientific amalgam of gluten free flours. It has the texture of the best pound cakes and the depth of the warmest ganaches. And, best of all, supplied me with a wonderful few days breakfasts in honor of Armande and my own grandmother.

(Photos thanks again to our talented and lovely friends at Garlic My Soul).

And check out our first and third installments in the CHOCOLAT series here.

RECIPE:

Ingredients
¾ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 3oz bar dark chocolate (70% or above)
½ cup brown rice flour
¼ cup sweet white rice flour
¼ cup almond flour/meal
A few drops vanilla extract
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and grease two circular cake pans to set aside.
2. Mix the butter, softened slightly, until smooth.
3. Add in sugar and mix until creamy.
4. Crack in eggs, mix again until well incorporated.
5. Drop in baking powder.
6. Chop the first two chocolate bars into small pieces and in a separate bowl, double boil. Stir until smooth.
7. Add chocolate to batter.
8. While slowly mixing, add in the flours.
9. Then vanilla extract.
10. And lastly the heavy cream. Mix lightly until smooth.
11. Pour evenly into cake pans.
12. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, rotating halfway through. It will be done when the center is spongy and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
13. Remove from oven and let cool before removing from the pans.
14. Double boil the rest of the chocolate, stirring in a touch more heavy cream.
15. When cake is fully cooled remove from pans and use melted chocolate in between layers.
16. Enjoy at the rebellious gypsy boat party of your choosing.

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FAN FOODS: A Celebration of Chocolat, Part 1

I have been a fortunate foodie and writer this year. I, one day, mentioned my love of the film CHOCOLAT and my vision for recreating recipes from specific scenes. At which point someone here in the office said, “you should talk to Bob about that.”

Bob turned out to be Robert Nelson Jacobs, the screenwriter behind the film and now the Foundation’s board president, who in the subsequent months graciously allowed us to knock on his door numerous times for materials, interviews and camaraderie over an Oscar nominated celebration of life and culinary indulgence.

The movie was instrumental in the shaping of my passions early in their development. I have since spent an equal amount of time in the writing and culinary worlds – two trades so different in their execution and daily routines, yet so spiritually and creatively similar it only follows that a script marrying the two would hold so much charm.

Jacobs’ masterfully crafted work invokes the full history of a food that, even from its earliest known use, was thought to have medicinal, magical and even divine properties. It was used as currency, fashionable drink and in ritual ceremonies including those of human sacrifice.

Vianne, the heroine of CHOCOLAT, introduces us to the titular confection – which, with its fascinating past and continued strong influence on our culture, acts as the catalyst for change and overall healing in the story.

Jacobs’ creative materials, which can now be seen by request in the Foundation archives, document his writing process, starting with extensive research and outlining. You can watch, through notes in Jacobs’ handwriting, as the script unfolds and the history of chocolate is integrated into the story and the characters’ lives (and found literally on the page, as in this note with a chocolate stain in the lower right-hand corner).

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Hallstrom

Take the Comte de Reynaud. Far from the stereotyped “bad guy”, the Comte is a humanized and flawed antagonist who, in Jacobs’ words, “inherited a burden, this obligation, this noblesse oblige, that he’s got to be responsible for this village and he’s kind of tyrannical about it. And has certain standards he feels must be upheld at all costs.”

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Lent is one of the most prominent of these standards. Though the Comte’s resolve is undeniably strong, his body begins to physically weaken in response to the near starvation diet to which he subjects himself. In stark contrast to his abstinence is Vianne, her chocolaterie and in one specific comedic moment her attempt to sway him with truffles called the Nipples of Venus.

Nipples

And so in the Comte’s honor, I’ve chosen the Nipples of Venus as the first in the series of CHOCOLAT-themed recipes I’ve recreated. The history of this particular truffle dates far back into French history and often includes a delicate chestnut filling. For my version I chose an early and simple recipe (chocolate only, though varying types and consistencies).

Although I’ve worked in a professional bakery, this was my first attempt at chocolate in truffle form. What I discovered is that working with chocolate in this way is therapeutic for its neediness. It asks for concentration and allows little time to check your Facebook page – which can be a life-giving gift. I thoroughly enjoyed a day tempering, shaping and eating this aptly named chocolate incarnation. And found a bit of respite myself in the indulgence of chocolate.

(A huge thank you goes out to Garlic, My Soul for the fantastic food photography).

Be sure to check out the second and third installments in the CHOCOLAT series on the blog.

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Recipe:

Ingredients
6 3.5 ounce dark chocolate bars (70% or above)
1 3.5 ounce white chocolate bar
1 cup whole milk

Directions
1. Break your first 3 dark chocolate bars into small, manageable pieces.
2. Heat over a double boiler until it reaches approximately 115 degrees Fahrenheit or begins to melt, visibly.
3. Stir in ¾ cup milk, slowly. Mix until smooth.
4. Turn off burner and let cool until completely room temperature (up to 2 hours).
5. When cooled, using an electric mixer, beat chocolate until it forms stiff peaks.
6. Fill a pastry bag or a plastic bag with a 1 inch hole cut in the corner with your stiff-peaked chocolate confection.
7. On a tray lined with parchment paper, create chocolate kiss-shaped swirls.
8. Place in refrigerator.
9. In the same fashion as before, double boil and heat the second set of 3 dark chocolate bars.
10. Stir in remaining ¼ cup milk and mix until smooth.
11. Remove from burner and go get your kisses from the fridge.
12. With a spoon, set of tongs or just your fingers (whatever system works best for you) dip the kisses into the chocolate until full coated and replace on parchment paper.
13. Let stand until hardened. If you live in a hot climate, like, say Los Angeles, you may want to put them in the fridge again.
14. Double boiling for the last time, melt your white chocolate and stir until smooth.
15. Remove from burner and (again, in whatever method you find best) dip the very tip of the truffles into the white chocolate…to create the likeness of its namesake.

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