A 21-year-old US man ended up in hospital after spending two hours trapped in a vat of chocolate, police in Wisconsin said on Friday. The last line of the article is classic: “The accident involved dark chocolate”. Yeah, right! Pheeeewee [wipes forehead], imagine if it had been full milk or fruit and nut – no way he would’ve survived! He said that he had climbed into the tank before becoming trapped waist-deep in chocolate...
However; and to make it sound mysterious, other reports suggest he was stirring the chocolate when he fell in. Rescue workers and staff at the Debelis Corporation (their Spanish origins aren't far from me) used cocoa-butter to thin out the chocolate and pull him free…I can just imagine him sinking whilst they stir the recipe…hang on, just a little more, not quite enough, needs a little something…
"Forget love...I'd rather fall in chocolate!" Author unknownEnough of that! He survived. Now chocolate…[hmmmm]: it’s made from the fermented, roasted, and ground beans taken from the pod of the tropical cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, originally a native to Mesoamerica, which is distinguished by being the first region in the Americas to develop complex civilizations…no wonder – they loved chocolate! However back then it wasn’t the food we know today.
Chocolate residue found in ancient Maya pots tells us that they were drinking (one assumes) chocolate 2,600 years ago, which is the earliest record of cacao use although there are thoughts that their predecessors the Olmecs would have also used it. The Aztecs associated chocolate with Xochiquetzal, their goddess of fertility, and this association with deity exists today: the genus name of the cacao tree is called Theobroma cacao (From modern Latin Theobroma, literally "food of the Gods", from Greek broma, "food".)
Xocoatl was taken as a bitter and spicy drink often seasoned with chili pepper, vanilla or other spice and believed to fight fatigue (most probably the theobromine content…more on that later). Chocolate was an important luxury item and cocoa beans were often used as currency.
Both Christopher Columbus and Hernán Cortés were associated with first bringing it to Europe, the latter in 1528; however the first recorded commercial shipment of chocolate to the ‘Old World’ for commercial purposes wasn’t until over half a century later, from Veracruz to Seville around 1585.
"The divine drink which builds up resistance & fights fatigue. A cup ofthis precious drink permits man to walk for a whole day without food."…I bet that’s not all Cortés said: it being an aphrodisiac isn’t proven although Montezuma drank xocolatl in goblets before entering his harem, (ahem).
It was still served as a drink, but the Europeans (mainly Spanish nobility at first) added sugar and milk to counteract the natural bitterness and removed the chili pepper and only used vanilla (another Mexican spice). These improvements to the taste meant that by the 1600’s it was more popular albeit luxury item
When the chocolate drink was introduced into England in the 1650s, it was an expensive luxury. The first London Chocolate House was opened in 1657 and chocolate, probably made from blocks of chocolate prepared and imported from Spain, was served as a fashionable drink alongside ale, beer and coffee. Heavy import duties kept its price high (about 6-8d a pound, equivalent to the daily wage for a labourer) in the 17th century. It was not until the Industrial Revolution, when transport became easier and import taxes were reduced, that the price of chocolate fell and it became available to a larger percentage of the population.For some reason it was over 200 years before a solid form was available but even then it was to melt down to make the drink: not until 1828, did things take a dramtic turn - and not by someone who’s name rolls off the tongue - : not only did Dutchman Coenraad Johannes van Houten patent a method for extracting the fat (or most of it) from cocoa beans to leave the powdered cocoa and cocoa butter separate but he also developed what is now called the ‘Dutch process’ of removing the bitter taste by treating the chocolate with alkali. God there must be a shrine to him somewhere!
Then come the big names: in 1847, Joseph Fry, a chemist and doctor of a Bristol Quaker family started, amongst other things, a chocolate factory, produced what was arguably the world's first eating chocolate 'chocolate delicieux à manger'. Soon to follow was Cadbury in 1849. Then almost 20 years later in 1867, Daniel Peter, a Swiss chocolate manufacturer, had the idea of using powdered milk that he got from the Swiss chemist who had developed it, one Henri Nestle, and what is probably the final step in the distinctive taste of the chocolate we eat today, Rodolphe Lindt invented the process called conching, which is where the chocolate solids are heated and then very finely ground resulting in the ‘melt in the mouth’ texture. There is a chemical reason for that it’s to do with the fatty acid profile of the cocoa butter…but that’s another story.
Strange it took so long to get round to adding milk, especially when the Spanish had been adding vanilla over 300 years before. All that said and done we know nowadays of the various benefits attributed to chocolate consumption: for starters it contains phenol anti-oxidants (processing decreases their contents)…Scientists have found that one 'square' of milk chocolate contains almost the same amount of phenols as a glass of red wine and that plain, dark chocolate contains even higher amounts.
Dietetics professionals must be aware that chocolate cravings are real. The psychopharmacologic and chemosensory effects of chocolate must be considered when formulating recommendations for overall healthful eating and for treatment of nutritionally related health issues.…and added to all that is the feel-good factor, the theobromine etc, but this has never been satisfactorily proven because all palatable foods stimulate endorphin release in the brain; scientists now believe would be from the response in the brain opioid peptide systems :-/
...and as an aphrodisiac? remembering back to what Cortez said about anti-fatigue, Montezuma and his harem, other such tales as Casanova who made a habit of consuming chocolate before lovemaking and Madame Du Barry, or whom it was said, that she plied her lovers with chocolate to whip up their ardor in gratifying her lust (oh I say!), all this led to the belief that it was an aphrodisiac but both the fact that during a woman's monthly cycle her body craves magnesium (good chocolate is high in Mg), and this article from Sarah-Kate Templeton in The Times “Women really are hot for chocolate” (I wonder if that’s a picture of you Sarah-Kate? Wow!), tend to lend weight to the pleasure factor assisting women.
Dr Andrea Salonia, a urologist from San Raffaele hospital, Milan and author of the study (NOT by the confectionery industry)
“Women who have a daily intake of chocolate showed higher levels of desire than women who did not have this habit. Chocolate can have a positive physiological impact on a woman’s sexuality.”Ah well, who cares if it’s moreish (addictive!): any questions at all go to chocolate.org – wonderful site, here are their FAQ’s. All I care about is that overall it’s good for you (oh YES it is!), apart from all that previously mentioned, it full of the usual trace elements and vitamins; chocolate won’t rot your teeth (that’s the sugar) won’t give you spots (that’s the milk) I guess it’s a combination of the fatigue-busting, squidgy (is that a word?) melting, pleasure-giving that makes it seem so…so...I’ve got to stop because there is so much to say I could go on and on; in fact I could do with a chocolate covered goody right now…hmmmmmm
— women who have a low libido could even become more amorous after eating chocolate. He believes chocolate could be particularly medicinal for women who shun sex because they are suffering from premenstrual tension.
"There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with chocolate." (from The Pickwick Papers)