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Feb 14, 2017 — By: Christy V. Temple
As Valentine’s Day approaches again this year, let us take time to stop and smell the proverbial roses and taste that seductively sweet concoction known as chocolate. Chocolate by all accounts is probably the number one selling candy in the world. We see it everywhere in almost every store. The smell and the taste are unrivaled by anything else on the landscape. There is just something so irresistible about this decadent treat that we always yearn for more.
So, if you’ve ever wondered about the history of chocolate and how it has become the candy of choice at Valentine’s Day and beyond then you are in the right place. Let’s go on a voyage of discovery to find out more about this tastiest of treats.
According to the Smithsonian magazines online site http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-21860917/, etymologists trace the origin of the word “chocolate” to the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which refers to the bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods.”
Having tasted chocolate numerous times in my life I can concur that this is most certainly a heavenly food. It’s interesting to note though that chocolate didn’t start out as sweet as it is now. Over the years other things were added to it to give it that irresistible taste.
In fact, sweetened chocolate didn’t appear until Europeans discovered the Americas and sampled the native cuisine. According to the article, “legend has it that the Aztec King Montezuma welcomed the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes with a banquet that included drinking chocolate, having tragically mistaken him for a reincarnated deity instead of a conquering invader. Chocolate didn’t suit the foreigners’ tastebuds at first—one described it in his writings as “a bitter drink for pigs”—but once mixed with honey or cane sugar, it quickly became popular throughout Spain.”
It is said that the modern creation of the chocolate bar has been traced to Joseph Fry, who in 1847 discovered that he could make a moldable chocolate paste by adding melted cacao butter back into Dutch cocoa. In any event, once this took place then we start to see other famous names coming to the forefront.
For instance, by 1868 a little company named Cadbury was marketing boxes of chocolate in England. Milk chocolate hit the market a few years later pioneered by a small company named Nestle, which is now a giant in the chocolate industry.
The article also states that chocolate was very popular as part of the rations and payment for soldiers in the Revolutionary War and today statistics show that chocolate is still a very powerful economic force. Chocolate is more than a $4 billion dollar industry in the United States and it has been said that typically Americans eat approximately a half pound of it per month. Whew, no wonder we have a problem with obesity and sugar consumption.
On the bright side though, chocolate is one of those pleasures of life and the truth is that if you eat a small amount of dark chocolate daily, perhaps 1 to 2 ounces, it actually has some good health benefits for us.
According to the NIH’s News in Health website, “compounds called flavanols are thought to be responsible for many of chocolate’s beneficial effects. These compounds are also found in tea, wine, fruits and vegetables. Different chocolates can vary greatly in their flavonol content. Cocoa beans naturally differ in their flavanol levels. A large portion of the flavanols can also be removed during processing. In fact, companies often remove these compounds intentionally because of their bitter taste. The end result is that there’s no way to know whether the products you’re looking at contain high flavanol levels” (https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Aug2011/Feature1).
Whatever the case may be regarding chocolate good or bad, there is nothing wrong with consuming some of this delicious treat in moderation. I personally love dark chocolate and try to enjoy it every so often. So, this Valentine’s Day if you want to partake in some chocolate, go right ahead and enjoy. It’s one day of the year and you deserve it! After all, it’s not good to deprive ourselves of every guilty pleasure….
Hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and remember that love is what’s most important of all, and then have some chocolate!
P.S. The Daviess County Public Library has lots of great books on candy making, chocolate baking, etc. in our adult non-fiction collection. Go check out our online catalog to see what we have to offer. As always if you need any help, don’t hesitate to ask a staff member or give us a call at (270)-684-0211 Ext. 4.