Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chocolate--The Food Of Love

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, the day the chocolate industry happily counts its profits. Certainly other items also come to mind such as cards, flowers, and jewelry. But chocolate reigns supreme for the holiday.

The history of chocolate goes back over two thousand years. Cocoa has long been associated with passion, romance, and love. It's a concept that goes back to the Aztecs with archaeological records indicating that the Mayans were consuming cocoa as long ago as 600 B.C., possibly even earlier than that.

The Aztecs believed it was a source of spiritual wisdom, energy, and sexual power. It was widely served at wedding ceremonies. The ancient civilizations of Central and South America did not know chocolate as we do today. They consumed cocoa as a drink, its naturally bitter taste possibly altered by adding chili peppers to the water and cocoa.

When the Spanish explorers first brought cocoa home with them in 1585, they experimented by mixing it with sugar and vanilla to make a sweeter tasting drink. The result was a type of hot chocolate popular among the upper classes who were the only ones who could afford it. Cocoa was also added to baked goods to give them added flavor. By the first half of the eighteenth century cocoa production had increased and the price fallen so that it became affordable to the general population of Europe and also the European colonies in the New World.

By the nineteenth century things were moving along nicely for those involved in the manufacture of chocolate. In 1828, Conrad van Houton of Holland invented a process to make a refined cocoa powder which increased the output of the usable powder from a given crop of cocoa beans which further lowered the price.

The first chocolate candies as we know them today were invented in the 1860s by Cadbury, a British candy maker, who was also the first to sell them in a heart-shaped box for Valentine's Day.

Another big advance came in 1878 when a Swiss chocolate seller, Daniel Peter, invented a process for making candy out of milk chocolate—a process picked up by Nestle. In 1913 Jules Sechaud, a Swiss chocolate maker, created the first chocolate candy with cream and other fillings and the modern soft centered chocolate candies were born.

And thus chocolate candies joined the ranks of flowers and jewelry in the courtship ritual.

Chocolate, including chocolate candy, is liked by most people, but women tend to have a somewhat greater affinity for it than men. Chocolate is more than food. It not only fills your stomach, it also makes you feel good. Many people believe that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. While it is true that chocolate does contain organic substances which have a physical feel good affect on the body, the amounts are not that great.

Critics claim the benefits of eating chocolate are small compared to the sugar and fat contained in a chocolate bar. However, the best chocolate—dark chocolate with high cocoa butter content rather than milk chocolate—has no added fat with a high percentage of cocoa solids and correspondingly less sugar. Chocolate will never be considered a health food based on its nutritional value, but it is still good for you. It's good for your heart, relieves stress, and makes you feel good. What more could you want?

Chocolate has long been associated with passion, romance, and love. This association goes all the way back to the Aztecs. Valentine's Day is a celebration of romance. Chocolate is both an everyday pleasure and a token of love. Valentine's Day and chocolate make a perfect match. Men have long known in dealing with women that chocolate is always a safe gift. Chocolate is given as a token of love and is equally viable as a peace offering when he has done something to anger his love.

Chocolate—the all purpose taste treat that's good any time of the year.


Maeve said...

*sigh* My name is Maeve and I'm a chocolate addict. Dark, white, or milk chocolate. I never met a piece of chocolate I didn't like. Hubby's ordered some of those chocolate-covered strawberries for Valentine's Day. He knows the way to this old girl's heart is with CHOCOLATE! Great post - as always! But now I'm hungry and I bet you can't guess what for? ;-)

Toni V.S. said...

All I can say is: Thank you, Mayans and Aztecs! Can you imagine a world without chocolate? There is such a place, in one of the galaxies in my series The kan Ingan Archives. The reason: it works on the population like a drug. Imagine having a chocolate high! Great blog!

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Great post. I love chocolate in all its many variations. I do consider it a health food! LOL! I think milk chocolate has the best mouth feel tho and mouth feel is important when it comes to intimacy. :)

Tony-Paul said...

Enjoyed the blog about chocolate. In my novel Dark God Descending, I have the Mayan vampire Semris set his human friends straight about chocolat as he disdainfully refuses a cup of Nestle's the gods gave the cocoa bean to the Maya and it was used for currency and even counterfeited...and also what happened to the culprits when they were arrested. Not pretty. Chocolate can be a deadly thing...but Oh so good! I've got a great big soft spot for it!

Samantha Gentry said...

Maeve: many guesses do I get? :)

Chocolate covered strawberries--how perfect. Healthy fresh fruit combined with good-for-you chocolate. No guilt there. :)

Samantha Gentry said...

Toni: A world without chocolate...what a horrible thought! Isn't that a form of cruel and unusual punishment?

Samantha Gentry said...

Julia: It seems to me that milk chocolate is softer than dark chocolate which would give it a different texture and sensation...that sensual feel you mentioned. Which is definitely good!

Samantha Gentry said...

Tony-Paul: Yeah, too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing. :)

I do think I might have to go along with Semris on declining the cup of Nestle's instant. That's like chocolate light rather than "real" chocolate. :)

Linda Morris, Romance writer said...

I've been reading "The Chocolate Wars" by Deborah Cadbury about the rise of the chocolate industry, with a focus on the Cadbury family (of which she is a member) in particular. It's a quick easy read, but I absolutely cannot read it without wanting to eat chocolate! If I'm not drooling over the descriptions of the delicious chocolate aromas wafting out of the factories, I'm slobbering over the book's cover (looks like an unwrapped chocolate bar)!

Samantha Gentry said...

Linda: That is a difficult situation. Sounds like you need to buy a box of chocolates before reading the rest of the book. :)