Friday, February 8, 2013

Fun Friday Facts #63: Chocolate Edition

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, kids, and that means some of you are purchasing and/or eating seasonal chocolates as we speak. If you hate Valentine’s Day, they have the Easter chocolates out already. Personally, I think every holiday should get chocolate. Where’s the Saint Patrick’s Day chocolate? What about the President’s Day chocolate? Dammit, I want Lumpy Rug Day chocolate.

Lumpy Rug Day: If your rug is lumpy, you'll know it.

1) The cacao tree, from whose seeds chocolate is made, is a native of the Amazon basin. At least 2,000 years before Christ, chocolate was already cultivated and used extensively throughout Mesoamerican societies. Pottery unearthed in Chiapas, Mexico contains cocoa residue dating back to 1900 BC.

2) The ancient Maya, of recent failed apocalypse fame, were some of the first people to use actual chocolate by at least 600 AD. They revered cacao pods as symbols of fertility, used them in many of their religious rites, and referred to cocoa as “god’s food” in their religious literature. They built the world’s first cacao plantations.

3) Like the Maya, the Aztecs drank a thick, bitter, cold chocolate drink as a tonic for good health. They had no sugar, so added hot chili peppers or corn meal to the drink for extra flavor.

And, if you've never had hot chili chocolate, I heartily recommend it.

By the 15th century, the Aztec empire was huge and the Aztecs were using cacao beans as a form of currency. The use of chocolate had spread as far as the Pueblo people of what would become the American southwest, who traded for cacao beans with the Maya and other Mesoamerican peoples. They, too, used the beans in a common drink. Spanish sources of the time report that cacao drinks were an “acquired taste” among native peoples.

Kind of like squirrel among Appalachian peoples. ~ Mike Pennington

4) In 1513, Spanish explorer Hernando de Oviedo y Valdez was able to buy a slave in Mesoamerica for 100 cacao beans. According to him, you could get a hooker for ten beans, and four beans got you an eating rabbit. Yes, I just used the phrase “eating rabbit.” Meaning, “a rabbit you can eat.”

For four beans, it better have been a fat one.

5) Conquistador Hernan Cortes, seeing a path to the gold that, as it turned out, did not exactly pave the streets of ancient Mexico, established the first European-held cacao plantation in 1519. Later, in 1528, he brought cacao beans back to Europe, where he became the first person to add sugar to the traditionally bitter cacao drink. Lo, it would be an acquired taste no more. Vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg would find their way into the chocolate drink, which would become fashionable among the Spanish aristocracy, who would keep its existence secret from the rest of the world for the next century. The chocolate cat would get out of the bag in 1615, when Spanish princess Anne of Austria married King Louis XIII of France and brought chocolate to the French court.

Chocolate cat lol

6) Chocolate made its way to the United States in 1755, where the first North American chocolate factory would appear in 1765. In 1830, the first solid chocolate for eating appeared due to the efforts of J.S. Fry & Sons chocolatiers (that’s French for “chocolate makers,” fuck you, spellcheck). The first chocolate creams and bonbons would appear in the U.S. in 1851. In 1875, Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate, and, in 1879, fellow Swiss Rodolphe Lindt of Berne invented chocolate fondant. By 1900, Switzerland’s chocolate production surpassed that of all other nations, making it the chocolate leader it is today.

Bonjour! ~ Schnaggli