Chocolate .::le sigh:: The mere mention of the word makes me a happier person. I am lucky enough to have grown up near the world renown Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco; incorporated in 1852, it is the second-oldest chocolate company in the United States. Also from San Francisco, founded a few years later in 1921 is See's Candies, maker of, "California's Famous Old Time Candies®" and some GOOD chocolate, made from all natural ingredients.
I mean, chocolate and I practically grew up next to each other. It's like we're meant to be best friends.
The word 'Chocolate' is derived from the Mayan word xocoatl; its history is as rich as the substance itself. July 7th marks the anniversary of when Europeans 'discovered' chocolate (like how they 'discovered' America?) and it is now recognized as Chocolate Day! You didn't think I'd let you miss a holiday about CHOCOLATE, do you? No. Because friends don't let friends miss an opportunity to eat chocolate. (On that note, World Chocolate Day is on September 4 and National Chocolate Day is on October 28. The Holy Trifecta of Holidays! Well, besides those other ones.)
*Disclaimer: White 'Chocolate' is an abomination. It is NOT chocolate. It is not okay. White chocolate is not meant for consumption, it's meant for... being disgusting. It's the King John to King Richard: a sad imposter, an evil cousin, void of color and dark, decadent deliciousness. I'm not biased. These are facts.
According to the article From Aphrodisiac to Health Food: A Cultural History of Chocolate, by Louis E. Grivetti, chocolate has been used for health & medicine throughout the ages:
Francisco Hernández (1577) wrote that pure cacao paste prepared as a beverage treated fever and liver disease. He also mentioned that toasted, ground cacao beans mixed with resin were effective against dysentery and that chocolate beverages were commonly prescribed to thin patients in order for them to gain “flesh.”Agustin Farfan (1592) recorded that chili peppers, rhubarb, and vanilla were used by the Mexica as purgatives and that chocolate beverages served hot doubled as powerful laxatives.
José de Acosta (1604) wrote that chili was sometimes added to chocolate beverages and that eating chocolate paste was good for stomach disorders.
Santiago de Valverde Turices (1624) concluded that chocolate drunk in great quantities was beneficial for treatment of chest ailments, but if drunk in small quantities was a satisfactory medicine for stomach disorders.
Colmenero de Ledesma (1631) reported that cacao preserved consumers’ health, made them corpulent, improved their complexions, and made their dispositions more agreeable. He wrote that drinking chocolate incited love-making, led to conception in women, and facilitated delivery. He also claimed that chocolate aided digestion and cured tuberculosis.
Henry Stubbe (1662) wrote that consumers should drink chocolate beverages once or twice each day to relieve tiredness caused by strenuous business activities. He reported that ingesting cacao oil was an effective treatment for the Fire of St. Anthony (i.e., ergot poisoning). Stubbe also described chocolate-based concoctions mixed with Jamaica pepper used to treat menstrual disorders, and other chocolate preparations blended with vanilla to strengthen the heart and to promote digestion
I also came across 10 Interesting Chocolate Facts: Where I learned chocolate is technically responsible for the microwave! Scientists were experimenting with micro waves in hopes of creating better radar detectors and in the wake of World War II, scientists were testing devices called magnetrons. A scientist named Percy Spencer entered the lab with a chocolate bar in his pocket and realized it quickly began to melt. Spencer then realized that the magnetron could potentially be used to cook food. He successfully tried popping corn and then attempted to cook an egg which cooked so quickly, it blew up in his face... and now you know!
Alas, even chocolate is not free from the grip of Big Brother; Chocolate Day is a day recognized by the National Confectioners Association, the brains behind The Coalition for Sugar Reform. It turns out that Americans pay twice as much for sugar as the rest of the world- nevermind the obesity rate and the amounts at which we consume it. In addition to the harmful effects of refined sugar on our bodies, sugar production has repeatedly been identified as a contributor to pollution and ecosystem damage. The State of Florida has attempted to buy large tracts of land to halt sugar production; The Everglades Trust is a founding member of the CSR as well. Big Brother likes Big Sugar, just like Big Pharma!
I've already had to take a break from writing to make some chocolate pudding- no joke. Feel free and follow suit and take the excuse to grab a hot chocolate, a handful of M&Ms, some Chocolate Therapy Ben & Jerry's, your favorite cookie, cake or whatever form of
mom crack chocolate you like best and dig in! As always, buying local is best, dark chocolate has the most health benefits and the least sugar. Most milk chocolate contains exponential amounts of sugar and effects that are detrimental, not beneficial to your health. Cheers!
Happy Chocolate Day!
What's your favorite way to indulge?