Baby, it’s cold out there. At least it is here in the Midwestern U.S. where we’re seeing record-setting sub-zero temps. Brrrrr….
Hot chocolate, then, that classic winter warmer, is where we’ll shine our spotlight for this month’s Funny Names in Food post. But not just any hot chocolate, no. We have too much class to settle for say a Swiss Miss or—gasp—generic brand. And while DIY is best (check out food for fun for those reports), you can’t find funny names when you’re in your own kitchen and your name isn’t funny. Enter, then…
Domenico “Domingo” Ghirardelli, Sr. The chocolate man! Born in 1817 in Rapello, Italy, Ghirardelli grew to serve as apprentice to his chocolatier father. In 1838, Ghirardelli moved to Lima, Peru, where he established his own confectionery. He also started using the Spanish form of his Italian name, Domingo.
But it was the U.S. or bust and in 1849, Ghirardelli moved to California. His move was prompted by funny-named former neighbor, James Lick, who had come to San Francisco in 1848, bringing 600 pounds of chocolate with him. (Insert inappropriate chocolate-lick joke here if you must 😉 ) Caught up in the California Gold Rush, Ghirardelli spent a few months in the gold fields near Sonora and Jamestown, though eventually decided to live the life of a merchant in Hornitos, California. In 1852, he moved to San Fran and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company at Ghirardelli Square was born. The San Francisco Chronicle claims Mr. Ghirardelli as their fair city’s most successful chocolatier.
Here’s the fun part: In 1865, a Ghirardelli factory worker found that by hanging a bag of ground cacao beans in a warm room, the cocoa butter would drip off, leaving behind a residue that can be converted into ground chocolate. This technique–known as the Broma process–is now the most common method of chocolate production. Revolutionary!
Though we opened this post with the promise of hot chocolate, please note that this steaming mug of creamy liquid bliss was not invented by Ghirardelli (we’d look to funnily named Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortez and King Montezuma for that story), though one must agree that hot cocoa made with this premium brand would be top-notch.
So Ghirardelli was an amazingly successful businessman, you say. What else can you tell us about this chocolate guy? Well, his first wife had the beautiful (and only just a little bit funny) name of Elisabetta and they had two children: Angela and Domenico Jr. Unfortunately, the beautifully named Elisabetta died young, though Ghirardelli Sr. went on to marry a Peruvian named Carmen in 1830. Their children were named Joseph, Elvira (a little bit funny—admit it), Louis, and Eugene.
Ghirardelli Sr. died in 1894 while on a trip to his birthplace in Italy. You can find him buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California. RIP, Chocolate Man. We thank you for your commitment to quality confection.