Welcome to the Wilted Rose Book Club Discussion #1 of Secrets of the Chocolate House by Paula Brackston! The second book of the Found Things series is unfolding nicely. I love reading about the 17th century. Not only do we meet new characters, and we find Samuel in Xanthe’s life for the second time, but we also get to learn about the English chocolate houses!
SECRETS OF THE CHOCOLATE HOUSE DISCUSSION #1
1- The first English chocolate houses opened in the mid-17th when chocolate consumption was for medicinal purposes. My curiosity led me to learn how and when chocolate became a sweet part of European history. Little did I know that its botanical name means “The Food of the Gods” and that indigenous people, first and then Europeans, second, used chocolate to treat diseases. When some people decided to offer it as a hot beverage, creating a new trend, it became a luxurious drink for the wealthy and nobility. The establishment was a social club where men met and talked about politics, literature, and business. Also, it was a place for gambling.
Nowadays, there are some chocolate houses spread here and there. Though, they don’t and never will reflect the traditional chocolate houses of the time. Different lifestyles and political and social environments make this type of establishment a place to gather and enjoy a cup of chocolate and nothing more. Plots to overthrow the king are part of the past! If you had to open a chocolate house, what is one thing that you would revive from the first English chocolate houses?
2- There are new key characters: Mistress Flyte and Master Fairfax. The mistress tells Xanthe about the time spinners; she is one, and so is Benedict Fairfax. She tells her about a book that was once in her hand and that now it belongs to Xanthe. When Xanthe found it in a pile of old books in her store, she didn’t realize its importance. She recalled the book’s title reading ‘Spinners.’ The book chose its new keeper. However, when she held it, it didn’t sing. Mistress Flyte told her that it was waiting for the two women to meet. The mistress seems to know a lot about time spinners and… Fairfax. Do you think that she is keeping a secret, too?
3- The magical book chooses its keepers throughout time. And this time Xanthe was the chosen one. In novels, the chosen one is the main character. The main characters must have certain traits to succeed in their missions. What are the character traits that make Xanthe the chosen one?
4- Xanthe keeps lying to her mother about her time traveling. She prefers to bear this burden and feel like a liar rather than telling her mother. How do you approve of her choice?
5- In the first two books, Xanthe travels back in time. Twice she brought something with her: a flashlight and painkillers. If you were to pick something to bring with you in the past, what would that be?
1- If I were to revive the old chocolate houses, I would start with the manufacturing process of the chocolate and the recipes. There is a manuscript dating back to the 17th century written by the Earl of Sandwich. Some recipes are odd for our times, but the way that chocolate was processed is interesting. They added three ingredients to make the paste: cocoanuts, sugar, and spices. First, the nuts had to be dried and ground, then sugar and spices followed the same process separately. Finally, they were cooked together. In Spain, they would add the paste to water, while in England, milk was added. Earl of Sandwich wrote a chocolate frappé recipe.
Curdled Chocolate Ice:
Prepare the chocolatti [to make a drink] … and Then Putt the vessell that hath the Chocolatti in it, into a Jaraffa [i.e. a carafe] of snow stirred together with some salt, & shaike the snow together sometyme & it will putt the Chocolatti into tender Curdled Ice & soe eate ^it with spoons.
2- … And Xanthe saw again an expression of sadness cast a shadow over her fine features. She looked different, somehow, in these moments when she was caught thinking about Fairfax. Mistress Flyte is an ambiguous character. At first, she seems cold, but then she slowly opens up and reveals some truths to Xanthe. While talking to her, it’s clear that she’s hiding something about Benedict Fairfax. My impression is that they once loved each other. Why would she want to help Xanthe if it wasn’t her business? Mistress Flyte is a time spinner too, but it shouldn’t be in her interest to help Samuel unless she is somehow involved in the story. I may be wrong, but I believe that she’s looking for revenge and that her target is the unscrupulous Fairfax.
3- The book chooses Xanthe as its keeper, she’s the chosen one. Xanthe is painted as a heroine ought to be. She is courageous, even if sometimes too prudent or too reckless, but ultimately determined to pursue her goal. Said that she also appears to constantly have a turmoil of inner doubts about everything: her feelings for the men involved in her life, her mom, her mission, and her being a spinner. I hope that by going forward with the reading, I will find a heroine who will have fewer doubts and who will be more honest with the people who love her.
4-I don’t like Xanthe’s way of keeping her secret from her mother. She has a lovely, trustworthy mother-daughter relationship, yet she keeps hiding something so significant to her. The lies she tells also get in the way of her missions. With all the obstacles she faces along the way, I don’t think keeping this secret does her any good. I hope she eventually decides to confide in her mother the way she cares for her.
5- If I had to take something with me, it would be my camera, my journal, a pen, and some books. I would probably spend my time writing about my days and taking pictures of people and places using my camera. Books were too expensive in the past, that’s why I’d take mine. And I know I would miss hot water, but this is not something I could take with me 😉
Now, it’s your turn!