An Experiment in Isekai POV

I don’t expect the story to write exactly like this, but… here’s a bit that came to me of Jason panicking about a problem in his situation. Bear in mind I’m using the rule of thumb, “start your idea for what the character thinks of with what you know out of your own head, then research to find out if it’s actually a good idea.” So yes, this is all out of my head, not cross-checked with research!


…These are the writings of a desperate man. A man at the end of his wits, and the end of his rope. A man who (through events I’ve recounted elsewhere) is now, effectively, the guardian of an unrelated 14-year-old girl, who is understandably having a hard time dealing the realities of life in 1600s Korea.

(So am I, but I’m the grownup here. No matter how much I want to whine – or panic! – I have to keep my head. Being grownup sucks.)

Did I mention 14-year-old girl? Thank god for tea. Caffeine helps with the mood swings. And Jue Chin-san’s medical treatments help when things get painful. Or maybe Mary just wants to steer clear of getting poked with copper needles. I couldn’t blame her….

Anyway. Those help, but they’re not enough. I need to do the impossible. I need… to get chocolate.

In seventeenth-century Korea. I’m doomed.

…No, no, don’t think like that. I didn’t live through a dragon attack to get killed by cocoa cravings. What do I know about chocolate? Besides the fact that it takes the kind of processing steps that didn’t get invented for at least a couple more centuries in our timeline-

Stop panicking, and get to the basics. You’re a historian, you know chocolate. Comes from cacao beans, originally got beaten into a froth with red stuff – annatto, maybe? – so the Aztecs looked like they were drinking blood. Later spawned a lot of theological debate about whether or not it constituted food and thus breaking the Sabbath fast, which led to riots and maybe at least one poisoning in Mexico City when some priests said it did and the starving noble ladies of New Spain revolted….

Right. Mexico City. Cacao trees come from Central America and Mexico. It’s 1618, Spain’s had the Aztec Empire ground under long enough to know a good thing when they drink it, they have cacao beans. And export them.

Export them to where, though? I know the Manilla Galleons are up and running, trading silver for silk, but do they also bring cacao? Even if they do, how the heck do I get to Manilla? It’s not like Korea sends a lot of ships out! If they send any….

But China does. China sends plenty. Silver is money, and if barbarians want to trade it for silk that can be made every year, so much the better. And China trades with Korea, because Korea has ginseng. China wanted that in our history, and they definitely need it here if they want stable mages.

So. Here to China to Manilla to New Spain. There is a way.

It just might take a while. Oh god, I’ll never survive.

Deep breaths. Close your eyes, count to ten, and hopefully you won’t open them to a teenager on a weepy tear.

First things first. Talk to Chin-san. She uses all kinds of herbs, she’ll know if something new and edible – if bitter – came in by way of trade. Heck, if it’s bitter she’d be even more interested, because bitter often means alkaloids and new medicine.

Theobromine is definitely medicine in my books. Women have it, they tend not to kill people. We stay healthy.

So Chin-san may know. And if she doesn’t, or even if she does, talk to Chae. She deals with silk traders, outsiders, and people from… well, everywhere. She gets letters from Ming China, Japan, and who knows where else. She’d hear something.

And if all of that comes up empty?

…Then I need to get to Mexico. Because we have no peace in this house, and with my headache I’m getting to the point I want chocolate. Just for me.

Huh. Chocolate was associated with blood by the Aztecs. Maybe Lee Cheong could have it too?

…That is an awesome and excellent idea, the guy has too few treats in his life. We’ve got to get to New Spain.

Across the Pacific Ocean. When the Little Ice Age is messing with the winds, meaning the round trip could take a year.

A year away from a moody teenager. Not seeing a downside, here….

29 thoughts on “An Experiment in Isekai POV

  1. Caffeine: going from Angry/Depressed to Jittery/Irritable

    “It’s bitter, it must be medicine!”

    For the chocolate, assuming it did make it there, would it be in enough quantities/cheap enough to be helpful?

    I don’t know how much you can make a handful of beans stretch, but it probably isn’t enough.

    In a lot of similar isekai scenarios they come across a merchant with a huge shipment that they can’t sell because nobody knows what it is, so they get it cheap.
    It tends to come across as annoyingly contrived.

    I can’t remember, was cocoa ever believed to have mystical properties?
    If so, then it might be either shipped a lot more, or restricted a lot more.

    “I have a drink that heals spirit wounds!”

    Liked by 2 people

      1. “Bitter” was one of the humor-related descriptions of medicines, IIRC. And there are a fair number of bitter European medicinal herbs. Alcohol just made the bitterness a little more all-pervading (and easier to choke down, maybe).

