December 7, 2011 § Leave a comment
Chocolate comes from a giant alien-like pod fruit. Theobroma cacao. “Food of the Gods”. There is a divine quality associated with chocolate and an almost a religious devotion among chocolate eaters. However, like many other religions, it’s a religion blindly followed. For one of the most popular foods in the world, people know surprisingly little about it. I knew chocolate was made from cacao (not the magical Hershey factory I thought as a child). I did not, however, have a clue what cacao looked like. I now know it grows on a cacao tree which produces fruit/pods the size of footballs (above). Inside holding the seeds together is a white membrane that purportedly tastes like Sour Patch Kids. The seeds are then fermented, dried and roasted to become the cacao we eventually turn into chocolate.
Chocolate was money. Chocolate was almost as good as gold throughout history. Cacao beans levied as a tax by the Aztec & Mayan cultures and as currency to buy goods. That value extended to other cultures and eras. During the Revolutionary War, American soldiers had chocolate included as part of rations and were sometimes paid in chocolate in lieu of wages. It’s hard to imagine getting paid in chocolate but I might be tempted to consider it.
Sugary chocolate resulted from the Spaniards. Untainted and intact for centuries, chocolate began its transformation when the Spanish conquistador Cortes entered the picture. It went from being bitter to sweet to suit the Spanish palate. And it only got sweeter and sweeter over the centuries. I imagine the Aztecs would lose their shit at the blasphemy that has been created from their “god food” over the years. They would conversely nod in approval at the move to get back to the central flavor of cacao in the last decade or so, stripping away the sweetness to let cacao’s bitterness to come through. It’s hard to eat a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar for me now that I’ve gotten used to more bitter chocolate.
For most of its history chocolate was just a drink. Chocolate started being made in solid form in the early 1800’s and the first chocolate bar was invented by Joseph Fry in 1847. By 1868 a small company called Cadbury was manufacturing and selling chocolate in England. Nestle soon entered the fray.
Chocolate will make you smarter. and is also linked to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. A number of studies have shown chocolate enhances cognitive ability. It’s also believed to cause the release of serotonin making us feel relaxed while simultaneously increasing your heart rate to a level much greater than kissing. It is a relaxed thrill. My chocolate addiction is my brain trying to make me smarter and happier.
On that note…must. eat. chocolate. now.