Sunday, January 3, 2010

sunday scribblings: new leaf and chocolat

For the New Year: a new leaf. Any thoughts?
Yes actually. I'm not one to make all these new resolutions because they have a bad connotation and only seem to last for the first month. I will say that I am going to try to once a week or every other week, to learn something new and to blog about it, something fun, random, and odd. Really I'm just feeding my curiosity! Today I decided to learn the history of chocolate because I'm currently drinking organic hot chocolate for breakfast! Yum.

"You can deprive the body, but the soul needs chocolate."

Etymologists trace the origin of the word "chocolate" to the Aztec word "xocoatl," a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means "food of the gods." How delightfully appropriate!

The Mayans were the first to discover the delicacy of the cacao during the Classic Period Maya (250-900 A.D.). Although, I did read somewhere that Honduras may have used it as far back as 1400 B.C. Dang. Wowzers. Mayans believed it was nectar of the gods (which is one of my mom's favorite sayings!). The hot chocolate they drank wasn't the sweet one we are accustomed to. Rather, it was a bitter drink. They would first make a paste and then mix it with water, chili peppers, cornmeal, and other things to create a frothy, spicy drink.

Chocolate was also used in religious ceremonies. Maya couples would drink it as part of their betrothal and marriage ceremonies.

The Aztecs were introduced to cacao around 1400 when they would trade with the Mayans. Cacao seeds were the currency of the time. The Aztecs believed that cacao was brought to earth from paradise and that wisdom and power could be had by consuming the seed.

It was the Spaniards in the 1500s who would sweeten chocolate into the delicious version we know today. Legend has it that the Aztec king Montezuma welcomed the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes with a banquet that included drinking chocolate, having mistaken him for a reincarnated deity instead of a conquering invader. Cortes actually described it as "a bitter drink for pigs" (FOOL!)– but once mixed with honey or cane sugar, it quickly became popular throughout Spain, and later the rest of the world.Because Spain was one of the first countries to colonize the Americas, it had a monopoly on chocolate for many years. Like the Aztecs, only the wealthiest and well-connected nobility could partake of and afford the expensive import.

In the 1600s, the Europeans, specifically Sir Hans Sloane--president of the Royal College of Physicians--introduced mixing the chocolate drink with milk.
Madame du Barry, mistress of King Louis XV of France sipping chocolate
Solid Chocolate

In 1828, a Dutch chemist, Coenraad Van Houten, founded the cocoa press (pictured), a way to make powdered chocolate by removing about half the natural fat (cacao butter) from chocolate liquor, pulverizing what remained and treating the mixture with alkaline salts to cut the bitter taste. His product became known as "Dutch cocoa," and it soon led to the creation of solid chocolate.

The creation of the first modern chocolate bar is credited to Joseph Fry, who in 1847 discovered that he could make a moldable chocolate paste by adding melted cacao butter back into Dutch cocoa.

By 1868, a little company called Cadbury was marketing boxes of chocolate candies in England. Milk chocolate hit the market a few years later, pioneered by another name that may ring a bell – Nestle.

n 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle added condensed milk to solid chocolate, creating a milk chocolate bar.

In 1879, Swiss chap Rudolphe Lindt invented the conch, a machine that rotated and mixed chocolate to a perfectly smooth consistency.

By 1907, Milton Hershey's factory was spitting out 33 million kisses per day. Oh baby!

Today, Hershey makes more than 80 million HERSHEY'S KISSES Brand Chocolates every day at its chocolate factories in Hershey and Virginia.

In America, chocolate was so valued during the Revolutionary War that it was included in soldiers' rations and used in lieu of wages. While most of us probably wouldn't settle for a chocolate paycheck these days (I would!), statistics show that the humble cacao bean is still a powerful economic force. Chocolate manufacturing is a more than 4-billion-dollar industry in the United States, and the average American eats at least half a pound (try 2 for me!) of the stuff per month.

...Fun Facts...
*The military is what introduced many to chocolate

*The Japanese weren't introduced to chocolate until WWII.....!?!?!? Oh how sad!
-In fact, many Asian cultures have never really developed a taste for chocolate (a crime!). The Chinese, for example, only eat one bar of chocolate for every 1,000 the Brits consume.

*In countries like Ghana and the Ivory Coast, chocolate is rarely eaten because, sadly, it's worth more to trade than to eat.

*While it's not known exactly how KISSES got their name, it is a popular theory that the candy was named for the sound or motion of the chocolate being deposited during the manufacturing process.

*It takes approximately 95 HERSHEY'S KISSES Brand Chocolates to equal one pound of chocolate.

*If stranded on a desert island, more than half of Americans surveyed would rather have an unlimited supply of HERSHEY'S KISSES Brand SPECIAL DARK Chocolates than their favorite book.

Many thanks to:

Any ideas for my next curiosity-feeding adventure????


Anonymous said...

New leaves don't last a year so why should resolutions! Your idea is great, and what a subject for your first investigation! Loved it.

brittany said...

fascinating! how I love chocolate.

Tumblewords: said...

Good post! Clever idea. Happy 2010 to you!

Anonymous said...

Ideas? Marshmallows are interesting and they go well with chocolate.

A-Kap said...

I can't think of a better subject matter than chocolate. It is a main staple in my diet and should have its own place in the food pyramid. Maybe you should try making that change happen during your dietetics internship??

Dee Martin said...

I'm with Lucy. A little chocolate never hurt. Thanks for all the background :)

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

OH favorite food in the whole world. Very cute blog, have no idea how I ended up here (clicked on a click and a link to your link) but it really made me smile!