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Chocolate Facts

“Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficient restorer of exhausted power. It is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.” –Baron Justus Von Liebig

“If you are not feeling well, if you have not slept, chocolate will revive you. But you have no chocolate pot! I think of that again and again! My dear, how will you ever manage?” –Marquise de Sevigne, 1677

After a long weekend of unbridled piggery, what else can I think about today but food? Especially after I attended an open house party last night that featured tiered trays of wonderfully delectable bonbons and truffles. Chocolate–the most important food group. 🙂

Of course, in “our” time period there was no chocolate as we know it. No Symphony bars with almonds and toffee chips. No Godiva raspberry truffles. No giant Toblerone bars. But the earliest record of chocolate was over 1500 years ago in Central America. The Maya believed the cacao tree to be of divine origin, and brewed a spicy, bittersweet drink by roasting and pounding the seeds of the tree (cocoa beans) with chili peppers and letting the mixture ferment. Yummy–not.

When Cortez brought chocolate back to Europe, they learned to make the drink more palatable to European tastes by mixing the roasted ground beans with sugar and vanilla to mix into a frothy drink. By the early 17th century this powder was being exported from Spain to other parts of the continent. The Spanish kept the source of the drink–the beans–a secret for many years, so that wehn English privateers boarded what they thought was a “treasure galleon” in 1579, they found it loaded with what appeared to be “dried sheep’s droppings”, and no gold and jewels, they burned the ship in frustration. Dumb move, as chocolate was vastly expensive at the time. Worth its weight in gold. Ha!

The first chocolate house in England opened in London in 1657, and like coffee houses they were used as clubs where business could be conducted, politics discussed, and a pipe smoked. The first mention of chocolate being eaten in solid form is when bakers in England began adding the cocoa powder into cakes in the mid-1600s. In 1795 Dr. Joseph Fry of Bristol created a steam engine for grinding the cocoa beans, an invention that led to the manufacture of chocolate on a large scale. In 1819, Francois Louis Callier opened the first Swiss chocolate factory, thus paving the way for generations of choco-holics.

Chcolate as we know it today first appeared in 1847 when Fry and Sons (mentioned above) mixed sugar with cocoa powder and cocoa butter (created in 1828 by Dutch chemist Johannes Van Houten) to produce the first solid bar. And the rest is, well, chocolate history. 🙂

Thanks for letting me indulge one of my favorite obsessions! And thanks to the Godiva website for the factoids.

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Cara King
17 years ago

Mmm… chocolate…. chocolate good….

Cara (who has trouble talking with her mouth full)

Elena Greene
17 years ago

Gee thanks, Amanda, now you’ve made me dig into the kids’ Halloween candy!

Actually, I loved that info, especially the very first quote about chocolate being “the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.” I know for a fact that chocolate helps–I used to go through packages of Pepperidge Farm Mint Milanos during bad writing sessions. And they helped the writing if not the waistline.

Nowadays, I’m more moderate about the writing and chocolate. I still sometimes reward myself with a small chocolate after finishing a scene. OK, maybe 2 or 3, if the scene was especially difficult!

Elena 🙂

Megan Frampton
17 years ago

Amanda:

Thanks for the info! I know Regency authors drop the mention of ‘morning chocolate’ into our books, it’s nice to know the source. And I’ve had spicy hot chocolate, like the first incarnation you mention, although i think they added sugar, too. It was yummy–the spicy part was odd at first, but the tastes went together really well.

Bertram St James
17 years ago

I adore your Twenty-First-Century Chocolate Candy! It is too, too Delicious. I am so very pleased that I accidentally came forward in Time two centuries to your year — the Chocolate Candies make it all Well Worth the Trouble.

In my own Time (1812), I would have Chocolate in the mornings. I still have the Recipe, which I gave to my man to make every morning. (It is tolerable, but I prefer Hershey’s.)

Chocolate, to make.– Boil equal quantities of good new milk, and water. Scrape down the chocolate according to the strength and quantity wanted, and take the milk and water off the fire. Throw in the chocolate and sugar, and mill it well and rapidly, that it may be served with the froth on it, and completely blended with the milk.

My man made it well enough, I suppose, but he never got it completely blended with the milk. I really only kept him around because he was so good at pressing my clothes.

Servant,

Bertram St. James, Exquisite

Amanda McCabe
17 years ago

I actually met someone at that party who said they didn’t like chocolate! I was astounded. But couldn’t say anything because my mouth was stuffed with a creme de menthe truffle at the time. 🙂

Todd
17 years ago

I remember when I was a kid, reading one of the Doctor Doolittle books, where when preparing to go exploring they packed “an iron ration of chocolate.” It made exploring sound pretty good! Later, when I toured the Hershey factory in Pennsylvania, I discovered that (at that time anyway) they still sold the chocolate bars that used to be packed with army rations in WWII. So you see, it is a fact of long standing: chocolate is necessary for survival in the most difficult circumstances!

Todd-who-got-chocolate-in-his-peanut-butter

Todd
17 years ago

Bertie, Old Thing,

Glad to know there are attractions to going forward in time–though I might rate central heating, aspirin, and washing machines as even bigger incentives.

Todd-who-suspects-a-blender-would-have-gotten-the-chocolate-smooth

Bertram St James
17 years ago

Todd, old chap, you miss the point.

Who needs a washer machine, when one can hire someone to do one’s laundry?

Who needs central heating, when one can afford coal, and a man to make up and stoke the fire?

Who needs aspirin when — oh, very well, you win there. Aspirin is an amazing invention. When I have eaten too much hershey candy (and M’s and M’s & cetera) an aspirin does ease my poor head-ache splendidly.

Showers, on the other hand, are amazing. Never-ending hot water. (Or, almost never-ending, as I found out the other day to my dismay.)

Exquisitely yours,

Bertram St. James

Todd
17 years ago

My Dear Bertie, Oh Newly Reawakened One,

I rather suspect that the persons whose job it was to wash the laundry and stoke the fire might have appreciated some of our Modern Conveniences. However, I agree that for a Person of Means, these things are not essential.

On the other hand–or possibly tentacle–my experience of fireplaces leads me to think that one tends to get rather warmer than one might wish on one side, and rather cooler on the other, no matter how many manservants (menservants?) one has to do the stoking. Central heating, while far less romantic, is rather more efficient.

Your most obedient mechanism,

Todd-who-wouldn’t-mind-someone-stoking-the-fire-tonight

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