Alcott · Little Women

Sneak Peek: Amy’s French Chocolate

Here is one last sneak peek recipe from our Little Women cookbook, which will be out next month!

French Chocolate

    “Our drawing class breaks up next week, and before the girls separate for the summer, I want to ask them out here for a day. They are wild to see the river, sketch the broken bridge, and copy some of the things they admire in my book. They have been very kind to me in many ways, and I am grateful, for they are all rich, and I know I am poor, yet they never made any difference.”
     “Why should they?” and Mrs. March put the question with what the girls called her “Maria Theresa air.”
     “You know as well as I that it does make a difference with nearly every one, so don’t ruffle up, like a dear, motherly hen, when your chickens get pecked by smarter birds; the ugly duckling turned out a swan, you know;” and Amy smiled without bitterness, for she possessed a happy temper and hopeful spirit.
     Mrs. March laughed, and smoothed down her maternal pride as she asked,—
     “Well, my swan, what is your plan?”
     “I should like to ask the girls out to lunch next week, to take them [for] a drive to the places they want to see, a row on the river, perhaps, and make a little artistic fête for them.”
     “That looks feasible. What do you want for lunch? Cake, sandwiches, fruit, and coffee will be all that is necessary, I suppose?”
     “Oh dear, no! We must have cold tongue and chicken, French chocolate and ice-cream, besides. The girls are used to such things, and I want my lunch to be proper and elegant, though I do work for my living.” (Chapter 26: “Artistic At tempts”)

Makes 2 servings

Oof, we feel bad for Amy in this episode. She wants so badly to fit in with her wealthier art classmates, even while feeling the stinging differences between what she and they can afford. Amy and her family go to huge lengths to offer an afternoon’s entertainment that might be considered acceptable by this snootier crowd, and after all that trouble, only one person shows up out of the expected 12! The humiliation! It’s a teenager’s worst nightmare—the popular friends you’re trying to win over don’t even bother showing up at the party you threw for them. Poor Amy! But the menu selections for this luncheon are certainly elegant and delicious, so soothe your secondhand embarrassment with some of Amy’s favorite delicate fare.

French chocolate is just a fancy version of hot cocoa! Solid chocolate in bar form would have been a fairly new product at this time, and milk chocolate wasn’t invented until 1875; the type of chocolate they did have apparently required a long time boiling in water in order to extract the flavor. They would then add milk or cream, and sugar to taste, much like coffee.

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • tiny pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan over low heat just until it starts to bubble around the edges.
  2. Add the chocolate, salt, and nutmeg, if using, and stir until the chocolate is melted.
  3. Using a whisk (or a hand mixer or stick blender if you want to be modern), whip the chocolate till frothy.
  4. Serve in small cups, with the foam on top.

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