The Lure &Lore of Chocolate, Part One
Cioccolato. Schokolade. Chocolat. No matter the language, our obsession with chocolate has been an incredibly long romance and fascination. The birthplace of chocolate is Mesoamerica, placing one of the most revered and popular sweet treats at an age of 4,000 years, with a traced origin around 2000 B.C. in the Amazon.
For the Mayans in Guatemala, chocolate was originally produced in a bitter liquid form with the cacao paste mixed with water, cornmeal, and chili and ingested hot. Ek Chuah was the god of cacao who was celebrated yearly, and cacao was used for a variety of ceremonial, medicinal, and celebratory purposes within the culture around 450 B.C.
With the seeds carrying currency value, cacao was imported by the Aztecs who believed they were a gift from Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom. From the beginning it was considered an aphrodisiac that gave those ingested its powers special strength. Unlike the Mayans, the Aztecs drank their cacao cold.
Chocolate didn’t become the sweet treat we associate it with until it migrated to Europe in the 1500s thanks to Christopher Columbus and the Spaniard conquest of the Aztecs, and it became a favored decadence for aristocracies. A century later, chocolate had made its way across Europe to become popular in other countries. Demand for cacao created a dedicated slave market due to the labor required to manually process the plant, and as the English, Dutch, and French colonized they enslaved Africans to bear the burden of this work. Even today, the Ivory Coast of West Africa is the largest producer of cacao, providing two-thirds of the world’s source.
Chocolate didn’t take the solid, modern form and flavor until the 19th century, when the Dutch chemist Coenraad van Houten found a way to reduce the bitterness through the introduction of alkaline salts and created a machine that removed cacao butter from the chocolate liquor, allowing for molded chocolate to become the new shape and form. These processes created during the Industrial Revolution sparked the rise of manufactured chocolate from the late 19th to 20th centuries, including household names such as Nestle, Cadbury, and Hershey, segueing and securing its place as a solid edible replacing its liquid origin.
Early advertisement audiences for chocolate were primarily women, using marketing strategies that aligned chocolate with romance and dating, and targeting housewives by suggesting chocolate was something beneficial for families to indulge and consume. Thus, chocolate became threaded throughout the tapestry of our culture and cemented its place as a revered part of our history and future as a food associated with love, sex, and bliss.
In our next post, we will examine the science behind why chocolate entices, which type(s) of chocolate might incite our sex drive, how it interacts with the body to stimulate bliss, and its role as a libido enhancer.
For more information:
-by Holly Lovejoy