        Italian digestives, particularly, are very bitter. And a lot of them were originally herb teas, before alcohol got involved.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. To be fair, this actually happened with _several_ things we now take for granted, in real life. Coffee was actually one of them. So were raisins (tho with a bit more to the story).


    1. Oh it definitely is that. He’s had a very rough… either weeks or months by this time, including people trying to turn him into a man-eating monster and becoming default closest-to-kin for a grieving teenager. Who wouldn’t want chocolate?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Anyway. Those help, but they’re not enough. I need to do the impossible. I need… to get chocolate.

    In seventeenth-century Korea. I’m doomed.”

    :giggles and smiles: Thanks! That’s *fun*! (And yes, I would *definitely* want chocolate in that scenario, if only for the sense of “this is a little bit of normalcy/home I can find here” psychological benefit…

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Haha.

    Nice. Thanks.

    Some of the word choice inspires the desire to tease about whether this will start with a prologue about where ‘you’ came across this volume of records.

    I’m definitely interested. Thumbs up!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Don’t forget spices! Chiles and chocolate! Or turmeric. Or Salt! Or cinammon! Something nice and bitey to bounce that stress off of. Drinking Cocoa has always been more then cocoa.

    Heck if he can’t get chocolate something oily and hot and salty might help the poor kid.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, holy crud. I am in a position to talk about St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Moral Theology, and the canon law position of chocolate.

    1. “Liquid does not break the fast,” when it comes to Lenten fasting (or Advent fasting, or whatever).

    2. However, you weren’t supposed to drink any liquid after midnight, if you were going to Mass AND RECEIVING COMMUNION. (And definitely no food.)

    3. Back in the day, it was unusual to receive Communion every time you went to Mass, because you had to fast from midnight until Communion time, and because you had to schedule going to Confession beforehand, if you’d committed any mortal or possibly mortal sins. (You should confess venial sins, but they don’t necessarily stop you from receiving Communion worthily.)

    4. There’s no Sabbath fast, because Jesus is the Bridegroom. There’s abstinence on Fridays, and sometimes it was also on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but that’s meat and animal products (variously defined at various times).

    Now… it was possible for a bishop/archbishop to command stricter fasting laws in his diocese/archdiocese, just as he could loosen them up. But in general, no big deal. And most people made their own decisions about when to receive Communion, and hence when they had to be careful about fasting for Mass.

    But I have to look up this chocolate fasting riot. It is possible that this is why Liguori was talking about how much liquid proportionally makes a drink a drink, instead of a food stew or a candy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. how much liquid proportionally makes a drink a drink, instead of a food stew or a candy.

      Given my tendency to make hot chocolate at ~2x the recipe concentration, it might be a candy….

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Okay… this was actually _before_ the 1662 canon law ruling that “liquidum non frangit jejunum.” In fact, the 1662 ruling was because the Spanish/Mexican ladies were being such a pain in the butt about constantly drinking chocolate, including drinking it ostentatiously in church. And especially at Eastertime, when you were expected to receive Communion at least once, because it’s pretty easy to schedule Confession at least once a year.

      The ladies claimed that chocolate was medicine, yes. Which could be argued, fine, but you’re not supposed to drink five gallons of Nyquil at church, either. Or have coughdrops made out of gold, and waggle them around on your tongue while they’re being fed to you by servants.

      So apparently the canon law ruling did apply to Sunday pre-Communion fasting also, but only because the bishops were sick of this stuff. (Because for several hundred years, all the pious books continued to say that you shouldn’t drink stuff before Communion unless you were actually thirsty and had to. But of course the Irish were almost the strictest in Europe, and that’s most of the pious books I’ve seen.)

      Apparently the cocoa power move eventually fell out of fashion.

      That is hilarious. I will go back and read the suggested hot chocolate recipe in Moral Theology.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Okay… so people were thinking of hot chocolate as a sort of nourishing bean soup or nut soup, and not as something like almond milk that didn’t constitute food.

        Possssibly because a lot of the Spanish who colonized Mexico were from particularly strict parts of Spain, and/or because they were thinking of liquids as things like fruit juices and ciders (which had more play in those parts of Spain).

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Today I learned that the Itza tribe worshipped the goddesses of chocolate with human sacrifice, giving the sacrifices cups of chocolatl and praying that the victims’ hearts would turn into chocolate. And then they ripped out their hearts. To ensure a good growing season.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Long article that includes medical uses for cacao, or at least what the contemporary Spanish thought it was good for:

    Quite a lot.

    The other thing is that a lot of people, including the Aztecs and Maya, were drinking chocolate mixed with alcohol, like fermented corn or just normal European wine. So yeah, drinking pepper-chocolate cocktails in church. Yay.

    Liked by 1 person

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